Hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin has upped his investment in Republican governor candidate Richard Irvin to $50 million, with an additional $5 million contribution reported Tuesday.
The latest infusion of cash to Irvin came shortly after Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker launched an attack ad late last week contending that Griffin’s support for Irvin was the result of Irvin’s actions as mayor of Aurora to push through a project important to the hedge-fund investor’s high-frequency trading business, Citadel Securities. Griffin is founder and CEO of the Citadel investment firm.
In a statement after Pritzker launched the ad, Griffin said of the first-term governor that he found it “disappointing that a man born with a silver spoon has accomplished so little, especially as governor.”
Griffin, the state’s wealthiest individual at a worth Forbes has estimated at $26.5 billion, is Irvin’s chief political benefactor and had already given the Aurora mayor $45 million in his bid for the June 28 GOP nomination for governor against five rivals.
Griffin and Pritzker have long feuded politically. Pritzker, an entrepreneur and an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, is worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes.
Griffin spent $22.5 million to back Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in his losing reelection bid against Pritzker in 2018. Pritzker spent more than $170 million of his own money to win the office.
Two years ago, Griffin spent $53.75 million in a successful effort to defeat Pritzker’s push to change the state from a flat-rate state income tax to a graduated rate system based on wealth. Pritzker spent $58 million to encourage the measure’s passage.
A third billionaire is involved in the race, conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest, who owns the Uline office packaging and supply business. Uihlein is backing Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia. Uihlein has given Bailey more than $6 million and also has given an independent expenditure group backing Bailey nearly $8.1 million, including $3.27 million last week.
Bailey and Irvin are scheduled to meet on Thursday evening in a debate with rivals Jesse Sullivan, a cryptocurrency investor from Petersburg, Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Max Solomon of Hazel Crest.
The debate is sponsored by WLS-Ch. 7 and Univision Chicago with the League of Women Voters of Illinois and marks the first televised debate of the campaign featuring all six contenders. It will air live from 7 to 8 p.m. on Ch. 7′s digital channel 7.2 and will stream live at abc7chicago.com.