by Mick Dumke
Amid a bit of uncertainty about who, if anyone, is actually running state government, the Illinois Gaming Board voted today to award a casino license to Midwest Gaming, a firm run by real estate and gambling baron Neil Bluhm.
It probably won't shock anyone to hear that Bluhm, his business partners, and his family have shown a keen interest in state politics over the years, or at least a willingness to be charitable with the state's most important elected officials.
Since the mid-1990s Bluhm himself has donated at least $231,500 to political candidates and causes in Illinois, including $36,500 to state comptroller Dan Hynes; $18,500 to attorney general Lisa Madigan; $13,000 to state rep Lou Lang, who chairs the House gaming committee; $10,500 to Chicago alderman Ed Burke, chairman of the City Council's finance committee; $10,000 to governor Rod Blagojevich; $10,000 to House speaker Michael Madigan; and even $500 to lieutenant governor Pat Quinn.
Bluhm's family members and associates in his various business interests--which include JMB Realty, Walton Street Capital, and LAMB Partners--have given another $738,000. Favored politicians included Mayor Richard Daley ($227,500); Blagojevich ($56,500); Lisa Madigan ($46,000); Hynes ($38,500); and alderman Burke ($18,000) and his wife, state supreme court justice Anne Burke ($50,000). Here's a database with the totals.
Bluhm and his family and businesses have also donated tens of thousands of dollars to pro-choice groups.
Among his many real estate deals, Bluhm acquired the old downtown post office building in 2007 with the aid of $60 million in public money. Before that he and partner Judd Malkin were involved in some of the city's big money-losing attempts to develop Block 37.
Here's betting that Bluhm will be involved somehow if the city of Chicago tries to get its own casino in the next couple of years--which it's widely expected to do; already some aldermen, including Blagojevich's father-in-law, Richard Mell, have been talking up the idea.