News & Scoops

In this Rauner v. Pritzker money race, the winner is Equality Illinois

February 4th, 2018

The applause was tepid at best when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, took the stage at Saturday’s Equality Illinois gala. I even heard a few boos. (That can happen after a two-hour cocktail party.)

The Rauners, though, were among top-tier, platinum-level donors to the event–giving $25,000 to the organization that supports LGBT rights. Businessman Michael Sacks’ GCM Grosvenor also gave $25,000.

Might Rauner have been trying to one-up his potential Democratic rival, J.B. Pritzker, who donated at least $15,000 to the gala? Who knows. His speech didn’t offer a whiff of politics.

“Justice, equal opportunity, equal treatment under the law–these are the principals that make America a beacon of hope across the world,” Rauner told the 1,500 guests. They warmed to him after that.

Who-gave-how-much made for interesting party talk, but the real winner is Equality Illinois.

Susana Mendoza

I hit the party to watch the traditional parade of political and government leaders enter the Hilton ballroom before taking the stage. In an election year like this one, they were out in full force. I had wondered if they’d try to out-do each other for attention.

I imagined Pritzker sashaying in with Jennifer Pritzker, his billionaire transgender cousin and a darling of the LGBT crowd. Would Chris Kennedy be draped in a rainbow flag? Or Daniel Biss in chaps?!

No such luck. The actual procession was a smile-and-wave walk through the crowd, much like a Fourth of July parade. The crowd responded with cheers for favorite politicos (Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and Mayor Rahm Emanuel) and a few jeers (Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios)–again, inhibitions disappear after a two-hour cocktail party.

Emanuel, who earlier in the week said Chicago should be named an Amazon headquarter-town because of its strong support of LGBT rights, could have said anything and been applauded wildly. “It’s no longer about straight marriage or gay marriage. There’s only marriage,” he said. The crowd lapped it up.

Scroll here for a list of all the donors and honorees.

LaBolt, Koeneman

BULLY PULPIT INTERACTIVE (BPI), a marketing and communications company based in Washington, D.C., is growing its Chicago office. That’s interesting because BPI counts Ben LaBolt as a partner. He was the Illinois native who served as President Barack Obama’s press secretary in the 2012 campaign.

With the expansion in Chicago, the firm has hired Claire Koeneman as a partner. She’s a veteran in corporate communication, having previously worked for Hill+Knowlton Strategies as head of the central region and as U.S. practice leader for financial communications.

Koeneman is also a notable name on Chicago’s civic scene. She’s a member of the Economic Club, the leader council of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls and Chicago Finance Exchange. Interestingly, Koeneman also serves as a diplomat to the Principality of Monaco in its Honorary Consular Corps.

BPI, which bills itself as “a modern digital first communications agency,” also has offices in New York and San Francisco. The company president is Andrew Bleeker, who also worked for Obama.

Sean “P Diddy” Combs

TERMINATION AT ISFA. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) has officially terminated CEO Anthony O’Neill. The move comes in wake of the city-state agency mismanaging $1.2 million last year to put on a concert that never happened.

You can read the juicy details here. Simply, ISFA spent about $1.6 million to book big-name acts like Sean “P Diddy” Combs for the “Get In It Musicfest.” The event was expected to draw 30,000 people to Guaranteed Rate Field in September, but it was canceled when ticket sales flopped.

The plan for big-name acts failed, too. (No Diddy!) So ISFA bagged the concert and lost much of the money it had paid to secure the not-so-notable acts.

The agency has only recovered about $350,000 it paid to performers. Along with firing O’Neill, ISFA is seeking legal action against the New York firm that made promises to find big acts.

Dennis Muilenburg

BOEING MEETS TWITTER. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg joined Twitter last week. His first tweet was upbeat and informative. “Excited to take flight on Twitter. Launching today by sharing @Boeing Q4 2017 financial results and 2018 guidance…stand by.” The Chicago-based aerospace company said Muilenburg’s Twitter feed “will provide an effective platform for sharing company news and industry insight.” Also expect “inspirational, innovative work of our people.” Indeed, the second tweet featured a collage of smiling Boeing employees.

Under the @BoeingCEO Twitter handle, Muilenburg describes himself as “Former Boeing intern. Current Boeing CEO. Lifelong aerospace enthusiast. Proud Iowan. Avid cyclist.”

LEADERSHIP MOVES. Top executives have been named to two high-profile nonprofits. Tawani Enterprises Inc., headed by Jennifer Pritzker, named John Schwan as interim president and CEO of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. He replaces Kenneth Clarke who served in the position since 2011. Schwan is chairman of CTI Industries and a board member of the Pritzker Military museum.

Retired Chicago Cub Kerry Wood and wife, Sarah Wood, named Laura Muriello as executive director of their Wood Family Foundation. Muriello will focus on the organization’s after-school mentoring program and plans for expansion. She comes to the foundation by way of the OneGoal education nonprofit, where she was senior managing director of programming.

Carolyn Leonard

GIVING WOMEN A LEG UP. I attended an out-of-the-ordinary fundraiser the other day. Former trader Carolyn Leonard and business partner Monika Black gathered 100 people together to hear about their angel fund.

They’re trying to raise $1.92 million to fund 20 women entrepreneurs. How did they come up with $1.92 million? It was the year 1920 that women got the right to vote–white women, that is. The rest of America got that right in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act.

Check out my Q&A with Leonard in Chicago magazine. Yep, there’s a #MeToo angel.

Carol Moseley Braun

STRICTLY SPEAKING. Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Chicago Community Trust CEO Helene Gayle headline Mesirow Financial annual luncheon in honor of Black History Month on Feb. 27. Guests are urged to email questions. What would you ask?

Patrick Kennedy, a cousin of Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy, headlines a March 1 breakfast sponsored by the City Club. Patrick is a former congressman and a mental-health advocate. He likely will do some campaigning around town, too–leading up to the March 20 primary. Numerous members of the Kennedy family have popped in to Illinois to support Chris Kennedy on the campaign trail.

The Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership is launching an annual speakers’ event. Former Governors Jennifer Granholm (D-Michigan) and Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) will take on “front-page issues” such as gun rights and immigration reform. The March 18 event will be moderated by former CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno.

The event event kicks off a new programming series focused on civil discourse. Amen to that.

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