Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a multi-billionaire and second-term Democratic governor, receives a $30 gift every three days, but rarely sees it due to his job. The state’s 25-year-old Gift Ban Act prohibits public employees like Pritzker from accepting presents, with broad exceptions.
As a result, Pritzker has been given hundreds of gifts from around the world, ranging from a $950 bottle of Japanese whiskey to 35 cents. Most of these gifts are stored in Springfield and Chicago, with a staff member responsible for thank-you notes.
The rest are eventually donated to a charitable home. Pritzker receives gifts for various reasons, such as visiting towns or cutting ribbons, and for promoting causes. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has sent king cake and beads to gin up interest in Mardi Gras, while authors believe getting a copy of their latest work into Pritzker’s hands will land it on the bestseller list.
Illinois Governor Pritzker, with a net worth of $3.5 billion, is prohibited from accepting gifts from those who do or seek business with the state, perform state-regulated activities, and lobbyists. The Gift Ban Act, initiated in 1998, was the first major ethics reform in Illinois since post-Watergate campaign finance disclosure laws. The law has worked well, with public employees generally not allowed to accept gifts. Pritzker could accept the majority of his gubernatorial gift pile, which averages about $30.
However, there are six gifts generally off limits, including a $200 Mondaine watch from the Swiss ambassador to the U.S. and a $120 potpourri of eco-friendly pet waste bags, biodegradable diaper bags, bamboo utensils, and more from a citizen named Tiffany Kuhl.
From March 2020 through December 2021, Pritzker received 33 gifts specifically in appreciation of his pandemic protocol, including handmade face-coverings, inspirational messages, selections of food, and a Gov. The Pritzker bobblehead, a popular Milwaukee-based bobblehead, is part of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum.
Illinois Governor Pritzker received a variety of gifts, including a painting of him in acrylic by Seungri “Victoria” Park, a Chicago schoolteacher and artist. Park, who has remained free of COVID-19, referred to Pritzker as a spiritual leader, stating that he likes him and wanted to paint him.
The Governor’s Gifts scorecard included 54 shirts, 21 hats, 23 mugs and totes, seven scarves, 8 pens and pencils, and 11 pins. There were 188 books, 27 from the authors themselves, including former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, former adviser to President Bill Clinton, and consumer advocate Ralph Nader and his co-author, Mark Green.
Some gifts came in the wrong potato chip bag, as Pritzker received two bags of Mrs. Fisher potato chips made in nearby Rockford instead of the equally salty Mrs. Mike’s potato chips manufactured in Freeport. Party chairperson Jody Coss cannot say for certain whether she grabbed the Freeport snack when she decided to add some hometown flavour to the governor’s greeting.