Back in the bad old days after the arrest of Rod Blagojevich, state lawmakers approved new limits on campaign donations, a move designed to take some of the wildness out of Illinois politics.
Though a chunk of the law applying to independent expenditures later was knocked out by the courts, the law remains that caps how much the deep- pocketed can pass around to candidates and party committees.
But perhaps not everyone got the memo.
In a fascinating series of events that just now are coming to light, it appears that every single penny the Illinois Republican Party got in the first quarter from other political groups for non-federal elections came courtesy of Ken Griffin, CEO of Chicago hedge fund Citadel LLC, and his wife, Anne Griffin, one way or another.
The Griffins wrote large checks to a dozen or so GOP groups, most of them in Downstate counties. And, within a few days, those groups turned around and wrote big checks to the state party totaling $140,000. And that’s well over the $10,000 per person legal limit that each of the Griffins could have donated on their own to any single political party PAC.
John Fogarty, counsel to Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady, says it’s all just a coincidence. “There was no agreement that anything should be passed on,” he says. “There was no ‘understanding’.”
A spokesman for the Griffins, longtime big players in Illinois politics and education reform matters, declined to comment.
But the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says the matter “does appear to be worth a deeper look.”
“Illinois law forbids giving in the name of another (person),” says the campaign’s deputy chief David Morrison. “Political committees are required to list the true identity of their contributors.”
Word of what’s going on first surfaced yesterday evening in an email by Doug Ibendahl, a one-time GOP party official who has turned critical of its leadership.
I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Ibendahl’s conclusions, but his research on this matter has been spot on.