* From the Better Government Association…
Billionaire JB Pritzker is the wealthiest candidate ever to run for Illinois governor and likely the most philanthropic, laying claim to at least $152 million in donations in recent years to children’s programs, universities, hospitals, a state Holocaust museum and much more.
Some of those donations have gone to causes tied to politicians and social activists now endorsing Pritzker’s campaign. Also In late 2016, he gave $250,000 to the non-profit bankrolling restoration of the governor’s mansion in Springfield, the same residence Pritzker soon after began campaigning to occupy.
Pritzker’s largesse is a major selling point of his bid for governor. But a Better Government Association examination shows that charity comes at little real cost to the candidate himself but considerable expense to federal and state treasuries.
Records show Pritzker has funded his charitable giving almost exclusively with inherited proceeds, much of it filtered through offshore tax havens and then deposited in a tax-exempt nonprofit he controls, the Pritzker Family Foundation.
The result is that Pritzker’s philanthropy, and any accolades that go with it, have been bankrolled with what is essentially found money. He did little to earn the proceeds and paid no taxes on the bulk of it before giving it away.
Pritzker’s record as a philanthropist is a central element in a campaign that asks Illinois voters to put him in charge of their tax money. In ads and speeches, he stresses how he has used his money to do good and make a difference.
But the complete story is more complex. Most people who make charitable donations do so out of earnings or savings on which they have already paid taxes. Pritzker, on the other hand, did no work for most of the money he has given away or pay taxes on it.
Go read the whole thing. Pritzker has basically admitted doing this for a while, saying he doesn’t pocket money from overseas family trusts and donates it to charity. But the BGA story is another, less, um, charitable, way of looking at it.
* Pritzker campaign response…
JB is very proud of his work with charitable causes across Illinois. Everything from expanding school breakfast programs to 235,000 low-income kids, to helping create a non-profit technology incubator that’s created over 7,000 jobs, to standing up for wrongly convicted men and women behind bars and building a museum that every year teaches 60,000 Illinois kids and teachers to stand up to hate.
The fact is the trusts referenced in today’s story were set up generations ago by relatives of JB, but it was JB who made the decision that all distributions made should be given entirely to charity. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to support meaningful programs across Illinois.
The suggestion that JB’s commitment of countless of hours of time and millions of dollars in support to these organizations is not genuine, and even worse, questioning the sincerity of the motives of people supporting his campaign like Barbara Bowman and Holocaust survivors who personally worked with JB to build the museum is not only incorrect, it’s insulting.
…Adding… Back to the BGA story…
Pritzker has played a major fundraising role for construction of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center museum in Skokie, and his foundation donated $9.9 million to the effort. Two Holocaust survivors, leaders of the drive to build the museum, appear in another Pritzker campaign ad titled “Standing Up to Hate.”
Slayen said the donations and endorsements reflect long standing relationships and shared interests, not political tit-for-tat.
“To be clear, the implication you’re making is both ridiculous and offensive,” Pritzker’s spokeswoman said. “And if you are seriously asking if Holocaust survivors, a champion for early childhood education, and a decades long public servant are trading their endorsements for charitable contributions then the answer is unequivocally no.”
* The Pritzker campaign would like you to see their full response…
And if you are seriously asking if Holocaust survivors, a champion for early childhood education, and a decades long public servant are trading their endorsements for charitable contributions then the answer is unequivocally no. It is incredibly insulting to the lives these people have led and the impact that they’ve had on their communities to even make such an accusation. We are honestly dumbfounded that an organization like the BGA, which again, has received significant contributions from JB’s Foundation, would attempt to connect nonexistent dots.