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

When Illinois’ richest man, Ken Griffin, announced Thursday that he plans to relocate the headquarters of his investment firm from Chicago to Miami, it was not only an important development for Citadel, but also came at an interesting time politically billionaire hedge fund manager.

Illinois Republican voters on Tuesday are poised to accept or reject any or all members of a list of GOP candidates for state office that Griffin has funded with $50 million. This list is led by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is vying to become the Republican nominee for governor.

Given the timing and political optics, this suggests a possible early concession speech. Irvin is in a hotly contested six-way race for the nomination, facing strong opposition from State Senator Darren Bailey of Xenia.

Bailey was supported in part by a series of television ads paid for by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Pritzker-backed Democratic Governors Association, who call Bailey “too conservative” for Illinois. It’s a setback for Conservatives to back Bailey, who Democrats believe will be easier to defeat in the fall.

In a statement Thursday, just hours after Griffin’s announcement, Irvin accused Pritzker of leaving Citadel and refusing to “acknowledge what everyone sees, which is that its heavily taxed, criminal government is literally driving jobs and businesses out of state.” .

“In the last month alone, Illinois lost Boeing, Caterpillar and now Citadel,” Irvin said, citing the defense contractor and aircraft manufacturer and Caterpillar Inc.’s recent announcements that they are moving their corporate headquarters to Virginia and Texas, respectively.

Irvin added a pitch for his candidacy, saying: “It’s a clear pattern that shows no sign of ending unless we beat Pritzker in November and I’m the only person in this race with a proven track record, that Illinois is retaking.”

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 said to James Bond, “‘They have a saying in Chicago. Once is coincidence. Twice is coincidence. The third time it is enemy action.’ First it’s Boeing. Second, it’s Caterpillar. Third, it’s Citadel,” Durkin said.

“I mean, that’s a huge statement. What we’re seeing at these corporate offices,[Pritzker]just can’t pass it off as a bunch of office jobs,” he said. β€œIt will resonate across the country. This is how Illinois is now compared to before.”

Griffin’s note to employees states that after more than 30 years in Chicago, his Citadel will be moving to a new headquarters in Miami’s Financial District. Citadel has approximately 1,000 employees in Chicago and will maintain an office in the city.

While Boeing and Caterpillar have announced they are leaving, Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said other big companies like Kellogg Co. have announced they are moving to Illinois.

“We will continue to welcome these companies — including Kellogg, which just this week announced it would be 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 efforts to defeat Irvin in the GOP primary symbolize the acrimonious relationship between the state’s billionaire governor and Griffin. Griffin had frequently cited fears of crime in Chicago as a possible reason for Citadel’s move, blaming Pritzker and his policies but not Mayor Lori Lightfoot, including at an October 2021 event at the Economic Club of Chicago.

In the November 2020 election, Griffin spent $53.75 million opposing Pritzker’s signature agenda item, a proposed constitutional amendment voted against to convert the state from a flat income tax to a graduated levy . Pritzker spent $58 million to encourage its passage.

In the 2018 gubernatorial race, Griffin gave one-term Republican governor Bruce Rauner $22.5 million for losing re-election to Pritzker, who spent more than $170 million of his own money campaigning. Griffin gave Rauner $13.5 million for Rauner’s win in 2014.

Also in 2020, Griffin pumped $4.5 million into a group opposing the retention of Illinois Superior Court Justice Thomas Kilbride. Kilbride became the first judge to lose a retention vote. This time, Griffin gave the group more than $6.25 million in elections outside of Cook County for a newly appointed Supreme Court.

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

In May, Griffin announced that he would be donating $25 million to establish two academies at the University of Chicago to provide advanced police training to leaders of law enforcement and violence disruption organizations.

Griffin has also given around $40 million to various outside groups trying to influence the outcome of midterm elections in congressional elections across the country. This has made him one of the nation’s most important individual donors involved in the transformation of Congress this cycle.

Griffin is also Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ largest single donor, giving him $5 million.

If he chooses to devote his resources to Florida, Griffin’s departure could mean an even more depleted fundraising future for Illinois Republicans, who had relied on his wealth to partially offset Pritzker’s lavish spending on Democrats.

While Republicans rushed to hear the news to blast the Democratic leadership in Illinois and Chicago, at least one leading Chicago Democrat did not shed many tears over the departure of Citadel.

US Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Chicago said the news of Citadel’s move “didn’t come as much of a shock” as Griffin had previously moved jobs from Illinois.

“I think he feels more welcome as a Republican, as an archconservative in a state where DeSantis is governor,” Garcia, a progressive Democrat, said before an appearance at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which holds its annual Meeting in Chicago. “I wish his employees all the best.”

But Garcia said he’s also not surprised if Griffin continues to “meddle” in Illinois politics from his new location.

“Billionaires can still influence elections no matter where they are,” he said.

rap30@aol.com

dpetrella@chicagotribune.com

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