Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Rand Paul Comes for the Education, Will he Stay for the Cash?

The celebrity senator from Kentucky visits Chicago to promote his education philosophy (and schmooze with the city’s wealthiest political donors)

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Rand Paul Comes for the Education, Will he Stay for the Cash?

AP

Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky. speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

When U.S. Sen. Rand Paul comes to town, media hype ensues: the Kentucky Republican, who draws applause, scorn and everything in between for his Tea Party politics, is making headlines for his two-day Midwestern tour to stump for school choice, one of his pet issues.

 
In Chicago Tuesday and Milwaukee Wednesday, Paul will promote his vision for education reform as part of a larger mission to beef up the (stodgy) GOP voting bloc with fresh new recruits.
 
But let’s be real: He’s in it for the money.
 
All told, if Paul wants to court big-pocketed donors for a possible presidential run in 2016, he’s got no choice but to spend time schmoozing in the Windy City. The Democratic city is home to some of the wealthiest Republican political power players in the country.
 
Paul will need them to help. 
 
One big spending donor is Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of the Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel LLC. Griffin, a Republican and free-market champion, has given to the campaigns of candidates like Mitt Romney, and held a party for Chris Cristie. Paul would do well to cozy up. .
 
Griffin recently held a fundraiser for embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at his home and maintains a friendly – and financially lucrative – relationship with Emanuel. According to a PandoDaily report earlier this month, Griffin’s firm bought millions of shares of stock in Marriott months before the city approved Emanuel’s request to hand the company a contract to build a hotel in the South Loop, using $55 million in taxpayer funds.
 
Although Griffin’s political alliances seem strictly motivated by money, he aligns ideologically with Paul as a donor to conservative causes like the charter school movement. Last year, when Emanuel made city history by presiding over a record 53 public elementary school closings, Griffin said he should be closing 100 more.    
 
“Right now, we have a large degree of federal involvement and if we’re going to have federal involvement I see no reason why the concept of choice and competition can’t be attached to federal funds,” Paul said in a recent interview with WGN Radio.
 
“I would let it go directly to the poor kids and let them choose which school they want to take it to – public, private or otherwise – and maybe through that innovation and through competition, the schools would get better.”
 
That’s an argument for which Griffin would surely open his wallet, and after all, that's why Paul is here. 

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