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