ILLINOIS (WCIA) — During a one-on-one interview, Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker defended his use of private money to pay top aides for government work despite a variety of ethical concerns from watchdogs.
“Everybody that I have brought into my administration has a very high ethical standard,” Pritzker said, brushing off concerns about whether or not his private payroll could create a perception of misplaced loyalty or invite a greater risk of corruption.
Pritzker also described steps he took to distance himself from his massive wealth while in office in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“You can see everything,” Pritzker said, though he did not release his full tax returns. “Honestly, we have tried to work very hard to have lots of gates here so it is blind, it’s not controlled by me. I don’t benefit in any way that you wouldn’t want.”
In a letter sent to reporters, Pritzker’s election attorney said the new governor would be “divesting his personally-held direct interests in companies that have contracts that are wholly or partially funded with state dollars.”
“I have made sure that to the extent there is any benefit to me that might come from some state contract that I have no control of, that I would give that money to charity,” Pritzker said on Sunday.
Forbes recently named Pritzker the richest politician in America.
“I have one of the most extensive statements of economic interest that anybody has ever filed,” he said.
Pritzker said the arms-length posture he’s taking with state business would not necessarily prohibit his brother or his brother-in-law, Thomas Muenster, from profiting on state contracts while he’s in office. Muenster has been listed in financial documents as a trustee who manages much of Pritzker’s wealth.
Tony Pritzker is the governor-elect’s business partner and co-owner of the Chicago-based Pritzker Group, their venture capital firm. While Pritzker says he stepped away from the firm when he launched his campaign, the company website still features a picture of him and promotes their ‘clout and reach.’
“It doesn’t apply, never has applied to anybody else that they have to list what their in-laws or what their siblings might be involved in,” Pritzker said of the state’s economic disclosure laws.
The incoming governor also voiced support for urgent action in the legislature to raise funding for a capital bill to pay for infrastructure repairs to roads and bridges.
Pritzker, who takes the oath of office on Monday, declined to pick any favorites in the 2019 Chicago mayor’s race or in the 2020 Democratic primary presidential contest.