Big executives at booming private equity firm leading effort to put Bill Conway over the top in Cook County State’s Attorney’s race
Crusader Staff Report
Big money has come to the Cook County State’s Attorney race. Big executives at the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s richest private equity firms, are pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign of Democrat Bill Conway, who is now outraising incumbent Kim Foxx.
Conway at 41 seeks to be the youngest Cook County State’s Attorney in Illinois history.
But it’s not just the Carlyle Group that’s bankrolling Conway’s campaign. There are also powerful investment bankers, influential attorneys, doctors, business owners, college professors and lots and lots of private donors.
The biggest of these donors are from the Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C. firm that has over $212 billion in wealth and assets. Since August, three executives at the Carlyle Group have donated a combined $650,000 to Conway’s campaign, including his father, William E. Conway, a billionaire and co-founder of the Carlyle Group.
William, on August 9, donated $500,000. On September 19, Allan Holt, who serves as Senior Partner and Managing Director of the Carlyle Group, donated $100,000. A month later on October 18, Gregory S. Ledford, who is a Senior Advisor at the Carlyle Group, donated $50,000.
All three donations are the largest contributions to Conway’s campaign. Since August, Conway has bagged 80 donations for $857,418, according to the latest records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
During the same fundraising period, Foxx received 138 smaller donations that raised $790,946.04.
Her biggest donor was the labor union SEIU Healthcare IL, which gave $272,956, campaign records show.
On August 28, Michael Rubin, a billionaire and owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball franchise, gave $100,000 to Foxx’s campaign. Rubin is also the founder and co-chair of REFORM Alliance, which aims to change the criminal justice system. The group also includes rapper Jay Z, Meek Mill and leaders in business, entertainment and sports.
On September 27, Chicago philanthropist Fred Eychaner donated $100,000. Businessman Elzie Higginbottom on October 1 donated 25,000 to Foxx’s re-election campaign.
The Crusader counted a total of six donors who worked at the Carlyle Group. In addition to William Conway, Holt and Ledford, they include Peter Malone, an operating executive who gave $5,800 to Conway’s campaign on October 4. Ronnie Jaber, a managing director and portfolio manager for the Carlyle Group, gave $2,000 on October 18. That same day, Zachary Crowe, who serves as a principal in the Carlyle Group’s Washington D.C. office gave $2,000.
Conway has many private donors who gave at least $2,500 or more.
The primary election in Ilinois is March 17, 2020. The election is expected to be a close one.
Foxx is trying to win a second term after drawing heavy criticism for recusing herself and dropping charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a hate crime in January in the Streeterville neighborhood.
In August, former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb was appointed to be the special prosecutor who investigates why Foxx dropped all the charges against Smollett. A judge recently allowed a lawsuit seeking $130,000 in police costs against Smollett to go forward.
The Smollett case has also inflamed racial tensions in Chicago, where white nationalists and the Chicago police labor union, the Fraternal Order of Police, called for Foxx’s resignation.
Black leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson have stood behind Foxx, the state’s first Black female State’s Attorney who ousted her predecessor, Anita Alvarez in 2016. Alvarez drew widespread protests in 2016 after she waited 13 months to charge Jason Van Dyke with first degree murder after he shot 17-year old Laquan McDonald in 2014.
Foxx campaigned as a reformer, but the Smollett case has raised doubts as to whether she is fulfilling her promise. While Foxx may get Chicago’s powerful Black vote, there is concern whether she will have strong support in Chicago’s outlying predominately white, affluent suburbs, where her opponents will seek to campaign.
Conway, U.S. Naval intelligence officer, on August 8 became the first Democratic candidate to run against Foxx.
Conway said that he’s running “to enact real criminal justice reform that’s more fair and humane to non-violent offenders, get illegal guns off our streets and get politics out of an office where it doesn’t belong.”