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By using the trust, Pritzker circumvented the donation limit in the judicial race

Governor of the Democratic Party J. B. Pritzker is using his personal trust fund to circumvent contribution limits in two races that will determine whether his party retains a 4-3 majority on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, Pritzker signed legislation that limits contributions to judicial candidates from “any individual” to $500,000.

In September, Pritzker’s JB for Governor campaign fund contributed $500,000 each to the campaigns of Democrats Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien, who are running for two open seats on the Supreme Court. Last week, the billionaire businessman and Hyatt Hotels heir tapped his personal Jay Robert Pritzker Revocable Trust to give each candidate an additional $500,000, a state campaign finance report shows.

The Illinois Board of Elections has historically treated trusts as separate entities for purposes of meeting contribution limits, spokesman Matt Dietrich said.

“In the absence of a violation complaint, we will not issue a fine,” Dietrich said.

Pritzker’s contribution ahead of the Nov. 8 election came as spending by candidates and outside groups once again made Illinois the leader in court campaign spending. A recent analysis by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found that Illinois had the highest spending among the 28 states where voters are electing justices to their high courts this fall.

Last month, a federal judge other court fee limits are blocked Pritzker signed the legislation, including a measure that would ban donations of more than $500,000 per election cycle from a single source to independent expenditure committees created to support or oppose judicial candidates.

Before the suspended law took effect, billionaire Citadel founder Ken Griffin, Pritzker’s main political rival, gave $6.25 million to an independent spending committee called Citizens for Judicial Justice, which supports Mark, the Republican candidate for two open seats in the Supreme Court. Curren and Michael Burke.

The judge’s ruling did not block the state’s $500,000 limit on single-person contributions to judicial candidates.

In defense of its additional contributions to Democratic candidates, the Pritzker campaign cited Griffin’s financial role in the race.

“The governor believes we cannot allow Ken Griffin to lie about our Supreme Court nominees and spread Republican disinformation in the final days of the election,” said Pritzker spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein.

Asked about Pritzker’s contribution, Griffin issued a statement reiterating his litany of complaints about the administration.

“Illinois leads the nation in unemployment, continues to suffer from rampant violence, and people and businesses continue to leave the state at an alarmingly high rate,” Griffin said in a statement. “I will allow the fact that the leadership of J. B. Pritzker is failing the people of Illinois, and his support of judges tied to Mike Madigan’s corrupt political machine speaks for itself.”

Kent Redfield, an Illinois campaign finance expert, said the state’s laws are written to be used in the same way Pritzker did.

“It doesn’t make him better or worse,” said Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “He is acting within the law.”

Given U.S. Supreme Court rulings and the proliferation of independent spending groups, it is “almost impossible” to limit political campaign spending, he said.

Similar to races up and down the ballot this year, the races for the Supreme Court’s two mostly suburban and exurban districts have focused heavily on crime and abortion issues, with Republicans accusing Democrats of being soft on crime and Democrats naming GOP candidates in as a threat to reproductive rights following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In its ads, Citizens for a Fair Trial sought to link Rochford and O’Brien to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is facing federal corruption charges.

In October, the group said it spent nearly $4.9 million on advertising in the race between Burke, a Supreme Court justice appointee, and O’Brien, an appellate judge, and $1.3 million in the race between Curran, the former Lake County sheriff, and Rochford. , assistant judge. By law, the group is prohibited from coordinating with companies.

Two other outside political action committees, Fair Courts America and Restoration PAC, are also spending money to help GOP candidates, spending nearly $2.3 million on ads for Curran’s race and nearly $267,000 for Burke’s, state campaign finance records show . They were two of the plaintiffs who sued to block the new limit on contributions to independent spending committees in judicial races.

Federal campaign finance filings show that conservative megadonor Richard Whalen of Lake Forest has given nearly $22 million to Restoration PAC — founded by business owner Doug Truax, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2014 — this year, including two contributions for a total of nearly $8.7 million in October.

While the group spent only about $100,000 on the Supreme Court election, it loaned Fair Courts America at least $647,000 this year, federal filings show.

Wiline actively supported Pritzker’s opponent in the general election, Republican Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, endorsing him directly in the campaign through PACs such as Restoration and People Who Play by the Rules.



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