Pritzker added to GOP's list of Madigan backers
The Illinois Republican Party has added venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker to its BossMadigan.com website, which lists lawmakers and other stakeholders who support House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago).
Pritzker has been linked to the machinations of the Democratic leadership before. The infamous FBI tapes of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which led to Blagojevich's current prison term, caught mention of Pritzker's name in a discussion, allegedly about purchasing Barack Obama's Senate seat after he became president.
Pritzker raised funds for Blagojevich during his political career, and the BossMadigan website said Prtizker donated more than $120,000 to Blagojevich's campaign for governor.
Pritzker was also became part of Blagojevich's downfall when an FBI wiretap captured a discussion between Blagojevich and his aide, Doug Scofield, regarding fundraising and the Senate seat. Pritzker allegedly requested that Blagojevich appoint him to Obama's seat.
“I bet you J.B. can raise me money like that,” Blagojevich said in the recording. “If I can get J.B. to do something like that, is it worth giving him the Senate seat? Incidentally, he asked me for it. Don’t repeat that."
Blagojevich said it would be difficult to appoint Pritzker to the seat but continued discussing the monetary aspect of Pritzker's support.
"Yeah, you're darn right that's hard," Blagojevich said on the tape. "But you have an organization that, you know, you go out and advocate and, and he'll help fund it by getting some of his billionaire friends to, to invest in it."
While Blagojevich was impeached, convicted and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, Pritzker, his siblings and other Pritzker family members continued financially supporting major players in the Democratic Party, including Madigan.
The Pritzker family is ranked among the top 10 political contributors in Illinois by University of Illinois professor emeritus Kent Redfield. The Pritzker family contributed more than $1.9 million from 2005-08 and more than $1.8 million from 2009-12 to various Illinois candidates.
PoliticoIllinois said Pritzker is considering a run for governor in 2018. With his reputation for philanthropy, business knowledge and a fortune estimated at $3.4 billion, he is in a position to face off with Gov. Bruce Rauner.
While a run at the governorship is only speculation right now, Pritzker's well-known support of Democratic candidates on the state and national level continues to garner attention from the GOP.
“J.B. Pritzker’s inherited fortune is the financial muscle behind Mike Madigan’s Chicago political machine," Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe said. "Just this year, Pritzker gave Madigan’s political front group almost $1 million in an attempt to force a tax hike with no reforms and stop Gov. [Bruce] Rauner’s plans to improve Illinois through term limits, a property tax freeze and economic growth. J.B. Pritzker’s financial disclosures show his true loyalties lie with Mike Madigan.”
The Illinois GOP launched BossMadigan.com to expose the interconnections between 45-year House veteran Madigan and his Democratic supporters. Having held the speaker position for 31 years, Madigan has a wide power base, both in and out of the assembly.
The GOP is working to implement reforms in the General Assembly to reduce debt and produce a balanced budget for the first time since 2001. Term limits, redistricting reforms, changes in the public pension system and other reforms are on the GOP's agenda.
Madigan is adamantly opposed to any changes in Illinois government, particularly if it affects his power in the state House, the GOP says.
The power struggle between Rauner and Madigan regarding reforms and a balanced budget led to the budget stalemate that has left the state without a full budget since 2015.