New ad from billionaire Gov. J.B. Pritzker goes after billionaire Ken Griffin and his candidate, Richard Irvin

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Billionaire Gov. J.B. Pritzker displays his political animosity toward billionaire hedge fund executive Ken Griffin and the Republican candidate for governor he’s funding, Richard Irvin, in a TV ad that debuted Thursday.

The ad focuses on connections between Griffin’s Citadel Securities and a firm that erected a communications tower in Aurora which Irvin as mayor pushed through the city council for the benefit of high-frequency security trading. The story was reported by Bloomberg and WTTW-Ch. 11.

“Why has this Chicago billionaire, Ken Griffin already spent $45 million trying to elect Richard Irvin?” a narrator in the ad asks.

“Well, as mayor of Aurora, Richard Irvin strong-armed city council members to change their votes and approve a critical project for Ken Griffin’s business, helping Griffin make over $6.5 billion in just the last year. And now it’s paying off for Richard Irvin too.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, Republican candidate for governor, enters a press room to address reporters’ questions following a candidates forum at NBC5 studio on May 24, 2022, in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

“Richard Irvin, the more we learn, the worse it gets,” the narrator says.

In a statement, Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said “Irvin has repeatedly urged the public to examine his record, which is exactly what this ad does.”

But Irvin campaign spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said Pritzker’s latest ad was “nothing more than proof that J.B. Pritzker is running scared because he knows Richard Irvin will beat him in November.”

Irvin is the best funded of the six Republicans seeking the GOP nomination, which include state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, businessman Gary Rabine of Bull Valley and cryptocurrency venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg.

Griffin, who has feuded politically with the first-term Democratic governor, has given Irvin $45 million in his bid to win the GOP nomination for governor and the right to face Pritzker on June 28.

In an invective filled statement Thursday, Griffin said the TV attacks show Pritzker fears facing Irvin in the fall.

“I don’t care about the governor’s pathetic attacks against me. I started one of the most important businesses in the world at the age of 21 right here in Chicago. And unlike J.B. Pritzker, I’ve endured real challenges and made real sacrifices in writing the success story of Citadel,” Griffin said.

“J.B. Pritzker was gifted a life of tremendous wealth. It’s disappointing that a man born with a silver spoon has accomplished so little, especially as governor. Pritzker’s policies have driven the largest crime wave in the history of Illinois,” Griffin said. “Richard is the exact opposite of J.B. and has already done more for the people of Illinois than silver spooned billionaire J.B. Pritzker ever will.”

Griffin is the state’s wealthiest individual with a net worth of $25.8 billion, according to Forbes. Pritzker, an entrepreneur and an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, is worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes.

A Bloomberg report in January said Griffin’s personal wealth increased $6.5 billion after selling a share of Citadel Securities.

Griffin in recent years has spent well over $100 million in his efforts to bring down Pritzker.

In 2018, Griffin spent $22.5 million on one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s losing reelection bid against Pritzker. Four years earlier, Rauner spent more than $170 million of his own money in his successful run.

In 2020, Griffin spent $53.75 million in a successful effort to defeat Pritzker’s push to change the state from a flat-rate state income tax to a graduated rate system based on wealth. Pritzker spent $58 million to encourage the measure’s passage.

Pritzker’s latest ad debuted as Irvin’s campaign touted a poll it says show that he holds a single-digit lead in the race for the GOP nomination despite being outspent by more than $5 million in opposition ads between May 4 and Tuesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks before signing a bill restricting the sale and possession of unserialized firearms, also known as ghost guns, on May 18, 2022, at The Ark of St. Sabina. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Pritzker and attack ads from the Pritzker-supported Democratic Governors Association have accounted for $9.5 million in TV spending during that period while ads for Bailey and a group aligned with the downstate senator have accounted for another $6.5 million. At the same time, Irvin has spent $10.7 million.

Bailey’s campaign launched two new ads on Thursday, one attacking Irvin’s GOP credentials and the other defending Bailey from Irvin’s attacks on his own GOP bona fides. The state senator has been the beneficiary of a third billionaire involved in the race, conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest, who owns the Uline office packaging and supply business.

Uihlein has given Bailey more than $6 million. He has given an independent expenditure group backing Bailey a total of nearly $8.1 million, which includes a $3.27 million contribution earlier this week, to run ads critical of Irvin.

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May 26, 2022 at 05:09PM

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