Governor JB Pritzker gives millions to Democrats, including Alexi Giannoulias
Governor JB Pritzker has contributed $1 million to Democratic nominee for Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias’ campaign, even though Pritzker backed Giannoulias’ opponent in the primary just four months ago.
Pritzker’s campaign contribution, reported Thursday amid a flurry of about $10 million in contributions from the billionaire governor in recent days to Democratic candidates and organizations in Illinois, marks the first time Pritzker has contributed to a campaign led by Giannoulias, the former state treasurer. who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2010.
On Thursday, Pritzker also deposited an additional $20 million into his own campaign fund, adding to the $125 million he had previously contributed from his vast personal fortune to his re-election effort.
The governor’s largesse comes with early voting underway in parts of the state and as Republican candidates relentlessly hammer their Democratic rivals on crime and an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system that includes the end of the cash deposit on January 1st.
Pritzker, who donated $55,000 to Chicago City Clerk Anna Valenica’s campaign in June for the party’s nomination for the party’s secretary of state, “has always said he would support the Democratic nominee, even if it wasn’t not Valencia,” spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said. Giannoulias easily beat Valencia in the June 28 primary.
The governor “does not take the threat of Republican extremism lightly and is committed to supporting candidates who will fight for our shared Democratic values at all levels of government,” Edelstein said in a statement.
In addition to Pritzker’s million dollars, the Giannoulias campaign on Thursday brought in an additional $769,000 in contributions from unions, car dealerships and other supporters. This is in addition to more than $1.3 million in significant contributions this campaign had previously reported since July 1.
Giannoulias spent more than $5.2 million in the first half to win the primary and entered the general election campaign with more than $773,000 in cash in his campaign fund, according to campaign finance records from the state.
“We appreciate the broad support of Democrats across the state — from the governor at the top of the ticket to the legislative and county office,” campaign manager Hanah Jubeh said in a statement.
Giannoulias takes on longtime Republican state Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington in the Nov. 8 election. Brady on Thursday touted endorsements from former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar and organizations including the Illinois Education Association, one of the state’s largest teachers’ unions, which backs Pritzker and Democratic candidates for other offices throughout the state.
Brady entered July with less than $6,000 in his campaign fund after spending more than $514,000 in the first half. Since the start of the general election campaign, Brady has reported raising nearly $165,000 in major contributions.
At an endorsement event Thursday in Springfield, Edgar said Brady’s ability to work down the aisle could serve him well, and that of all the GOP candidates for Constitutional offices, Brady may have the best chance of to win.
But Edgar acknowledged Brady’s financial disadvantage compared to Giannoulias, especially in light of Pritzker’s contribution.
“We don’t have people handing out that kind of money in the Republican Party,” Edgar said. “For the rich party, we certainly don’t show it sometimes. And the Democrats, who are supposed to be the workers, seem to have all the money.
Pritzker’s campaign this week also donated $1 million to Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s re-election effort. It is the governor’s first contribution to Raoul this election after Pritzker backed Raoul with nearly $3 million in 2018. Raoul faces Republican Thomas DeVore, an upstate lawyer known for his dissenting largely unsuccessful court cases of Pritzker’s pandemic restrictions.
DeVore opened the door to Pritzker’s contribution to Raoul by loaning his own campaign $250,001 last month, a move that lifted contribution limits for both candidates.
The GOP candidate attacked Raoul for being too closely aligned with Pritzker, a claim he repeated in a Facebook post Wednesday after Raoul’s campaign reported the contribution.
“I told you all that Raoul is Pritzker’s pet dog,” DeVore wrote. “Make sure your friends see that Pritzker just gave Raoul $1 million. Oh Jay Bob!!! He is afraid !!!!!”
Raoul dismissed these criticisms, saying in a statement: “No contribution has or will ever impact my independence.”
“Governor. Pritzker has shown great leadership over the past four years, and through our many collaborations, he has always respected my independence,” Raoul said. “I appreciate his support for my work and that of my fellow Democrats in Illinois and across the country.”
As the Democrats seek to maintain their 4-3 advantage on the Illinois Supreme Court, Pritzker is also giving the two Democratic nominees $500,000 each for open high court seats, 3rd District Appeals Judge Mary K. O’Brien and Lake County Circuit Judge. Liz Rocheford. That’s the maximum contribution to a judicial nominee from a single source under a measure Pritzker signed into law earlier this year.
Pritzker also distributes money for campaign operations from Democratic lawmakers to the state legislature.
House Democrats, led by Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside, announced a $3 million contribution from Pritzker’s campaign fund on Wednesday, in addition to previous contributions totaling $5 million.
Last month, Pritzker gave $1 million to Senate Democrats, led by Senate Speaker Don Harmon of Oak Park.
The governor’s campaign has said he intends to give Senate Democrats an additional $1 million, but is seeking assurances that none of the money will be used to support Democratic Sen. Michael Hastings of Frankfort.
Pritzker last week called for Hastings’ resignation due to lingering questions about his treatment of women. The governor also called for the resignation of Sen. Emil Jones III, who pleaded not guilty last week to federal corruption charges, but Jones has no opponent in the November ballot.
Harmon, who requested and received the resignations of Hastings and Jones from his leadership team positions, did not call on them to resign their Senate seats.
A spokesman for the Senate Democrats’ campaign operation reiterated Thursday that the caucus does not support Hastings’ bid for re-election against Republican Patrick Sheehan of Lockport.
Pritzker has now personally donated $145 million of his vast fortune to his campaign fund for his re-election bid. Through June 30, he has spent $62 million against a nominal opponent in the Democratic primary.
Federal tax records show he donated an additional $24 million to the Democratic Governors Association, which ran ads during the primary campaign aimed at boosting his favorite opponent, Trump-backed Republican Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia.
Jeremy Gorner of the Chicago Tribune contributed from Springfield.