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Extravagant Gifts Including Alcoholic Beverages and Art Remain Unclaimed by Billionaire Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker

by Madison Thomas
8 comments
Unclaimed Gifts

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois is the recipient of a constant stream of gifts, receiving an item valued at around $30 approximately once every three days. However, due to the limitations of his position, these gifts largely go unclaimed and are often not even seen by him.

Pritzker, who is serving his second term as a Democratic governor and boasts a multi-billion-dollar net worth, has been the beneficiary of an array of gifts from global sources. These presents range from a bottle of Japanese whiskey valued at $950 to a mere 35 cents, comprised of one quarter and one dime.

Illinois’ Gift Ban Act, established 25 years ago, prevents public employees, including Governor Pritzker, from accepting such gifts, with limited exceptions. As a result, high-value items like the whiskey from the Japanese embassy and three bottles of tequila worth $450 have remained untouched.

The governor acknowledged during a Springfield visit, “While I do have a preference for tequila, I can’t partake in these gifts, although there are other spirits I enjoy as well.”

Not just high-value alcoholic beverages, but a myriad of other gifts are also stored in Springfield and Chicago. These gifts span 4.5 years and include 561 items with a total value of $16,890.14, according to records obtained by The Big Big News through a public information request. While perishable food items are shared with office staff and visitors, the rest are earmarked for appropriate charitable organizations, as stated by gubernatorial spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh.

Governors commonly receive gifts for various reasons such as ceremonial visits to towns, advocacy events, or promotional activities. For instance, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has sent gifts like king cake and beads to promote Mardi Gras, and authors often send copies of their latest books in the hope of gaining publicity.

Given his $3.5 billion net worth as an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, Governor Pritzker lacks for little. However, the law sets restrictions for less affluent government employees who cannot accept gifts from business entities or lobbyists involved with the state. The limitations specify that gifts from any single source should not exceed $100 annually and that no one may accept food or refreshments worth more than $75 in a single day.

Initiated in 1998 by the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, co-authored by then-state Senator Barack Obama, and signed into law by Republican Governor Jim Edgar, the Gift Ban Act was Illinois’ first major ethics reform since the post-Watergate era. David Melton, of the advocacy group Reform for Illinois, endorsed the act stating, “As a general rule, not allowing public employees to accept gifts is the correct approach.”

In terms of monetary value, the overwhelming majority of gifts received by Pritzker could have been accepted. The average value of each gift, arriving at nearly 10 per month, is approximately $30. There are only six gifts generally considered off-limits, such as a $200 watch from the Swiss ambassador to the United States and an assortment of eco-friendly products worth $120 from a citizen named Tiffany Kuhl.

From March 2020 to December 2021, 33 gifts were specifically sent to Pritzker in recognition of his pandemic protocols. These included handmade face masks, inspirational items, assorted food, and even a bobblehead from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee.

The governor also inspired artwork like “2:30 p.m. Man,” an acrylic painting by Chicago teacher and artist SeungRi “Victoria” Park. Despite not being politically or religiously inclined, Park felt compelled to paint the governor due to his consistent appearances during the pandemic.

Finally, a detailed list of Pritzker’s gift inventory included 54 shirts, 21 hats, 23 mugs and totes, seven scarves, eight pens and pencils, and 11 pins. Among the 188 books received were works from luminaries such as former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Sidney Blumenthal, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton.

Research contribution by Jennifer Farrar in New York for Big Big News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Unclaimed Gifts

What is the main focus of the article?

The article primarily focuses on the range of unclaimed gifts received by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. It explores the ethical and legal guidelines that prevent him and other public employees from accepting such gifts, based on the Illinois Gift Ban Act.

Who is J.B. Pritzker?

J.B. Pritzker is the Democratic Governor of Illinois serving his second term. He is also a multi-billionaire and an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune.

What is the Illinois Gift Ban Act?

The Illinois Gift Ban Act is a law established 25 years ago that prohibits public employees from accepting gifts, with certain exceptions. It was initiated by the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, co-authored by then-state Senator Barack Obama, and signed into law by Republican Governor Jim Edgar.

What kinds of gifts has Governor Pritzker received?

Governor Pritzker has received a wide variety of gifts ranging from high-value items like a $950 bottle of Japanese whiskey to as low as 35 cents. He has also received perishable food, books, and artwork.

What happens to the unclaimed gifts?

Most of the unclaimed gifts are stored in Springfield and Chicago. Perishable food is shared among office staff and visitors. The rest of the gifts are eventually designated for appropriate charitable organizations.

How many gifts has Governor Pritzker received and what is their total value?

According to records, Governor Pritzker has received 561 gifts over a period of 4.5 years, with a total value of $16,890.14.

Are there any gifts that are exceptions to the Gift Ban Act?

Yes, the Gift Ban Act has certain exceptions that allow public employees to accept gifts under specific circumstances. For example, the law specifies that gifts from any single source should not exceed $100 annually, and no one may accept food or refreshments valued at more than $75 in a single day.

What are some unique or personal gifts that Governor Pritzker has received?

From March 2020 to December 2021, Governor Pritzker received 33 gifts specifically in recognition of his pandemic protocols. These included handmade face masks, items with inspirational messages, and even a bobblehead from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum.

How often does Governor Pritzker receive gifts?

Governor Pritzker receives gifts at a rate of approximately one every three days, with each gift averaging about $30 in value.

Who contributed to the research for this article?

The research for this article was contributed by Jennifer Farrar in New York for Big Big News.

More about Unclaimed Gifts

  • Illinois Gift Ban Act
  • J.B. Pritzker’s Official Profile
  • Forbes List of Richest People
  • Reform for Illinois Advocacy Group
  • National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
  • History of Ethics Reforms in Illinois Post-Watergate
  • Public Records Request Procedures in Illinois
  • Profile of Late U.S. Senator Paul Simon
  • Biography of Barack Obama
  • Office of Illinois Governor’s Spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh

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8 comments

Emily O'Neil October 15, 2023 - 6:55 am

Pritzker as a buddha? thats a new one haha. But the painting sounds pretty cool.

Reply
Linda Harris October 15, 2023 - 1:21 pm

Did anyone else notice the part about a $200 watch from the Swiss ambassador? That’s pretty high end for a ‘gift’.

Reply
Sarah Thompson October 15, 2023 - 2:30 pm

Wow, Pritzker sure gets a lot of gifts! kinda surprised he can’t keep any of ’em cause of the Gift Ban Act, but it makes sense.

Reply
George Simmons October 15, 2023 - 4:51 pm

What’s up with the potato chips? haha but seriously, even snacks are political, who knew?

Reply
Rachel Mason October 15, 2023 - 9:31 pm

So the perishable food goes to the staff? Not a bad deal for them.

Reply
Mike D. October 15, 2023 - 11:08 pm

So they actually keep a log of every gift? That’s some serious bookkeeping right there.

Reply
Kevin Zhao October 16, 2023 - 12:08 am

That law’s been around for 25 years and still doing its job, impressive.

Reply
Alex K. October 16, 2023 - 12:52 am

The gift ban seems to work well. Makes me think about the ethical side of politics which we often ignore.

Reply

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