Daley Money Hits Quinn in Fight to Fix Illinois Pensions

William M. Daley’s blue-chip resume includes stints as a lawyer, banker, political fixer, U.S. commerce secretary, presidential campaign chairman, company president, and White House chief of staff. One job he’s never had until now: candidate.

His robust Rolodex is translating to a star-studded list of early donors to his challenge of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in the March Democratic primary. Among his top contributors are Lou Susman, a former Chicago investment banker and U.S. ambassador to the U.K. who with his wife donated $10,600, and family members of current Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who gave more than $38,000 through June.

It’s also opening him up to attacks on a career that leveraged family and political connections from Chicago to Washington and earned him millions of dollars.

Quinn, 64, governor of the fifth-most-populous state since 2009, has already started highlighting Daley’s wealth, contrasting himself as someone who isn’t a “champion of millionaires.” Quinn is known for carrying a faded yellow leather satchel he calls “Betsy” that’s more than three decades old.

“I fight hard for folks who don’t have lobbyists, who don’t have political action committees, who aren’t in high places,” he told reporters July 16. “I’m quite a bit different from Bill Daley. He has a better tailor than I do.”

The bitter primary battle that’s shaping up threatens to weaken the Democratic nominee ahead of the November 2014 general election against a Republican challenger. Democrats now control the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Pension Problem

Quinn’s failure to broker a fix for an unfunded government employees’ pension liability of almost $100 billion is the top reason Daley has cited for challenging him.

The governor raised $1 million in the quarter that ended on June 30 and had $2.3 million in his campaign account.

Daley in just 19 days last month, right after he announced his candidacy, raised nearly $800,000, including $100,000 of his own money, according to disclosure filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Each Democratic candidate is likely to spend between $5 million and $6 million in the primary campaign. Statewide races in Illinois are among the nation’s most expensive because of the cost of advertising in Chicago’s television market.

The Republican field of candidates includes State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner and state senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard. Rauner, who supports abortion rights and could pour millions of his own money into the race, is close to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat and veteran of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Obama Job

Daley, 64, Obama’s second White House chief of staff after Emanuel, held investments including stocks and cash accounts worth between $7.3 million and $49.7 million, according to a federal disclosure report released by the White House in 2011. The disclosure gives values only in broad ranges, making it impossible to determine exact figures for some holdings.

The document shows Daley received $8.7 million in salary and stock and cash bonuses in 2010 and the first week of 2011 while working at JPMorgan Chase & Co., where he was Midwest chairman and head of corporate responsibility before becoming Obama’s top aide in January 2011. Daley left the White House after almost exactly one year in the chief of staff job.

After joining JPMorgan in 2004, Daley’s role there grew to include membership on the operating committee and as an adviser to Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon. His wealth also grew, helping him purchase a $2.6 million condominium in 2010 on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.

Clinton-Era Job

Daley campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco focused on the candidate’s public sector experience, including his Commerce Department post in President Bill Clinton’s administration, in commenting on the wealth issue.

“As these public disclosures show, Bill Daley is the only candidate for governor who has served in President Clinton’s cabinet, served as President Obama’s chief of staff and has been successful in the private sector,” Giangreco said in a statement. “That’s a big contrast with Governor Quinn, who has been the number one or number two elected official in Illinois for 12 years, yet still can’t seem to get anything done.”

Daley isn’t nearly as well off as Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who repeatedly faced questions about his estimated wealth of as much as $250 million.

Values Issue

“Voters want somebody who has accomplishment and has done things,” said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield who studies campaign finance. “Voters also want someone who they feel understands them and shares their values.”

The latter concern means that Quinn is likely to continue to try to paint Daley as “aloof and not understanding the common person who has to put bread on the table and worries about the price of milk,” Redfield said.

He said Quinn is also likely to criticize Daley’s role in pushing the Congress to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 while working in Clinton’s administration, something that could anger union voters.

Besides his wealth, Daley will also have the benefits and burdens of his last name -- he’s the son and brother of two former Chicago mayors who combined to hold that job for more than 43 years. While his family’s label spurs a mixture of nostalgia, fear and respect in Chicago, it’s often loathed elsewhere in Illinois, where the city’s dominance for attention and money often rubs rural and suburban residents the wrong way.

County Commissioner

Unlike two of his brothers, Daley has never been elected to office. Daley’s brother, Richard, retired his mayoral term in 2011 after more than two decades in office. Another brother, John, is a Cook County commissioner. Their father, Richard J. Daley, was the city’s mayor from 1955 to 1976.

Those connections have boosted Bill Daley since his childhood, as the youngest of seven children. When Obama introduced him as his new chief of staff, Daley reminisced about a visit he made to the White House with his father more than 50 years ago, just after President John F. Kennedy had been inaugurated. John Daley later told Bloomberg News what the new president told their father that day.

“Kennedy specifically said that he would not be there without my dad,” said Daley, referring to how the first Mayor Daley helped Kennedy score a narrow and controversial win to carry Illinois over Republican Richard Nixon in the 1960 election.

-- Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Don Frederick