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Billionaire’s brawl: Pritzker suggests Griffin keep his money out of governor’s race after ‘extremely poor judgment’ last time

Chicago Sun Times

Friday, November 19, 2021  |  Article  |  Rachel Hinton

Candidates--Statewide (12)
After Ken Griffin’s backing of former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, Pritzker suggested the hedge fund mogul keep his checkbook closed: “I don’t think we want to give him a redo.” But Griffin fired back that the Democrat is “failing Chicagoans.” “What is his plan to address the spiral of death and violence and the mayhem in our streets?”

A day after the richest man in Illinois pledged to go “all in” to beat him, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday said Ken Griffin’s past support for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner makes it clear the hedge fund billionaire doesn’t deserve a “redo.”

“I’ve spent the last three years undoing the damage that Ken Griffin and his governor did,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker told the Chicago Sun-Times that Griffin has shown “extremely poor judgment” backing Rauner, pointing to Illinois’ two-year budget impasse under the one-term governor, numerous credit downgrades and cuts to services.

Griffin has not named a specific candidate this time around, but said Wednesday he is “all in to support the candidate who will beat” Pritzker.

After Griffin’s backing of Rauner’s past campaigns with more than $36 million, Pritzker suggested the hedge fund mogul keep his checkbook closed.

“I don’t think we want to give him a redo,” the Democratic governor said.

The founder and CEO of Chicago-based Citadel on Thursday elaborated on his criticism of Pritzker, arguing the Democrat is “failing Chicagoans.”

“What is his plan to address the spiral of death and violence and the mayhem in our streets?” Griffin asked after the governor essentially suggested he stay out of the race.

Pritzker talked to the Sun-Times about Griffin in an interview in which the governor largely reflected on his trip this week to the United Kingdom for COP26, the United Nation’s climate change conference.

Pritzker’s remarks follow comments Griffin made Wednesday at a New York Times business event where the founder and CEO of Chicago-based Citadel also discussed Pritzker, vowing to “make sure that if he runs again, that I am all in to support the candidate who will beat him.”

“He doesn’t deserve to be the governor of our state,” Griffin said, according to a report by Crain’s on Wednesday’s event.

Griffin is worth an estimated $21 billion, according to Forbes, which ranked him the richest resident of Illinois as recently as last year.

Pritzker, worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes, pumped $171 million of his personal fortune into his 2018 bid to oust Rauner, a Republican venture capitalist then finishing his first term as governor.

Pritzker’s campaign and the Democratic Party of Illinois shot back on Wednesday that after Griffin financed Rauner’s “disastrous tenure,” he now wants to pick “Bruce Rauner 2.0.”

This week’s war of words was sparked by an appearance Griffin made last month, telling the Economic Club of Chicago that he implored Pritzker to deploy the National Guard in Illinois after looting and civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.

Immediately after those remarks, a Pritzker spokeswoman disputed Griffin’s version of events and called him a “liar.”

The hedge fund founder cited that exchange Wednesday, according to Crain’s, saying, “It’s all about politics for him. It’s not about people.”

The Citadel founder and CEO said in a Thursday statement he “unequivocally” stands by his words.

“The Governor refused to deploy the National Guard last August and he is refusing now to address the violence and crime that plagues Chicago,” Griffin’s statement reads in part.

Griffin went on to say he’s “not perturbed by [Pritzker’s] ad hominem attacks” but he’s “outraged” by the governor’s “continued failure to address the fact that Chicago is becoming a city defined by violent crime.”

Since he spoke at the Economic Club of Chicago just five weeks ago, Griffin noted a “staggering” number of shootings and deaths which Pritzker “seems to accept ... as normal in Chicago.”

Sun-Times records show at least 404 people were shot, and 77 shot and killed, in Chicago since Griffin’s Oct. 4 speech.

“What real response, new set of policies or new thinking has the Governor offered?” Griffin asked Thursday. “What is his plan to address the spiral of death and violence and the mayhem in our streets? How does he expect companies like Citadel to commit to Chicago when our employees are mugged at gunpoint and harassed as they come into work.

“The government’s most basic responsibility is to protect its citizens and the Governor is failing Chicagoans.”

Griffin still has not said whether he planned to weigh in during the GOP primary or wait until the party chooses a nominee from among the four Republicans already running — state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, suburban businessman Gary Rabine and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan.

A Pritzker spokeswoman declined to respond to Griffin’s latest remarks, pointing to the governor’s comments from earlier Thursday.

In his interview with the Sun-Times, Pritzker said he’s “focused on delivering” for Illinoisans.

Top of mind on that topic was his just completed trip overseas for the climate conference, where the governor said he had two goals.

The first was to tout Illinois’ recently passed energy legislation and tax incentive package for electric vehicle manufacturers, and the second was to meet with companies and business leaders in the electric vehicle industry to attract them to Illinois.

Pritzker said the state’s location, workforce, transportation system — namely being a hub for major railroads — make Illinois “one of the most attractive in the country” for electric vehicle makers and the governor felt he and his team were “successful in planting seeds.”

Pritzker returned from his first overseas mission as governor Wednesday afternoon and characterized his time away as a “great trip overall.”

During his trip, Pritzker visited London, Edinburgh and Glasgow — where the climate conference was held — and met with dignitaries from other countries as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and former President Barack Obama.

The conference placed Illinois “on a platform,” putting the state on the map for world leaders when it comes to climate change.

“This was an important marker for the state,” Pritzker said, adding that world leaders “now know who we are. ... We offer a model for many of them, and that’s a big deal, especially in the effort to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”