What do top executives of the Bulls, Groupon and a major real estate firm have in common?
They all have supported Republican Bruce Rauner for governor.
Oh, and they all have supported Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn for re-election.
In the same election cycle.
A review of campaign finance records for the Quinn and Rauner campaigns shows there’s nearly a dozen big-money donors who have contributed to the candidacies of both men who are in the midst of a bitter battle over the governor’s mansion.
* Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox, has donated $5,000 to Quinn and $8,000 to Rauner.
* Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky has made a decent investment in Rauner: $100,000 in donations over two installments. But Lefkofsky, a billionaire, didn’t pass on Quinn, giving him $5,300.
* Robert Wislow, of U.S. Equities Realty, put $5,000 behind Quinn and $500 behind Rauner.
* Eli Broad, a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist, gave the most sizable gifts equally to each of the candidates, contributing $15,000 to Quinn and $10,000 to Rauner.
If donors weren’t sure where to lay their money, polls in the governor’s race haven’t been much help.
Rauner’s consistent lead over Quinn has spiked into the double digits since March but has narrowed of late. A Democratic Governors Association poll released last week put Quinn over Rauner for the first time. Insiders on both sides of the contest predict the race will remain close up until the Nov. 4 election.
So are these donors confused on whom they support?
It’s more like they’re hedging their bets, David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said.
“Often times, these are wealthy people. Some of it is hedging their bets. Mostly it’s preserving their goodwill with whoever wins,” he said. “These really aren’t contributions, these are investments. … It’s not a quid pro quo. It’s preserving their good relationships … for whatever comes up.”
For someone like Reinsdorf, he’s going to get a phone call returned regardless of whether he’s a donor, Yepsen said.
“He’s prominent enough and respected enough that any governor of Illinois is going to see him, hear him out,” he said. “I think he’s just trying to preserve goodwill.”
Representatives for the Broad Foundation, Reinsdorf, Groupon and U.S. Equity as well as other donors could not be reached for comment.
Donors know that their contributions will be publicly disclosed, so they don’t mind each campaign knowing they’ve contributed to both.
“It’s a sign they understand the process, support the process. In some cases, they’re friends or know both of these men.
“In some cases, they may have done business with these men,” Yepsen said. “This happens in every campaign, particularly in prominent offices.”