City Cast

Meet the Powerful Illinois Couple Shaping GOP Politics

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on August 16
GOP megadonors and Uline founders Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein

GOP megadonors and Uline founders Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein. (Uline video)

Lake Forest billionaires Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein are backing Ron DeSantis, whose campaign says the Florida governor is Midwest–bound for the first Republican presidential primary debate next week.

The Uihleins have long supported conservatives across the country. Today, we dive into the scope of their influence locally and nationally.

Uline warehouse in Naples, Florida

Uline warehouse in Naples, Florida. (John Greim / LightRocket / Getty)

First, How Did the Uihleins Make Their Fortune?

The north suburban couple founded packing supply giant Uline more than 40 years ago in Wisconsin. The family’s business roots go back decades as descendants of the Schlitz beer founder.

In Local Politics

Richard has been involved in conservative politics since he worked on the 1969 campaign of former U.S. Rep. Phil Crane, an Illinois legislator who ran on an anti-tax and anti-communist platform, according to ProPublica.

Now as a top-courted GOP donor, the New York Times reported:

  • Richard has supported a local school board candidate critical of Lake Forest High School’s first Black principal who took issue with Black honors students being tracked into lower classes.
  • Uihlein-backed Jeanne Ives, a 2018 GOP gubernatorial challenger, faced backlash for an ad offensively depicting a transgender person.
  • Richard has funded conservative radio host Dan Proft and his misleading newspaper-like campaign mailers.

The National Ticket

Richard was the biggest funder behind an unsuccessful effort this month to make protecting abortion rights more difficult in Ohio, Crain’s reported.

The Uihleins each gave pro-DeSantis Never Back Down Super Pac $1 million, and Richard, the top GOP donor in the 2022 federal election cycle, gave $6,600 to the Ron DeSantis for President Committee in June, according to the Daily Herald.

Former Trump supporters, the Uihleins have not yet given money to the ex-president who has been indicted four times.

+ The first Republican presidential primary debate is in Milwaukee on Aug. 23 and is being broadcast on Fox News.

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