Pritzker’s nonprofit puts $500K into Florida fight with DeSantis over abortion rights

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) speaks at the annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2022; Gov. J.B. Pritzker (right) attends a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 17, 2023.

John Locher; Markus Schreiber-AP file

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is taking aim at the country’s next big abortion rights battle with a $500,000 investment to support a ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion protections in Florida’s constitution.

The contribution from Pritzker’s nonprofit Think Big America comes a day before a new state law — signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — goes into effect banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The group on Tuesday said the funds were donated to Floridians Protecting Freedoms, the political committee that in January secured the required amount of valid signatures to put a measure before voters on the November ballot.

Christina Amestoy, a spokeswoman for Think Big America, called Florida’s abortion ban “dangerous, cruel and un-American.”

“Restoring abortion access in Florida is critical not just for women in the state but for women across the region,” Amestoy said. “Think Big America is proud to support Floridians Protecting Freedom as they fight to ensure women have the rights they are owed.”

It’s certainly not the first time Pritzker has gone head-to-head with DeSantis — and both are widely viewed as potential 2028 presidential contenders.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (left) speaks during a press conference in the Wicker Park neighborhood on Dec. 7, 2022; ’Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) takes a question during a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Aug. 18, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times-file; Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP-file

Florida is the fourth ballot initiative Think Big America is supporting this year. Pritzker’s group is also supporting efforts in Nevada, Arizona and Montana. Senior staffers are providing strategic support, including research, financial and communications support, the group said.

Think Big America has contributed $1 million toward Nevada’s ballot initiative and $250,000 to Arizona — with plans to spend $1 million in total. The group last year contributed $250,000 to Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights. Voters approved Ohio’s constitutional amendment that ensured access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care.

The Florida Supreme Court on April 1 issued two rulings — one upholding the state’s current law only allowing abortions in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy and another that approved placing a measure on the ballot that would enshrine abortion rights. Meanwhile, the law reducing the time for legal abortions to just six weeks was signed by DeSantis last year, and goes into effect May 1.

The court ruled that the state’s constitutional right to privacy does not include abortion — allowing the state to go forward with its more restrictive six-week ban — which opponents say will essentially outlaw the procedure.

Pritzker announced the creation of the tax-exempt issue advocacy nonprofit organization in October. His political staffers, now in the off-season, are splitting their time between the two organizations.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a downtown abortion rights rally in June 2022. at Federal Plaza for an abortion rights rally after a United States Supreme Court ruling eliminated federal protections for abortions June 24, 2022. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Sun-Times file

Think Big America has said it will also combat “far-right extremism in all its forms,” although abortion rights remains its top priority. Pritzker has used the slogan “Think Big,” which he has admitted is a pun on his size, since his first gubernatorial campaign ad in 2018.

Pritzker contributed dollars to initially seed the group, although he declined to specify the amount. Other donations are being accepted — but the group won’t be required to disclose its donors.

Pritzker also personally contributed $201,000 to two groups in support of Kansas’ abortion amendment in 2022; and sent $1 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and $20,000 directly to Janet for Justice to support Janet Protasiewicz, the Milwaukee County judge who won her Wisconsin Supreme Court justice seat and flipped control of the court to give liberals a 4-3 majority.

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