[Marxism] Chicago’s Odd Couple: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a Billionaire Republican Investor

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 3 14:34:43 MDT 2015


(I see nothing odd about this at all.)

NY Times, Apr. 3 2015
Chicago’s Odd Couple: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a Billionaire Republican 
Investor
By ALEXANDRA STEVENSON

At a news conference this week, Jesús G. Garcia, who is trying to unseat 
Rahm Emanuel as mayor of Chicago, accused the incumbent of allowing the 
city’s rich to “pay to play.”

Then Mr. Garcia got personal. Standing in front of the offices of the 
$26 billion investment firm Citadel, the challenger accused the firm’s 
billionaire owner, Kenneth C. Griffin, of benefiting from a relationship 
with the mayor.

Mr. Emanuel’s single biggest donor, Mr. Griffin, 46, has given more than 
$1 million to political organizations that support the mayor. The bulk 
of that money — $950,000 — was donated in recent weeks after Mr. Emanuel 
failed to win majority support for a second term at the end of February.

Backing Mr. Emanuel, a former Democratic congressman and President 
Obama’s first White House chief of staff, may seem an unusual choice for 
Mr. Griffin. A self-made billionaire who started trading convertible 
bonds from his dormitory room at Harvard, Mr. Griffin does not like big 
government. He thinks taxes are too high and corporate regulation is too 
burdensome.

While he has rarely commented on his political donations, in 2012 Mr. 
Griffin said he considered himself a “Reagan Republican” and that he 
thought the rich have “insufficient influence” on the political process.

His own influence has been felt in Illinois. “We need changes in 
Springfield,” he told an audience of hedge fund managers in Manhattan 
last year. That change, he said, could be brought about by Bruce Rauner, 
the Republican candidate in 2014 for governor of Illinois. Mr. Griffin 
spent more than $13 million supporting Mr. Rauner’s successful campaign.

Opponents of Mr. Emanuel point to these donations as an example of how 
Wall Street reaches into its deep pockets to ensure it has a say in 
policies. And as the mayor heads into a runoff election on Tuesday, the 
first since the city began nonpartisan elections, his top donors have 
come to underscore a reputation for being, in the words of one critic, 
“Mayor One Percent.”

Mr. Griffin certainly epitomizes that 1 percent. He is worth $6.5 
billion, Forbes magazine estimates. A generous donor to the arts, Mr. 
Griffin was recently featured in the local press for a $10 million gift 
to the Museum of Contemporary Art. He spends millions on art for 
himself, too. In February, he bought a 10-foot-tall Gerhard Richter 
painting for $46.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction.

Last year, Mr. Griffin gave $150 million to Harvard College for its 
financial aid program. That is the largest single amount donated to the 
university.

His real estate purchases make the news as well. The Chicago Tribune 
recently reported that Mr. Griffin spent $30 million on two apartments 
in the Waldorf Astoria Chicago last year.

He has also become a regular feature in the gossip columns as an 
acrimonious battle over billions of dollars has played out between him 
and his wife, Anne Dias Griffin, from whom he filed for divorce last summer.

Mr. Griffin began trading in 1987, his sophomore year, with $265,000 
from family and friends. When he set up Citadel in 1990, he was making 
exotic and complicated trades like Japanese equity warrants and placing 
bets on mergers and acquisitions.

Citadel has grown from a small hedge fund into an investment firm giant, 
managing some $26 billion and employing 1,400 worldwide, 740 of them in 
Chicago.

The current financial and political titans of Chicago have known each 
other since Mr. Emanuel was at the investment bank Wasserstein Perella, 
where he worked for three years after leaving the Clinton White House. 
The two do not always see eye to eye, however. While supporting the 
mayor, Mr. Griffin warned in 2013 that the country was at “the knife’s 
edge of a government that is too big.”

And when Mr. Emanuel shut down 50 public schools in Chicago, polarizing 
some voters who said the move unfairly targeted low-income communities, 
Mr. Griffin argued that the mayor should have gone further. “The number 
should’ve been 125,” he said.

But when it comes to taxes, Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Griffin share similar 
views. In a recent television advertisement paid for by Chicago Forward, 
one of the political organizations that Mr. Griffin has given money to, 
a retired Chicago police sergeant criticizes Mr. Garcia, known as 
“Chuy,” for being too quick to raise taxes. “When I see Chuy Garcia, I 
say, hold on to your wallets, this guy wants more taxes,” the 
advertisement said. “We just can’t afford that.”

In a statement, Mr. Griffin said: “Many of us at Citadel are actively 
involved in supporting candidates, nonprofits and civic groups that make 
our city and state a better place to live. More jobs. Less crime. Better 
schools. That’s what we all want for our community and our families.”

At Citadel’s Chicago headquarters, Mr. Griffin has compelled those who 
work for him to be engaged in the community. The firm holds regular town 
hall meetings, where politicians, economists and the occasional chef 
(Grant Achatz) are invited to give talks with employees. When he was a 
presidential candidate in 2007, President Barack Obama attended one such 
town hall meeting.

Mr. Emanuel spoke at another town hall meeting in September 2013.

Citadel employees have followed Mr. Griffin in making significant 
political donations to the mayor’s campaign. Since 2010, employees have 
given $173,000 to Chicago for Rahm Emanuel, a political organization.

Some employees have established closer ties with Mr. Emanuel: Daniel 
Widawsky, a former tax lawyer at Citadel, was appointed Chicago’s 
comptroller in 2013 by Mr. Emanuel.

Mr. Griffin has also galvanized leaders of Chicago’s business community 
to get involved in politics. At a 2013 dinner held by Chicago’s Economic 
Club, he called upon the audience to pick up their pens and phones and 
reach out to local and state officials.

“You see, we have a powerful voice, a voice that can play an important 
role in fixing our schools, in protecting and providing for our 
retirees, and in creating good jobs, a voice that can’t wait until the 
next election cycle, a voice that must be heard now,” Mr. Griffin said.

In Chicago, where the rough and tumble of Democratic ward politics is 
woven into the city’s DNA, Mr. Emanuel’s positioning as a 
middle-of-the-road Democrat contrasts with more left-leaning mayoral 
candidates like Mr. Garcia.

Many in the business community have praised Mr. Emanuel and say he is a 
networker whose connections in Washington have helped bring funds to 
Chicago when money is tight. The mayor has received plaudits for 
improving the public transport system, increasing the minimum wage and 
encouraging companies to stay in Chicago.

Supporters of Mr. Garcia argue that the views on small government and 
less taxes espoused by Mr. Griffin go too far.

“It’s a Darwinian approach, and it’s limited the scope of government,” 
said David S. Schaffer, the largest individual donor to Mr. Garcia’s 
campaign and a longtime adviser to Mr. Garcia. “It’s a return to the 
days of the robber barons,” he added.

On Tuesday, as Mr. Garcia spoke to a crowd of political supporters and 
reporters, Potbelly sandwiches were distributed. When asked, the servers 
said the sandwiches were “compliments of Ken Griffin.”



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