CHICAGO — During a stop at Navy Pier, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker faced questions about his blind trust purchasing stock in a contractor that does business with the state.
Pritzker, worth $3.6 billion, avoided conflicts of interest before he took office by turning over his holdings to Northern Trust to make all decisions about his investments. But a new report highlights possible problems with the blind trust arrangement.
“I am not involved in making any investment decisions,” Pritzker said.
At issue is a report by the Better Government Association detailing Pritzker’s trust’s purchase of stock in Centene, a health insurance company. BGA reports that in the first half of 2021 alone, Centene collected more than $2.6 billion from state Medicaid contracts. Additionally, actions taken by the Pritzker administration benefited Centene.
“I’ve divorced myself entirely from making investments, knowing anything about the investments, the amount of investments, etc.,” Pritzker said.
Even though the Centene connection has come to light, the governor defended his blind trust arrangement.
“Centene had a contract with the state of Illinois before I became governor. It was the prior governor that signed that contract,” Pritzker said. “That contract went into place before I went into office. So there’s no relationship in any way.”
Asked when he learned that his blind trust invests in Centene, the governor said, “I only learned that literally because a reporter called last week from BGA.”
But every year, the governor signs a statement of economic interest. Last May, Centene was listed among Pritzker’s blind trust investments.
“By law, I have to sign a statement of economic interest,” Pritzker said. “I think that’s a terrific thing. The state should keep that in place. I sign that every year. There are no values associated with it. I get it, I go to the signature page, and I sign it every single year.”
In a statement the Pritzker campaign attorney Marc Elias said:
“As far as the Governor’s interest in Centene as disclosed on his Statement of Economic Interests is concerned, if the Governor is entitled to receive a return on that investment he of course will be made aware and will make a corresponding charitable contribution. The Governor’s trustees and his independent compliance advisor continue to work together to determine if the Governor receives any returns on investments in companies that have state contracts.”
It’s an election year and GOP candidate for governor Richard Irvin quickly seized on the BGA story. His spokeswoman said in a statement:
A campaign spokeswoman for Richard Irvin said: “It is baffling that Governor Pritzker wants voters to believe he knew nothing about the Centene investment despite signing the very document listing the company, and attesting – under penalty of perjury – that he had examined the document and that it was correct.”
WGN News reached out to Centene for comment. The company did not immediately return our request.