December 5, 2020

Billionaire Ken Griffin drops extra $26.7M against Pritzker’s graduated-rate income tax amendment proposal. His total stands at more than $46.7M

Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder and CEO of the Chicago-based Citadel hedge fund and investment firm, put another $26.7 million into the campaign against billionaire Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s ballot proposal to shift the state from a flat-rate income tax to a graduated tax with rates that increase with income.



Ken Griffin wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a building: Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, in 2014.


© E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, in 2014.

With Griffin’s latest investment, he has now given $46.75 million of the approximately $48.1 million million that has been received by the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment. In August, Griffin gave the group $20 million.

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Griffin and Pritzker are the main funding sources of the campaigns for and against the proposal asking voters to change the state’s constitution to replace Illinois’ current flat-rate income tax with a graduated-rate tax. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, has given the Vote Yes for Fairness campaign $56.5 million. Forbes estimates his worth at $3.4 billion.

In a statement, Griffin labeled the proposed amendment “Gov. Pritzker and Mike Madigan’s tax increase,” making reference to the veteran Democratic House speaker who has been implicated in a federal investigation that resulted in ComEd agreeing to pay a $200 million fine for its involvement in a near decadeslong bribery scheme to curry favor with Madigan. Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Griffin said if the proposal is adopted by voters on the Nov. 3 ballot, it would mean “the continued exodus of families and businesses, loss of jobs and inevitably higher taxes on everyone.”

Griffin said he believed “well-informed voters are increasingly speaking out against this tax hike, and I am committed to ensuring each of us has the facts to make a thoughtful decision about this catastrophic constitutional amendment.”

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Quentin Fulks, who chairs the pro-amendment Vote Yes for Fairness group, contended Griffin, who is estimated to be worth $15 billion by Forbes, has now “spent more than he would have paid additionally last year under the Fair Tax in an attempt to defeat it.”

“Griffin is growing increasingly desperate to ensure he can keep the special deal he gets under our current tax system that allows him to pay the same tax rate as our essential workers,” Foulks said. “Mr. Griffin and his fellow opponents have already made clear they want to raise taxes on working families and retirees rather than pay their fair share.”

Earlier this week the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, made up of the region’s top business executives, came out against the amendment. In 2019, that group promoted an $8 billion package of new revenues and cuts, including a 20% increase in the current 4.95% income tax rate to 5.95%, and imposing the income tax on retirement income. Illinois does not tax retirement income.

Pritzker and supporters of the proposed amendment have contended its failure on the ballot would mean a 20% hike in the current flat rate, a 15% across-the-board cut in state spending or a combination of both.

Supporters of the graduated tax, backed by organized labor and Democratic allies, say that 97% of Illinoisans — those who make $250,000 or less — would pay the same if not less in income taxes under a law passed that would take effect if the amendment is ratified. They contend the current flat-tax mandate unfairly puts a higher tax burden on lower incomes to pay the state’s bills.

Opponents representing the business community and its Republican allies in the legislature contend a graduated tax would allow lawmakers to cherry pick incomes to impose higher taxes, cost jobs and fuel an exodus of wealthy taxpayers from the state.

Other major spenders in the campaign against the proposal also added more money to the effort. Jay Bergman, president of Hinsdale-based Petco Petroleum Corp., and Craig Duchossois, who leads the diversified Duchossois Group, doubled their donations to $200,000 in recent days, State Board of Elections reports showed.

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