CHICAGO – A Chicago hedge fund CEO's $2.5 million donation to the campaign of Republican candidate Bruce Rauner has been termed the largest single donation in an Illinois governor's race in the post-Watergate era.
Campaign disclosure records show 45-year-old Citadel chief executive Ken Griffin has now given Rauner a total of $3.57 million, including $71,000 worth of in-kind contributions for the use of Griffin's private jet. Griffin in the past has made campaign contributions to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, and Republican state Sen. Bill Brady.
"We need a leader with experience, passion, and the will to turn this state around," Griffin said in a statement to Crain's Chicago Business. "I support Bruce Rauner because he can get the job done."
Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at University of Illinois at Springfield, said the Griffin donation is the biggest in an Illinois governor's race since the mid-1970s campaign finance reforms that followed the Watergate scandal.
"This is far and away the largest single individual check that anyone has written to a candidate running for governor in Illinois in that time period," Redfield told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The limit on individual campaign contributions is usually $5,300 in Illinois. But the law allows those caps to be lifted when contributions or loans from a candidate or candidate's family surpass $250,000.
Brooke Anderson, spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign, noted that Rauner's contributions to his own campaign opened the door for unlimited contributions in the race. She said Rauner and his "billionaire pals" are trying to "take over Illinois."
"Unfortunately for Mr. Rauner, it's government of the many – not government of the money," Anderson told the Sun-Times.
Rauner has raised $8.3 million since his primary win; Quinn has raised $1.32 million, election records show.
Quinn's top individual donor is Fred Eychaner, president of Newsweb Corp., who has given Quinn several donations adding up to about $1 million.