Billionaire Neil Bluhm backs Kwame Raoul for attorney general
October 12th, 2017
Billionaire philanthropist Neil Bluhm is backing Kwame Raoul, the Democratic state senator who’s running for Illinois attorney general.
Bluhm is a longtime campaign donor to Democrats. He raised $200,000 for former President Barack Obama’s 2008 bid and $500,000 for the 2012 race.
No word yet on how much Bluhm will donate to Raoul, who was appointed to the state Senate in 2004 to fill the vacancy left by then-state Sen. Obama after he won a U.S. Senate race.
Bluhm will serve as finance chair for the campaign. With an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion, it will be interesting to see if his backing scares off other Democrats from running against Raoul.
Raoul did not immediately return a request for comment. The trained attorney and longtime assembleyman has for years been mentioned as a possible candidate for a top-tier political job, from mayor of Chicago to governor of Illinois.
It wasn’t until Lisa Madigan announced she wouldn’t seek re-election as attorney general that Raoul jumped in.
News of Bluhm putting his money in the statewide race comes as gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar dropped out of the Democratic governor’s race because of a lack of funding. Pawar faced three Democratic contenders who were besting him in campaign fundraising. Among them is billionaire J.B. Pritzker, who’s self-funding his gubernatorial bid.
As the Democrats battle it out toward a primary, Gov. Bruce Rauner has yet to officially say he’s running.
Bluhm, who through spokesman Dennis Culloton declined to comment, is a notable and familiar name in Chicago’s business and civic scene.
He’s self-made, having built an empire of shopping malls, high-rises and casinos. He’s a major donor to philanthropic causes and arts organizations, too. Among his favorite causes: Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute carries his name.
Bluhm earned a law degree from Northwestern University and practiced at Mayer Brown & Platt before teaming with his friend, Judd Malkin, to form JMB Realty. They developed 900 North Michigan and the Mercantile Exchange in Chicago, among other buildings.
In the 1990s, he started a new company–Walton Street Capital and started building casinos, including Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Bluhm also has stakes in the Chicago Bulls and White Sox.