Rahm’s donors are Trump’s donors; Thiel, Koch agendas seeping into city deals
Since 2011, the richest man in Illinois has donated almost $1.4 million to the campaigns of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Ken Griffin, the billionaire high-frequency trader and founder of Citadel Investment Group, has also given million$ to the Koch brothers, Trump’s Inaugural Committee, Paul Ryan, Karl Rove’ American Crossroads Super PAC, Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign and pro-Jeb Bush super Pac, Right to Rise USA.
The money has gained him access to to not only Emanuel’s office but also the White House
On the same day last June that former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate, Griffin and other investors including Rebekah Mercer, Doug DeVos and Todd Ricketts met at the White House with Trump, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, WH Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Advisor Kellyanne Conway to discuss the administration’s legislative agenda.
He’s also given more than $20 million for various city pet projects like 50 mini soccer fields in underserved neighborhoods and splitting the 18-mile lakeshore bike path with pedestrians. But his latest donation may be the most curious.
Two months before meeting with Trump officials, Griffin gave $10 million to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. The lab works closely with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to analyze the city’s daily crime data.
His donation is being used to expand the use of the “data-driven police deployment strategy, new technology to the mix to improve analytics and design a system to identify when and how to extend officers additional support if needed.”
The work is done at Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSC), which “leverage daily crime data with technology and human intelligence” to track crimes. The centers utilize approximately 30,000 high-definition, government-operated, closed-circuit cameras in Chicago.
“They can deliver the license plate of every passing vehicle, a photo of every area resident with an arrest record, gang boundaries, 911 reports and more, right to a patrol officer’s cellphone.”
The centers are in six of the city’s most violent police districts with plans to add four more. In each of the six districts, the CPD reports that murders are down 20% and the number of shooting victims down 18% from last year. The police claim their access and ability to gather and analyze the large amounts of citizen’s data is a major reason why crime rates have fallen.
They glean actionable insight from the overlay of various public datasets by using, in part, technology created by Palantir Technologies, the big data mining company founded by Peter Thiel in 2003 with seed money from the CIA.
In 2013, the Cook County Sheriff’s signed an agreement to pay Palantir $682,000 for a perpetual software license to “operate the Palantir Government software...through the installation and configuration of Palantir servers” and allow “secure external access” to that server farm for Palantir staff.
The contract states that Palantir consultants should provide an “intelligence management solution” to integrate information from at least 14 different databases, including the Jail Management System, evictions and gang lists compiled by state and local police.
The collected data is also shared with various federal government agencies and the state and city fusion centers. A nationwide network of fusion centers was established by the Department of Homeland Security from 2003–2007. They operate as state and major urban area focal points for the “receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information between federal; state, local, tribal, territorial (SLTT); and private sector partners.”
The almost 80 fusion centers around the country also use Palantir software to distill and analyze collected data.
“The Palantir Gotham intelligence infrastructure provides fusion centers with the technology to respond to threats in real time while simultaneously addressing the complexities of the fusion center data sharing environment. With Palantir, fusion centers integrate all enterprise data into a single investigational environment for search, discovery, and analysis.”
In essence, five years ago the city signed a contract to allow Palantir access to the public’s information without it being properly notified about what, when, where and how the data would be collected and used. And Griffin, who’s backed ultra-conservative agendas for at least a decade, made a deal with Rahm to advance this practice.
Palantir uses the data to create tracking tools like “heat lists” in which local law enforcement attempts to predict what individuals will be involved in a future crime. The criteria police use to determine who makes the list has never been disclosed.
The concern is also that Palantir will use the public data in more nefarious ways to encroach even further into their lifestyles, personal habits and social acquaintances. It was after all a Palantir employee, while working with Cambridge Analytica’s data scientists, who suggested creating a quiz app on Facebook to gain access to users and their friend networks.
According to Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica developer, “Senior Palantir employees” worked on the Facebook profile data that was acquired by Cambridge Analytica and ultimately used to suppress votes in the 2016 presidential election.
A year after Thiel helped start Palantir, he was the first large investor in Facebook with a $500,000 investment. He’s been on it’s board since 2008.
Palantir’s also invested in developing technology for the financial sector. Metropolis (formerly known as Palantir Finance) is its software platform that’s used by hedge funds, banks and financial services firms.
In 2002, Thiel started his hedge fund Clarium Capital, which operated on the the peak-oil theory, meaning the world was running out of oil and the only alternatives were “more oil or conservation or alternative energy.”
It lost hundred$ of million$ when oil dropped to $40 a barrel. But his Founders Fund, a vehicle he uses for investing in tech startups, has seen annual returns of 35%-45%.
Aside from their attempts to predict the markets, Griffin and Thiel companies have other related interests.
They share dozens of the same data engineers, quantitative researchers and software engineers. Generally, working for one of the company’s and then directly employed at the other. The two men are both heavily dependent on this braintrust to continuously evolve the algorithms necessary to collect, distill and analyze the large sums of data they need to predict markets and the actions of potential criminals.
But they have used the data in highly questionable ways in industries that are poorly regulated with little oversight.
In 2012, a DHS investigation looked into the federal support and involvement of fusion Centers on the local and state levels. It found the “DHS continued to store troubling intelligence reports from fusion centers on U.S. persons, possibly in violation of the Privacy Act…Most reporting was not about terrorists or possible terrorist plots, but about criminal activity, largely arrest reports pertaining to drug, cash or human smuggling.”
Citadel Securities used to operate Apogee, an electronic market-making platform called dark pools, which lets buyers and sellers trade anonymously on unregulated stock exchanges. It’s committed more than 25 market violations. In 2014, Citadel was fined $800,000 for “trading misconduct.” Citadel shut Apogee down in 2015 under investigation for potential securities fraud and market manipulation.
That same year, Mayor Emanuel, as chair of the World Business Council (WBC), opened the First Chicago Venture Summit. Thiel was the summit’s keynote speaker. He discussed “his views on venture investing and how he nurtures the next generation of visionary tech leaders.”
The WBC is also the parent organization of ChicagoNEXT, its council on technology and entrepreneurship. J.B. Pritzker, the current Democratic candidate for IL governor, is the council’s Chairman Emeritus. ChicagoNEXT sponsored the tech summit where Thiel spoke.
The WBC also encompasses Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI), the group started by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to promote Chicago as a global city. Daley signed CSCI’s first international agreement with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov in 1997. Through the years, this provided Russian spy Sergey Kislyak opportunities to visit Chicago and meet with local business leaders.
Eric Lefkofsky, the co-founder and current CEO of Groupon, is also a member of the WBC board. He’s donated at least $235,000 to Rahm’s campaigns. In April, a company connected with Lefkofsky gave $100,000 to Rahm’s now-shuttered campaign.
Since 2008, Lefkofsky and Groupon have accepted more than $100 million from Yuri Milner, a billionaire Russian investor with large financial backing from Russian Oligarch Alisher Usmanov. Groupon, along with Facebook and Airbnb, were Russia’s first large investments in the U.S. startup industry.
Thiel and Griffin are also members of the Bilderberg group, the secret annual summit of international leaders of business, politics, finance, media and academia. Thiel describes the gathering as “…a good discussion among various business, political, media, finance leaders in the US and western Europe.”
Both men have dumped million$ into Trump becoming president. Thiel made his first contribution for $1.25 million to the Trump campaign in October 2016. Each donated $100,000 to his Inaugural Committee.
In July, Thiel gave $101,700 to an RNC joint fundraising committee for Trump’s re-election. In September, Griffin gave $2.5 million to the New Republican PAC and Thiel gave $1 million to Club For Growth.
Both have connections to local universities. In 2016, Thiel told a crowd at a Roosevelt University luncheon in downtown Chicago that “If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley,” The Chicago crowd was not impressed.
He had been invited by Philosophy Professor Stuart Warner and The Montesquieu Forum, a group founded a decade ago to “advances the study of the classical and European heritage that informed the American Founding.”
The Forum was started with funding from the Jack Miller Center.
Jack Miller is a University of Illinois Journalism graduate who went on to create Quill Office Products, the first mail-order office supply dealer in the country. It was bought by Staples in 1998 for $685 million. The Millers are based in the Chicago area.
Miller also funded the Jack H. Miller Center for Music at Hope College in Holland, MI. The DeVos family donates millions to the college. It’s also home to the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse. Miller has also given million$ to the University of Chicago (U of C) to fund a chair to focus on peripheral neuropathy, the disease he’s suffered from for years.
Griffin, a U of C Trustee, donated $125 million to the school’s Economics Department.
Craig Duchossois, chairman and CEO of The Duchossois Group, gave $100 million to U of C Medicine to establish The Duchossois Family Institute to research the human immune system.
The Duchossois Group is a long-time top donor to Rahm and gave $100,00 to his most recent campaign. For the 2016 presidential race, the Duchossois family gave more than $695,000 to the campaigns of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal.
For the last nearly two decades, the Duchossois have donated hundred$ of thousand$ to Republicans George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Eric Cantor, Joe Walsh and Peter Roskam. Duchossois gave $30,000 to the McCain-Palin Victory 2008 fund.
Since 2000, Richard Duchossois and his son Craig have been board members of Churchill Downs Inc., the horse racing company that runs the Kentucky Derby. Richard’s also the chairman of Arlington International Racecourse, the horse track in the Chicago suburbs he bought in the 1980s.
In 2000, Duchossois and a group of investors enacted a plan to build the Emerald riverboat gambling casino project in Rosemont, IL. Its license was eventually rejected by the Illinois Gaming Board but the investors had already began construction on the project.
The work was being done by D&P Construction, which was owned by Josephine DiFronzo, the sister-in-law of Chicago mob boss John “No Nose” DiFronzo of the Chicago Outfit. Mob members were also found to be partial owners of the casino.
Craig has previously said he gets calls from Mayor Emanuel asking for donations. The mayor has also appointed him to the WBC board.
Craig was recently revealed to be a donor to No Labels, a “nonpartisan” group that announced in 2016 it was planning to raise $50 million to donate to “centrist” contenders running in 2018. In June, he donated $100,000 to Citizens for a Strong America and United for Progress, both are PACs in the No Labels network.
No Labels supports moderate candidates; politicians who could potentially split the Democratic ticket. Patriotic Americans, is one of six PACs connected to the group. Patriotic Americans, is one of six PACs connected to the group. The others include: United for Progress Inc.; Citizens for a Strong America Inc.; United Together; Govern or Go Home; and Forward, Not Back.
Like Rahm, No Labels solicits donations from mega donors of either party.
Daniel Tierney, has donated at least $133,333 to Rahm’s campaign. Last December, he gave $400,000 to two No Labels’ PACs.
Tierney, a pioneer of high-speed trading, started GETCO, a Chicago-based high-frequency trading firm. Wicklow Capital and Thiel were part of a group that invested $80 million in SoFi, a peer-to-peer Social Finance lender.
Other No Labels donors include Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, Jerry Reinsdorf, the White Sox and Bulls Chairman; Former Fed Chief, Hank Paulson; Former Major League Baseball Commissioner “Bud” Selig; and No Labels Co-Founder and Executive Board member, Andy Bursky.
Bursky also serves as Senior Advisor of Pegasus Capital and has worked their since 1999. In 2005, Pegasus hired Rick Davis, the former campaign manager for former Republican Senator John McCain. At the time, Davis and Paul Manafort were business partners. The two worked with Pegasus on various investments. Davis joined Pegasus as an Operating Partner in 2005 and his now its COO and Partner.
Pegasus is tied to Pericles Ltd., and both are alleged in a lawsuit filed by Surf Horizon Limited, a Cyprus-based company tied to Putin ally and Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to have “misappropriated” $18.9 million of the Russian’s funds.
Last year, Senators Susan Collins and Joe Manchin became the new co-chairs of No Labels. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is a national co-chairman.
Muneer Satter is also on the WBC board. He’s a Trustee at Northwestern University and has given Rahm’s campaigns almost $387,000 since 2014.
He was a co-chairman of the National Finance Committee for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 and chairman of the Romney’s Illinois Finance Committee. He is on the board of advisors of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.
Satter’s given million$ to GOP candidates and groups like American Crossroads, Club for Growth Action PAC, Paul Ryan, Peter Roskam, Marco Rubio, George W. Bush and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
He’s served as the Director of Dollar Financial Group Holdings Inc. since December 1998. Dollar Financial Group (DFG) is a controversial payday lender that was investigated for predatory lending. It owns Money Mart and Loan Mart payday lenders. DFG was forced to refund up to $7.5M to its customers after it was found to be charging up to 400% interest on individual loans.
Bob Stefanowski, the former CEO of the Dollar Financial Group, is now the GOP nominee for governor of Connecticut.
Griffin, Craig Duchossois and Satter were all co-chairs of Paul Ryan’s Team Ryan fundraiser last year, a joint fundraising committee that includes the Ryan for Congress PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Last month, Rahm announced he wouldn’t be running for a third term as mayor. At the time, it was estimated he had more than $7 million in campaign donations. He’s said he would return funds to donors but IL law allows for him to keep all donations for use at a later date or to give to other politicians.
A few weeks ago, he gave $20,000 checks to more than two dozen City Council allies.