Citadel's Griffin Contributes $20 Million to Illinois Governor

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin has contributed $20 million to Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s re-election bid, adding fuel to a 2018 race where there are no campaign contribution limits.

Rauner, a wealthy former equity investor, faces numerous potential Democratic challengers in what’s expected to be one of the nation’s most expensive governor’s races. The field includes the multimillionaire son of slain Democratic icon Robert F. Kennedy and the billionaire brother of former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

“Governor Rauner cares deeply about the future of our state and making it a better place to live and work,” Griffin, the founder of Chicago-based Citadel LLC, said in a statement. “He has the winning plan to create jobs, improve our schools and put Illinois on the right path forward.”

Democrats tried to use the donation from Griffin, who gave $100,000 to President Donald Trump’s inauguration celebration, to link Rauner to a president unpopular in heavily Democratic Illinois.
“Now we know why Bruce Rauner won’t stand up to Donald Trump: Rauner’s top donor enthusiastically supports Trumpcare,” Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement. “Bruce Rauner has shown he’ll choose Donald Trump over the people of Illinois every day of the week.”   

Griffin’s contribution, posted on the Illinois State Board of Elections website late Wednesday, was reported earlier by the Chicago Tribune. The donation brings to nearly $33.6 million the amount of money and services Griffin has contributed to Rauner’s political fund since he began running for office in 2013, the newspaper said.

For now, most of the action in the race is taking place on the Democratic side, where the field includes Chris Kennedy and Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker. The primary contest in March promises to place Democrats in the awkward spot of picking between two of the nation’s top political and fundraising families, among other candidates.

Pritzker, an investor, philanthropist and heir to the Hyatt hotel empire, has an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He told Bloomberg News in February that he’s willing to spend “whatever it will take to run a winning campaign” from his own personal fortune.

The contest could be one of the most expensive governor’s races in history, with Kennedy, Pritzker and Rauner all pledging to spend from their personal fortunes. In Illinois, campaign contribution limits are waived if any of the candidates contribute more than $250,000 to their own bid. Kennedy was the first to cross that threshold in March.

The Illinois governors’ race in 2014 set a state record when Rauner and then-incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Quinn spent a combined total of about $100 million. Since taking office in 2015, Rauner has pushed a pro-business, anti-union agenda that he argues is needed to pull the state out of its budget crisis and decades of financial mismanagement.