Ken Griffin’s Citadel move announcement comes at a politically curious time for the billionaire

When Illinois’ richest man, Ken Griffin, announced Thursday that he planned to move his investment firm’s headquarters from Chicago to Miami, it wasn’t just a major development for Citadel, it also came at a politically intriguing time for the billionaire hedge fund. administrator.

Republican voters in Illinois are poised on Tuesday to accept or reject some or all members of a GOP slate of candidates for statewide offices that Griffin has funded with $50 million. dollars. This list is headed by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is vying to be the Republican candidate for governor.

Given the timing and the political lens, this points to potentially early concession talk. Irvin is in a hotly contested six-way race for the nomination and faces strong opposition from Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia.

Bailey was helped, in part, by a slew of television ads paid for by Democratic Governor JB Pritzker and the Pritzker-backed Democratic Governors Association, which called Bailey “too conservative” for Illinois. It’s an indirect push for conservatives to back Bailey, who Democrats say will be easier to defeat in the fall.

In a statement Thursday just hours after Griffin’s announcement, Irvin blamed Pritzker for leaving Citadel and for refusing “to acknowledge what everyone sees, which is that his pro-criminal administration with high taxes literally drives jobs and businesses out of the state”.

“In the last month alone, Illinois has lost Boeing, Caterpillar and now Citadel,” Irvin said, noting recent announcements from the defense contractor and aircraft manufacturer and Caterpillar Inc. that they would be moving their headquarters in Virginia and Texas, respectively.

Adding a pitch for his candidacy, Irvin said: “It’s a clear pattern that shows no signs of ending unless we beat Pritzker in November, and I’m the only person in this race with a proven track record of success. to take back Illinois.”

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said Griffin’s departure was a sign of the state’s modern business climate.

Durkin quoted Ian Fleming’s “Goldfinger,” in which the villain told James Bond, “They have a saying in Chicago. Once is chance. Twice is a coincidence. The third time is an enemy action. It is first Boeing. Second, it’s Caterpillar. Third is Citadel,” Durkin said.

“I mean, that’s a huge statement. What we’re seeing with these corporate offices, (Pritzker) just can’t dismiss it as a few white-collar jobs,” he said. It’s going to reverberate all over the country. That’s what Illinois is now versus what it was before.

Griffin’s memo to employees said his Citadel would be moving to a new headquarters in Miami’s financial district after more than 30 years in Chicago. Citadel has approximately 1,000 employees in Chicago and will maintain an office in the city.

As Boeing and Caterpillar announced their departures, Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said other major companies, such as Kellogg Co., have announced moves to Illinois.

“We will continue to welcome these companies – including Kellogg, which just announced this week that it is moving its largest headquarters to Illinois – and support emerging industries that are already creating good jobs and investing billions. in Illinois, such as data centers, electric vehicles and quantum. computing,” Bittner said in a statement.

Pritzker’s effort to defeat Irvin in the GOP primary symbolizes the bitter relationship between the state’s billionaire governor and Griffin. Griffin had frequently cited fears of crime in Chicago as a potential reason for moving the Citadel, blaming Pritzker and his policies but not Mayor Lori Lightfoot, including during an October 2021 event at the Economic Club of Chicago.

In the November 2020 election, Griffin spent $53.75 million to oppose Pritzker’s signature agenda item, a constitutional amendment proposal voted down by voters to pass the state from a flat-rate income tax to a progressive rate levy. Pritzker spent $58 million to encourage his passing.

In the 2018 gubernatorial race, Griffin gave Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner $22.5 million in his losing re-election bid to Pritzker, who spent more than $170 million of his own campaign money. Griffin gave Rauner $13.5 million for Rauner’s winning effort in 2014.

Also in 2020, Griffin injected $4.5 million into a group that opposed the retention of Democratic Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride. Kilbride became the court’s first judge to lose a retention vote. This time around, with elections outside of Cook County for a redistricted Supreme Court, Griffin gave the group more than $6.25 million.

Since 2002, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records, Griffin has donated $179 million to state and local candidates, mostly Republicans, and organizations. But Griffin was also a financial backer for Chicago mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel.

In May, Griffin announced he was donating $25 million to launch two academies based at the University of Chicago to provide advanced police training to law enforcement officials and law enforcement organizations. violence.

Griffin also gave about $40 million to various outside groups seeking to influence the outcome of congressional races across the country in the midterm elections. That made him one of the nation’s top individual donors involved in Congressional overhaul this cycle.

Griffin is also Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ top individual donor, giving him $5 million.

If he decides to devote his resources to Florida, Griffin’s departure could mean an even more depleted fundraising future for Republicans in Illinois who had relied on his wealth to help offset some of the lavish expenses of Pritzker for the Democrats.

While Republicans rushed on the news to blow up Democratic leadership in Illinois and Chicago, at least one Democratic leader in Chicago didn’t shed many tears over Citadel’s departure.

U.S. Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Chicago said the news of Citadel’s move “is not a big shock” since Griffin had previously moved jobs out of Illinois.

“I guess he feels more welcome as a Republican, as an archconservative, in a state where DeSantis is governor,” said Garcia, a progressive Democrat, before an appearance at the National Association of Elected Officials and named Latinos, which holds its annual meeting in Chicago. “I wish good luck to his employees.”

But Garcia said he also wouldn’t be surprised if Griffin continued to “meddle” in Illinois politics from his new hometown.

“Billionaires can always affect elections no matter where they are,” he said.

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