17 Other Things Pritzker Could Have Done with $171M in Campaign Cash

For a bit of perspective as to just how expensive the race for Illinois governor really was, here’s a breakdown of what $171.5 million - the amount Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker gave his campaign - really looks like.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, and his running mate, Lt. Governor candidate Juliana Stratton, celebrate after Pritzker was elected as Illinois governor, defeating Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Democrat J.B. Pritzker won the race for Illinois governor on Nov. 6, emerging victorious from one of the most expensive gubernatorial campaigns in U.S. history. A venture capitalist and heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, Pritzker is worth an estimated $3.2 billion, according to Forbes, and is now America’s richest politician – topping even President Donald Trump for that title.
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Pritzker used his immense personal wealth to fuel his run for office, putting more than $171.5 million of his own fortune into his campaign coffers throughout the race. In total, his campaign spent roughly $135.9 million, leaving him plenty of cash on hand. For a bit of perspective as to just how expensive the so-called “battle of the billionaires” really was, here’s a breakdown of what that $171.5 million – the most given by any self-financed candidate in U.S. history – really looks like.
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As of Tuesday, 2,382,536 people in total voted for Pritzker. If you divide how much his campaign spent over the course of the last 18 months, that equates to $57.04 spent per vote. The population of Illinois, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 estimate, is 12,802,023 people. If Pritzker had simply divided up his campaign cash among all Illinoisans, he could have given every single person in the state $13.39.
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The average price of one gallon of regular gas in the Chicago metro area, according to AAA, is $2.76. With campaign funds alone, Pritzker could have bought 62,025,329 gallons of gas.
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If you drive a 2018 Toyota Camry, which has a fuel tank capacity of 14.5 gallons, he could have filled your car up 4,277,608 times.
What about a different kind of fuel? The cost of ordering a large deep dish cheese pizza from Lou Malnati’s (a carry-out order placed online in Chicago, plus tax) is $22.80. If Pritzker paid for pizzas instead, he could have bought 7,521,931 pies.
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Not a fan of deep dish, or maybe on a budget? A large cheese pizza from Domino’s (again, ordered online for carry-out in Chicago, with tax) costs $12.78 – meaning $171.5 million gets you 13,419,408 pizzas from Domino’s.
What goes better with pizza than a nice cold glass of milk? How about a couple hundred million glasses of milk? The average price of a gallon of whole milk in Chicago, according to the USDA, is $3.99. With what he spent on his campaign, Pritzker could have bought 42,982,464 gallons of milk – that’s more than 687 million eight-ounce glasses!
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You’ve got your pizza and milk, now it’s time to watch some sports. Big Kris Bryant fan? Pritzker’s campaign cash could have paid the Cubs star’s salary – $10.8 million last year – more than 15 times over. That’s a lot of championships!
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Speaking of championships, remember when the Cubs won the World Series? That was great. And how gorgeous were those 2016 championship rings? Each 14-karat white gold ring had a total of 214 diamonds, three karats of red rubies and 2.5 karats of sapphires, with an eye-popping price tag estimated to be around $70,000. Pritzker could have bought 2,450 of those bad boys with what he spent on his campaign.
But if he wanted to cut some costs, there’s a much cheaper option – the “Ultimate Fan Ring” with cubic zirconia starts at $1,250 on the Jostens website. Pritzker’s campaign cash could have bought 137,200 of those rings – enough to give one to every single person who lives in Arlington Heights and Des Plaines combined (populations 75,634 and 58,193, respectively, per the Census Bureau) and still have 3,373 rings left over.
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Okay, so what if Pritzker’s not a Cubs fan? If he’s more of a hockey guy, the entire Blackhawks roster makes roughly $75.5 million – meaning Pritzker could have paid the whole team’s salary for a little over two years and four months.
Or how ‘bout da Bears? The average ticket price for a Bears game, according to Forbes, is $135. Soldier Field holds 61,500 people, so with campaign funds alone, Pritzker could have bought every single ticket to 20 Bears games – watching each home game completely alone in Soldier Field for more than two-and-a-half seasons.
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If you took $171.5 million in one-dollar bills laid end-to-end, according to the Endowment for Human Development, it would stretch across 16,618 miles. That’s how far you’d travel if you drove on I-80 from Chicago’s Union Station to San Francisco – and back! – 3.9 times.
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If you stacked those one-dollar bills up instead, it would reach 61,848 feet high, which is roughly 11.6 miles. That’s about twice as high as commercial jets fly, or the equivalent of more than 42 Willis Towers stacked on top of one another (35 if you include the antennae).
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Instead of stacking his cash, Pritzker could have paid rent – a lot of it. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago, according to a fall 2018 report from Zumper, an apartment listing platform, is $1,860. With his campaign cash, Pritzker could have rented a two-bedroom place in Chicago for 92,204 months, or 7,683 years (minus the cost of inflation).
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But if he was looking to buy instead of rent, Pritzker’s campaign cash could have covered the cost of several more mansions in addition to those he already owns. Earlier this year, Curbed Chicago released a list of the most expensive homes for sale in the city – and Pritzker could have bought the top 12. If he had paid asking price for all of them, it would have cost $169,838,390 – leaving him a few million to spare for closing costs, repairs, etc. Nearly all of the homes listed are located in neighborhoods surrounding his two Gold Coast mansions, including the priciest of the bunch: a $50 million pad located on North Burling Street in Lincoln Park.
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If he didn’t want to buy any more real estate, Pritzker could have invested in education. The University of Illinois estimates on its website that the 2018-2019 annual tuition and fees, room and board, and other expenses total somewhere between $31,012 and $36,016 for in-state students. If he paid the high end of that, Pritzker could have afforded, in campaign cash alone, to pay for 1190 students’ entire four-year college education – which would be nearly one-sixth of U of I’s freshman class.
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If Pritzker spent one dollar of his campaign account every second, it would take him five years, 159 days, 22 hours, 53 minutes and 55 seconds to run out of money.
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All of these numbers looked just at what Pritzker spent on the campaign – not his overall wealth, where the numbers get even bigger. With an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion, the $171.5 million he poured into his campaign coffers comes out to roughly 5.4 percent of his fortune. For reference, the median household net worth for a married couple between the ages of 35 and 54 in the U.S. is $145,400, according to the Census Bureau. So if the “average” person funded their own campaign, it would be the equivalent of $7,792.53. Would you spend that to become governor?
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The money Pritzker spent is also just a fraction of the total funds dumped into the race. Gov. Bruce Rauner spent nearly $70 million of his own money on his re-election bid, which in itself is six Kris Bryants, 3,136 years of Chicago rent or 3,070,175 Lou Malnati’s pizzas.
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When asked about his campaign spending at NBC 5’s candidate forum ahead of the election, Pritzker said he thought “this race is about values, not about money. It’s about what we’ve been doing our whole lives to stand up for working families across the state,” adding that he believed in campaign finance reform to “change the system.”
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