STUMP » Articles » Taxing Tuesday: Feds Take an Interest in Chicago Shenanigans? » 30 April 2019, 12:18

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Taxing Tuesday: Feds Take an Interest in Chicago Shenanigans?  


30 April 2019, 12:18


Source: Feds Probe Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, First Lady For Property Tax Appeals On Gold Coast Mansion

Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, his wife and his brother-in-law are under federal criminal investigation for a dubious residential property tax appeal that dogged him during his gubernatorial campaign last year, WBEZ has learned.

A law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation confirmed to WBEZ that the probe, which has not been revealed publicly until now, began last October and remains active. There are no signs that criminal charges are imminent.

WBEZ has also confirmed that Illinois First Lady MK Pritzker’s personal assistant who was involved in the property tax appeal, Christine Lovely, is being represented by one of Chicago’s most high-powered lawyers. Her attorney, Reid Schar, is a former federal prosecutor who helped convict ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges.

The developments demonstrate that the billionaire governor and his wife may face a serious legal threat arising from their controversial pursuit of a property tax break on a 126-year-old mansion they purchased next to their Gold Coast home.

Or, maybe it’s nothing.

The property tax scandal picked up steam just a month before the November 2018 gubernatorial election, when the Chicago Sun-Times published news of a confidential memo from Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard.

The report found the Pritzkers had caused the residence they had purchased next to their home to fall into disrepair, in part, by removing its toilets in October 2015 in order to lower the home’s property taxes by having it declared “vacant and uninhabitable.”

On that basis, the Pritzkers’ lawyers persuaded then-Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios’ office to lower the home’s market value from more than $6.25 million to slightly less than $1.08 million. That ultimately led to a dramatically lower property tax bill for the mansion.

According to the report, MK Pritzker had ordered workers to reinstall one working toilet after the house was reassessed at a lower rate, though it’s unclear whether that happened.


Well, I had noticed the story back in October, and didn’t find it terribly impressive then. I knew it would have no effect on the election (and it didn’t.)

I dunno, it sounds legit to me. Keep in mind I do not like Pritzker as a politician, and I can only imagine how bad Illinois finances will get with him as governor (not that Rauner has been able to accomplish much), but this really does sound like hewing to the rules.

Is it really Pritzker’s fault that 1. Cook County has silly property tax rules and 2. Cook County is really desperate for tax money?

Ok, he may have a hand in #2.
Okay, now I’m seeing what the fraud is. They made it “uninhabitable” for the few hours when the assessment was done, and then made it re-habitable on the sly.

If only they had kept it uninhabitable during the whole renovation, they wouldn’t have had this problem.
I’m very annoyed that the use of sending info via U.S. mail makes something a federal case. I know “wire fraud”, etc., but come on. If he did something illegally, it should be in state court.

But I see the “no Dems to be indicted” aspect in Illinois — so, Illinois, make this a state court matter by actually doing something about this other than bafflegab. Bring some kind of charge, even if minor. Being indicted for something has never been a bar to Democrats being successful politicians in Illinois.

One might be a bit wary over whether Pritzker gets to be the next of many Illinois governors to spend some time in the federal pen, but hey. It’s a tradition by now.

I don’t think this will take Pritzker down. If it does… I would be ashamed of getting taken for such a small charge compared to prior governors.


Yeah, I know I said I’d lay off Illinois for a while. Well, when it comes to taxes, it is very difficult to ignore what’s going on (and I’ve been watching the latest pension tussle in Illinois, but I want to hit: Kentucky, Oregon, and others before I get back to that.)

Instead of filling up all my tax stories below with Illinois-tax-related stuff, let me put it here:

Let me address that last one:

In an ABC 7 interview marking Pritzker’s first 100 days an office, the governor said he could not promise his “fair tax” proposal would shield those earning less than $250,000 from further income tax hikes, but that he’d continue fighting for it nonetheless.

“As you know, we currently live in a system in which the taxes can be changed at any moment so there’s certainly no guarantees,” Pritzker said. “But what I will tell you is that I am fighting for the plan that I put forward.”

Yes, the plan that requires amending the state constitution to be able to impose different tax rates on different people, to make it that much easier to raise taxes in general. Because the initial plan is so inadequate to raise revenue, Pritzker is also talking up a plan to severely underfund the Illinois Teachers pension system (which has been underfunded since at least 2001), and which is running into trouble as a ‘plan’. Given Illinois TRS is only 40% funded (and, of course, Chicago pensions are in an even worse position), undercontributing to the fund is obviously weakening it further.

Everybody (who is non-delusional) knows Illinois revenue is going to have to step up a lot if they’re going to meet their pension obligations as currently constituted.

There are not enough “rich” people to soak to hit that mark. Once you allow for a graduated tax rate, it’s obviously easy to just increase small portions of the tax brackets at a time… just enough to prevent electoral revolt.

With a flat tax, everybody knows it’s going up for everybody.

A graduated tax simply makes it easier to increase taxes in the future.

I know this is not a new idea, and many have stated it: if you want to build credibility for making sure taxes don’t grow too high with a graduated tax, then when you open up that state constitution, there should be some more amendments reining in the spending side of the equation (and, at least, allowing pension COLAs to be cut.)


As the recipient noted: I will determine my own level of rage


On the last… see the next tweet.


…. Uh. I have nothing to say to this. Ok, I do. With respect to the NRA (maybe more later – I don’t know what’s going on there), even the ACLU stepped in last year:

t’s no secret that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is no fan of the National Rifle Association. A mailer his campaign sent to New York voters this week proclaims, in bold letters: “If the NRA goes bankrupt, I will remember them in my thoughts and prayers.”

There’s nothing wrong with the governor singling out a political adversary for criticism, or even mockery. That’s just politics, and the NRA itself is no stranger to hardball tactics.

But in a lawsuit the NRA filed against Cuomo this spring, the organization contends that he did more than criticize it. The NRA alleges that Cuomo and top members of his administration abused their regulatory authority over financial institutions to threaten New York banks and insurers that associate with the NRA or other “gun promotion” groups, and that those threats have jeopardized the NRA’s access to basic insurance and banking services in New York.

It’s not just the NRA that would be at risk, obviously, which is why the ACLU had something to say on the NRA’s behalf. They’re not total hypocrites re: civil rights for conservatives.

With respect to not fighting SALT… no comment on that right now. I’m not even sure if he’s talking about those fleeing NY not trying to fight for lower taxes (true) or if he’s talking about the lawsuits over the SALT cap or what. I don’t really care. I assume he has kept his NYC residency…. for some reason.

(I don’t ‘get’ TikToc… is it like Vine was?)


I didn’t realize I pay a federal property tax. Seriously, think about this before opening your mouth, lady.

Oh, happy tax day, Canada!

How about a 10-year history of their taxes & earnings, for those of us who understand finance?

I agree, taxes aren’t charity.

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