Another Illinois governor is under federal investigation

By John Ruberry

Voters in the Land of Lincoln–oh, what would Old Abe think about his home state now?–have a knack for electing crooked governors. As I noted here last week four of the governors of Illinois elected since I was born, Democrats Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, and Rod Blagojevich, along with Republican George Ryan, have been sentenced to federal prison. Another governor, Kerner’s predecessor, GOPer William Stratton, was indicted for tax evasion but was acquitted.

Just three days after I wrote that Da Tech Guy entry the Chicago NPR affiliate, WBEZ, broke the news that Illinois’ newly-elected Democratic governor, JB Pritzker, is under federal investigation in regards to a scheme to lower the property taxes on one of his Chicago Gold Coast mansions.

Meanwhile Pritzker is pushing a constitutional amendment to switch Illinois from a flat tax income tax state to one with graduated rates. They are calling it the Fair Tax. Of course he claims most Illinoisans will receive a tax cut.

Pritzker and his wife, MK, own two adjoining mansions on Astor Street. Oh, did I say Gold Coast? Yep, that’s what this ritzy slice of Chicago’s Near North Side is called, It’s Chicago’s version of New York’s Park Avenue.

MK, along with her brother, Thomas J. Muenster (what, he doesn’t call himself “TJ?”), are also part of this probe, although WBEZ points out, “There are no signs that criminal charges are imminent.” But the authors of the article do add, “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.”

This is what the Pritzkers did: When the neighboring mansion went up for sale, they quickly purchased it. Then they had workers remove all of its toilets and then claimed that the stately home was uninhabitable and filed a successful property tax appeal with the Cook County Assessor’s office, which was run at that time by Joseph Berrios, then the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. That saved the Pritzkers $331,000, but other Cook County taxpayers, yes, that includes me, ended up having to make up the difference.

And do you really expect Pritzker’s income tax plan will save me money?

As they saying goes here, Illinois isn’t broken, it’s fixed.

Almost immediately after the 2018 report on the scam by Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard was made public, in which he called the Pritzker operation “a scheme to defraud” taxpayers, the Pritzkers quickly repaid the county the $331,000.

A month later Pritzker resoundingly defeated the incumbent governor, inept Republican Bruce Rauner, in the general election.

This development has freaked out the Chicago Sun-Times, which broke tax caper story in 2017. In a snit of an op-ed, the struggling newspaper, which is partially owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor, declared, “We smell a set up.” Without reminding readers of its union ties–Big Labor will be a major beneficiary of additional state revenue and much of that tax hike cash will go to severely underfunded public pension plans and the beneficiaries of those pensions are predominately union members–the Sun-Times alludes that opponents of the so-called Fair Tax are behind the timing of the NPR affiliate’s report. Oh, one of the co-authors of the WBEZ story is a former Sun-Times reporter.

The amendment will almost certainly be approved by the Democratic supermajority-General Assembly. For the Fair Tax to become law it must be approved by 60 percent of voters.

Meanwhile on average Illinois’ population drops by 313 people each day. 

Decline and fall. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.