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Citadel's Ken Griffin: 'Can't see' gubernatorial run

Ken Griffin, founder and chief executive officer, Citadel
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Ken Griffin, founder and chief executive officer, Citadel

Hedge fund manager Ken Griffin has sounded quite political in recent public appearances and has written big checks to candidates he likes. But until now, no one one has ever asked him directly if he would consider running for public office himself.

Griffin faced just that question, however, at the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor.

Griffin's answer? "I can't see that in my future."

"You wouldn't rule it out?" CNBC's Kate Kelly followed up.

"Never say never, but I can't see it in my future," Griffin replied.

Billionaire Griffin made news in June by giving Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner the biggest single Illinois political donation ever: $2.5 million. That brought Griffin's total total contributions to Rauner to $3.57 million.

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"So Illinois has historically been a great state to do business in. Unfortunately over the last 20 years, we've moved from being at the top of the list of places to do business to, frankly, the bottom of the list," Griffin said when asked about the Rauner contribution. "We need changes in Springfield. Americans talk about the need for change in Washington. I can tell you the need for change in Springfield is far greater than the need for change in Washington. I know it's hard to believe."

Griffin is equally frustrated about the state of national government.

"We are a country that competes with every single country in the world. We have a broken school system, broken tax policies. We have a series of regulatory decisions that place incredible burdens on American companies. We need to start to make some hard choices about redeeming competitiveness," he said.

Griffin did suggest that change was possible if it weren't for polarized political positions.

"The difference between Republicans and Democrats on most issues is actually pretty small," he said. "We make a big deal about very modest differences as a country, and yet the extremes on both sides have a disproportionate ... voice in Washington, and that undermines the ability for us to move our country forward."

Griffin is putting his money behind his words by contributing to national campaigns. Large political contributions made in 2014 include $32,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, $100,000 to USA Super PAC, $150,000 to America Rising PAC and $250,000 to American Crossroads, among other political action committee donations, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Ken Griffin's 2014 National Campaign Political Contributions

Recipient
Amount
USA SUPER PAC $100,000.00
AMERICARISINGPAC.ORG $150,000.00
AMERICAN CROSSROADS $250,000.00
NEW YORK 2014 $150,000.00
ENDING SPENDING ACTION FUND $300,000.00
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE $32,400.00
DOLD FOR CONGRESS $2,500.00
FRIENDS FOR AN AMERICAN MAJORITY $5,000.00
WINNING WOMEN $13,000.00
THOM TILLIS COMMITTEE $5,000.00
SULLIVAN FOR US SENATE $5,000.00
ELISE FOR CONGRESS $5,200.00
MCSALLY FOR CONGRESS $5,200.00
Total $1,023,300.00
Source: Federal Election Commission filings

—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne

Contact Delivering Alpha