TGIF, Illinois. Here’s to comfortable shoes and lots of water for the last weekend on the campaign trail.
It takes months to plan a corporate relocation like the one Ken Griffin announced yesterday for Citadel, which will move its HQ from Chicago to Miami.
Still, the timing was awkward. Griffin, who poured $50 million into Republican Richard Irvin’s campaign for governor, made the announcement after polls showed Irvin is trailing in the primary contest.
With the primary now just days away, the quick take had Griffin packing up in a huff because he lost his war with Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker — Griffin blames the fellow billionaire for high taxes and crime problems. (FYI, Miami ain’t Mayberry.)
For his part, Pritzker pushed back at Griffin’s political move to put Irvin in the governor’s mansion by funding millions of dollars in ads to help Irvin’s far-right competitor, Darren Bailey, secure a lead in the GOP primary. The conventional wisdom is that the conservative Republican will have a tough time beating Pritzker in the general election.
Open secret: In reality, Griffin has been talking about leaving Chicago since before Irvin was a glimmer in our political eyes. Announcing the company’s departure before the election — instead of after — means critics can’t say Griffin’s leaving because Irvin may have lost.
It stings either way for Illinois, which has benefited from Griffin’s philanthropy to the tune of $600 million — including putting his money where his mouth is and funding $35 million in crime-fighting technology and education programs. Griffin’s exit to Florida (his home state) also follows news that Caterpillar and Boeing companies are moving their HQs out of Illinois, too.
Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot were quick to remind that companies are still moving into Illinois. Kellogg Co., for example, announced earlier this week it’s opening its HQ here.
The big question for Playbook readers: Will Griffin still be engaged in Illinois politics? It will depend on the primary, a person told Playbook.
As the Tribune points out in its thorough report: “Since 2002, Illinois State Board of Elections records show, Griffin has contributed $179 million to state and local candidates, mainly Republicans, and organizations. But Griffin also was a financial supporter of Chicago Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel.”
Even while living in Illinois, Griffin had his fingers in political races across the country, making him the No. 1 Republican donor in the country. Griffin is also the top individual donor to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, giving him $5.75 million ahead of the 2018 election and another $5 million in 2021.
Is it the end of the battle of the billionaires? Maybe not. Imagine if all that speculation about Pritzker and DeSantis as presidential candidates comes true. We’d call it the battle of the billionaires 2.0.
— Griffin’s email to employees, obtained by Playbook
— Griffin’s move to Florida only latest blow to local philanthropy, by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman
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