GOP fires warning shots across Pritzker's bow
Illinois Republicans have responded swiftly to Chicago billionaire J.B. Pritzker's recently formed exploratory committee, labeling him "tainted," against reform and a Rod Blagojevich financial supporter.
And Pritzker hasn't even announced a bid to unseat Gov. Bruce Rauner yet.
“Political insider J.B. Pritzker is a longtime member of [House Speaker] Mike Madigan’s inner circle, having funneled over a million dollars to Madigan in the last year alone to help Madigan stop reforms,” the GOP told supporters in an email recently.
“J.B. Pritzker is a tainted political insider who would only make Mike Madigan and the Chicago political machine stronger,” Steven Yaffe, an Illinois Republican Party spokesman, said, according to Capitol Fax.
Republican Party members also established a direct link between Pritzker and disgraced former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, with the party being quoted as saying that as a member of Blagojevich’s inner circle, Pritzker “worked behind the scenes to bankroll his campaigns and was at the center of Blagojevich’s criminal scheme to sell Illinois’ Senate seat."
Pritzker filed paperwork with the state for his Chicago-based “JB for Governor Exploratory Committee” this month, naming Lee Rosenberg of Chicago as both chairman and treasurer and Megan Brengarth of Washington to head administrative operations.
Rosenberg, an investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is Pritzker’s chief of staff at The Pritzker Group, the candidate’s private investment firm. Brengarth is a federal campaign finance compliance consultant and a principal at Washington-based Mele, Brengarth & Associates.
Pritzker has put $200,000 of his own money into the committee to cover “day-to-day expenses,” the Chicagoist reported. After filing the paperwork, Pritzker described embarking on statewide canvassing, ostensibly to listen to constituents but also unabashedly to use the opportunity to criticize Rauner.
“As I’ve traveled across Illinois I’ve listened to people express their deep concerns about the direction of our state,” Pritzker said in a press release published by Capitol Fax. “It is clear that having a Governor who’s unwilling to address our state’s challenges is having a real impact on people’s lives … I look forward to continuing my conversations with people across Illinois who are currently being forced to pay the price of failed leadership from Governor Rauner.”
The Chicago Tribune said Pritzker, with a net worth of approximately $3.4 billion, could self-fund his entire campaign.
“Anyone hoping to challenge Rauner will have to put up a significant amount of cash,” the Chicagoist said, citing publicly available records that document Rauner’s coffers as holding upward of $50 million.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) also formed her own exploratory committee just days prior to Pritzker.
Others who have announced their candidacy are Chicago businessman Christopher Kennedy, Chicago Ward 47 Alderman Ameya Pawar, Madison County Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber and Alex Paterakis of Skokie.
State Sens. Daniel Biss and Andy Manar are also considering a run, according to the Chicago Tribune.
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