Dozen companies in Illinois governor’s investments earned billions in state business

An investigation has revealed that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s investments include companies that earned more than $20 billion in state business since he took office.

In 2019, Pritzker promised to divest his personal fortune of investments in state contractors and to transfer his portfolio into what he calls a “blind trust.”

The nonpartisan watchdog Better Government Association found in some cases, state dollars flowed to companies that were registered to lobby Pritzker, who as governor could influence the outcome of the contracts.

“We found that three of the companies had lobbyists registered to lobby Pritzker directly,” BGA reporter David Jackson said.

One of the companies in question is insurance giant Centene Corporation. Since 2019, its subsidiary Meridian Health Plan of Illinois has been paid over $20 billion from state Medicaid contracts and other programs, according to documents filed with the Illinois Department of Insurance and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Pritzker was notified of his holdings in Centene last year when they were included on his annual economic disclosure filing. The BGA first reported his trust’s investment in Centene in February. At that time, the governor’s office said he was not involved with Centene.

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 that literally because a reporter called me last week from BGA,” he said at a news conference.

According to the BGA report, Pritzker retained stock in five companies that already held state contracts when he placed those stocks into his trust. These included stock in two rail companies that play roles in the multi-billion dollar expansion of roads surrounding O’Hare International Airport, part of Pritzker’s infrastructure agenda.

And after Pritzker took office, his trust invested in seven more companies that have done business with Illinois state agencies.

The BGA consulted numerous experts in government ethics and trust law who were skeptical of the so-called “blind trust.”

“Governor Pritzker knows what he put in the trust initially and because he gets and must sign every year an ethics statement showing the names of the stocks that the trust holds, that it didn’t really constitute a blind trust,” Jackson said.

A Pritzker campaign spokesperson said if the governor made any money from an investment linked to a state contract, it would go to charity.

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