Billionaire Ken Griffin has upped his investment in Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s Republican bid for governor, kicking in an additional $25 million to the campaign after seeding Irvin’s candidacy with an initial $20 million, state campaign finance records showed Thursday.
By doubling his financial commitment to Irvin, Griffin appears to be showing confidence in a campaign strategy that has been high in the use of TV ads and mailers while low in public contact and visibility.
Griffin, founder and CEO of the Citadel hedge fund, is the state’s wealthiest person with a net worth of $26.7 billion, according to Forbes. He is an ardent foe of Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and the nation’s wealthiest elected politician with a net worth estimated at $3.6 billion, according to Forbes.
Griffin gave Irvin’s campaign $20 million shortly after the Aurora mayor announced his candidacy in mid-January.
Recent campaign finance reports show Irvin’s outlay on advertising in the first quarter was about equal to Pritzker’s.
The governor, who spent $171 million of his own money to defeat wealthy first-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018, has put $125.5 million of his own money into his reelection campaign, including a $90 million deposit in January.
Griffin gave Rauner $11.5 million in his successful 2014 campaign for governor and another $22.5 million in his losing effort four years later. Griffin also spent $53.75 million to successfully fight Pritzker’s proposed graduated-rate income tax constitutional amendment. Pritzker spent $58 million on that failed effort.
Even before backing Irvin, Griffin had vowed to go “all in” against Pritzker’s reelection. Irvin is among five major contenders for the GOP nomination in the June 28 primary, along with businessmen Gary Rabine of Bull Valley and Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo.
Last month, Bailey’s campaign got a cash infusion of $2.5 million from another billionaire, conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein of the Uline office supply firm. Uihlein had previously given Bailey $1 million and has also given $1 million to an independent expenditure committee supporting Bailey and opposing Irvin.
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