JB Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel chain and a venture capitalist, reported over the weekend that he’s giving another $15 million of his own money to his campaign for Illinois governor. That contribution brings to $161.5 million what the Democrat has given his own campaign. That tops Republican Meg Whitman’s $144 million that she put into her own losing campaign for California governor in 2010.
A spokeswoman for the Pritzker campaign said nearly a third of Pritzker’s latest contribution will go toward helping other Democrats, including $1 million for state Sen. Kwame Raoul’s campaign for attorney general, $1 million to the Rock Island Democratic Party, and $700,000 to the Democratic Party of Illinois. He’s also contributed campaign support directly to Chicago aldermen, state lawmakers, and a national group that helps elect Democratic governors around the country.
But Pritzker denied that he’s expecting Democrats whom he’s supporting financially to vote in lock-step with him if he’s successful in defeating Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in next month’s election.
“You’re mistaking something and that is that I’ve been involved in Democratic politics for decades now and supporting candidates, most of whom to support their own campaigns they needed to raise money,” Pritzker said during an hourlong interview on WBEZ’s Morning Shift, in response to a question about whether he’s expecting payback for his support. “For many, many, many years, progressive Democratic candidates have gotten elected in part because of my support.”
Pritzker also defended his proposal to shift Illinois to a graduated income tax system without establishing how much families should expect to pay in income taxes to the state. Currently, Illinois has a flat personal income tax rate of 4.95 percent. Pritzker argues the state constitution should be changed to allow for a graduated system that would have poor people paying a lower percent than rich people. He’s promised that middle class residents would see a tax reduction, though Pritzker has repeatedly refused to say what income he considers to be middle class — making it unclear who exactly could expect to see lower income taxes.
“We need to start with the basic principle that we’ve gotta have a fairer tax system and in order to get one in place, we really do need to negotiate those rates with the legislature,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker argued that the tax rates he’s proposing will be made clear down the road, since shifting to a graduated income tax system would require voters to approve the change to the state’s constitution.
“There’s gonna be a lot of transparency over this,” Pritzker said.
In the Morning Shift segment, Pritzker again dismissed the racial discrimination claims brought by 10 current and former members of his campaign staff, claimed he had not been in contact with Amazon executives about bringing HQ2 to Chicago (though Pritzker’s sister, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, is one of the business executives helping Chicago’s pitch to the company), and addressed gambling expansion in Illinois.
In the interest of transparency, Chicago Public Media (CPM) reminds its audience that we receive philanthropic support from The Pritzker Foundation. JB Pritzker, who is a candidate for Illinois governor, is not involved in The Pritzker Foundation and does not contribute to it. He and his wife lead a separate philanthropic foundation, the Pritzker Family Foundation, from which CPM has never received any funding.