The New King of the Opposition

Chicago Magazine

There’s only one man in Illinois with the money and political influence to rout Pritzker’s agenda — and that man, Ken Griffin, had a very good Election Day.

Check out the website of the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment, the ponderously named PAC that helped defeat the so-called Fair Tax in November. It features videos of a single mother, small-business owners, and farmers testifying that a graduated-rate income tax would give “Springfield politicians” the power to raise taxes on “middle-income families” and retirees. Missing from the site is the name of the man who paid for it and for the TV ads the group aired incessantly during the World Series: Citadel CEO Ken Griffin. A billionaire 15 times over, Griffin is one of the wealthiest men in the state, and in the recent election he spent a small chunk of those riches — some $58 million — to fend off the Fair Tax and the retention of Illinois Supreme Court justice Thomas Kilbride, the linchpin of the court’s Democratic majority.

Griffin knows where to invest his money. For years, he had contributed to Republican politicians, including $22.5 million to former governor Bruce Rauner’s unsuccessful reelection campaign. But giving to the GOP in Democratic Illinois is like betting on a three-legged horse at the Kentucky Derby. So Griffin shifted his support to nonpartisan initiatives that would advance his conservative goals of low taxes, limits on public sector pensions, and reduced government spending. Of the $59.7 million raised by the coalition to fight the amendment, $53.8 million came from Griffin…


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