An investigation found Governor JB Pritzker’s investments include companies that have earned more than $20 billion in public business since he took office.
In 2019, Pritzker promised to divest his personal fortune from investments in public contractors and shift his portfolio into what he calls a “blind trust.”
The non-partisan watchdog Better Government Association found in some cases, state dollars were paid to registered companies to lobby Pritzker, who as governor could influence the outcome of contracts.
“We discovered that three of the companies had registered lobbyists to lobby Pritzker directly,” said BGA reporter David Jackson.
One of the companies in question is the insurance giant Centene Corporation. Since 2019, its subsidiary Meridian Health Plan of Illinois has received more than $20 billion in contracts from state Medicaid and other programs, according to documents filed with the Illinois Department of Insurance and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Pritzker was made aware of his holdings in Centene last year when they were included in his annual economic disclosure filing. The BGA first announced its trust’s investment in Centene in February. At that time, the governor’s office said it was not involved with Centene.
A few days later, Pritzker told a Chicago television station that he learned of his investment in Centene when the BGA contacted him about it.
“I only learned about this literally because a reporter called me last week from BGA,” he told a news conference.
According to the BGA report, Pritzker retained shares in five companies that already had state contracts when he placed those shares in his trust. These included shares in two rail companies that play a role in the multi-billion route expansion surrounding O’Hare International Airport, part of Pritzker’s infrastructure program.
And after Pritzker took office, his trust invested in seven other companies that did business with Illinois state agencies.
The BGA consulted with many experts in government ethics and trust law who were skeptical of the so-called “blind trust”.
“Governor Pritzker knows what he put into the trust in the first place and because he receives and has to sign an ethics statement every year showing the names of the stocks held by the trust, that it was not really a blind trust,” Jackson said.
A spokesperson for the Pritzker campaign said that if the governor took any money from an investment tied to a state contract, it would go to charity.