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Question of the day

Monday, Nov 30, 2009

* Treasurer and Democratic US Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias released his tax returns last week

The first-term treasurer has been criticized by Democratic Senate opponent David Hoffman for large Broadway Bank payouts to him and his family.

In all, there were $70 million in payouts in 2007 and 2008. Giannoulias’ campaign said the payouts were was triggered by the 2006 death of Giannoulias’ father, Alexis, who founded Broadway Bank. His will called for estate and income taxes to be paid for with dividend payments from the sale of Broadway shares, the campaign said.

Alexi Giannoulias’ portion of those payouts totaled $2.5 million — $1 million of which he has said went to pay income taxes. The campaign has noted that Alexi Giannoulias didn’t have a say in whether to sell the shares because he divested himself of his voting shares when he was elected treasurer.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Schillerstrom says he won’t release his returns

“I feel strongly about full disclosure in government, but I do not believe posting my personal tax returns, or the tax returns of the other candidates for governor, would further the public interest in any tangible way. I have yet to hear anyone make a compelling argument how this would benefit voters,” he replied to an Associated Press questionnaire.

Bill Brady released his returns the last time he ran for governor, but won’t this time. Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney also refuses…

“It’s time to stop looking at trendy gimmicks as a pathway to clean government, and time to look at the real public policies needed to establish it,” Whitney said.

* The Question: Do you think it’s important for candidates to release their tax returns? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Skeptical Cynic - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 10:51 am:

    You asked this same question a month ago or so.

  2. - Just Observing - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 10:53 am:

    No… Rich Whitney said it best. I think all that is important is that candidates (or maybe upon being elected) disclose potential conflicts of interest. So, if a public official maintains ownership interest in, let’s say a construction firm, then steps can be taken to help ensure that the public official cannot direct contracts toward the firm.

  3. - David Ormsby - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 10:54 am:


    The release is a confidence-building between a candidate and the voters. Voters routinely harbor suspicions regarding the potential clash between politicians’ official duties and their personal financial interests.

    Refusing to release the returns, in light of its established practice, fuels suspicions in voters’ minds–legitimate or not–they have something to hide.

    It’s boneheaded, politically, to dodge the disclosure and wrap the refusal in weasel words.

  4. - John Bambenek - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:01 am:


    I find it amusing you’re agreeing with Adam Andrzejewski on a matter of policy ;)

  5. - Little Egypt - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:03 am:

    Yes. What are they afraid of? Perhaps that we, the voters, are not quite as naive as they hope. If they don’t want to fully disclose their finances, then don’t run for office. This isn’t the 1800’s and they better get used to a nagging press and the questions that will follow. Be able to run with the big dogs or stay on the porch and out of the campaign.

  6. - OneMan - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:12 am:

    It’s not a bad idea, I was rather entertained when I went to the Thompson center to look at Quinn’s and an aid watched me and took notes the entire time I was looking at the returns.

    He spelled my name really wrong btw on his notes.

    So if you are going to do it don’t be a tool about it, otherwise don’t bother.

  7. - ahoy - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:15 am:

    No, I think this flies in the face of privacy and has no public good. AS a voter I don’t need to know how much people make.

  8. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:19 am:

    ===You asked this same question a month ago or so.===

    Nope. I asked whether it should be required a month or so ago.

  9. - VanillaMan - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:26 am:

    I think it is important, but not compulsory. It is a campaign tactic that could end some personal issues, but in many cases, does not.

    Overall, I don’t recommend it unless the move fits the candidate’s image, or compliments it. If a candidate wishes to sell themselves as a regular fellow - releasing personal tax information is OK. If a candidate wishes to trump the importance of transparency - same thing.

    But in Giannoulais’ case, these things really don’t end the negative consequences of political opposition abusing his Broadway Bank ties. He is damned if he does - or does not. By releasing them, he runs the risk of pandering to the questions surrounding his financial past, and if he does not, he risks questions surrounding his Broadway Bank ties, anyway.

    Conclusion: it is a political tactic.

  10. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:28 am:

    No. There are other documents that can be filed disclosing potential conflicts of interest, including those current office holders and certain state employees need to file.

  11. - wordslinger - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:36 am:

    Mildly important, but not a necessarily a deal-breaker. A candidate who does gets more points for openness.

    I think, for the most part, you don’t need to see someone’s tax returns to get a sense if they’re susceptible to corruption. It’s not like anyone’s been going out of their way to hide that recently.

  12. - zatoichi - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 11:47 am:

    I fall on both sides of this while leaning to release the info. Releasing tax info has become a basic assumption of somehow showing honesty and a clean financial/conflict of interest. The privacy issue drifts into a ‘why do I need to know that’ area. A basic assumption is you have to have personal money because if you don’t, you probably do not have the contacts to run a major campaign. While I cannot think of a significant candidate who got dinged by something on their tax forms, I am also assuming if you got a trouble area, you need some new tax reps. The issue will come out anyhow. However people have come to expect it so if you do not want to do it, why you running? Refusing to release the tax forms strikes a Helmsley attitude of ‘taxes are for the little people’. If you want to be a public servant, you need to think real hard on how public you want to be.

  13. - DuPage Dan - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 1:01 pm:

    I think it is more important to know where a candidate is getting money - disclosure of campaign donations in real time.

  14. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 1:24 pm:

    I think interviews with the wait staff in restaurants they frequent would be much more telling.

    Character is how you act when no one is looking.

  15. - MrJM - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 1:44 pm:

    Yes. Bob Schillerstrom is not just a GOP gubernatorial candidate he’s also Chairman of the DuPage County Board.

    Voters deserve to see if his returns show that he’s enriched himself at the taxpayer’s expense.

    (Ain’t it funny how the law ‘n’ order Republicans say, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide” right up until it’s them doing the hiding.)

    – MrJM

  16. - The Prophet - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 1:56 pm:

    Unless I missed something, this morning’s AP article in the Chicago Sun-Times managed to comment on all of the GOP gubernatorial candidates and their campaign stance regarding publicly revealing their income tax returns except for the GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Proft? I may be a bit cynical and suspicious but I wonder if this was a deliberate slight on the Sun-Times part toward Proft or if his name was just inadvertantly overlooked? Incidentally, based on the AP article in other newspapers, Proft said that he was more than willing to show his income tax returns.
    I like Proft as a GOP candidate so maybe I am being a bit too thin-skinned on what seems to be an example of “ignore somebody and they will eventually go away”. If I am wrong or if I am overlooking something, I will apologize in advance for my error and my suspicious nature when it comes to politics. And yes, I feel that if an individual has nothing to hide and wants to run for public office, than the candidate’s belief in “transparency” for the voter and it’s practice is extremely important.

  17. - Thomas Westgard - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 2:44 pm:

    I think it’s important for candidates to release their tax forms. We have an extensive problem with corruption in this state, and we need to guard against misuse of public office for private gain. One piece of that puzzle is knowing where the officeholder stands to gain. And a tax form is the gold standard for the consequences of fraudulently misstating one’s assets.

    I also note what’s missing here - not only are they refusing to release a total disclosure, but they are refusing ANY disclosure. They could extensively redact the document as a middle ground. Another alternative would be to withhold the tax forms but provide an extensive and detailed written plan on transparency in government, accompanied by an affidavit regarding what they do and don’t own.

    There are many options to act as a proactive leader on the issue, rather than the lazy and cowardly course of simply saying no. So since they are not doing that, it leaves me thinking that these candidates are lying now and planning to steal later.

  18. - Downstate Commissioner - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 2:50 pm:

    Nah, not necessary. First of all, only the election junkies or scandal-monger press bother to go through them; second of all, everybody knows that all politicians are crooks anyway with accountants, so what’s the difference?
    (Before some thin-skinned idiot jumps to defend his candidate, I am a local elected official, which makes me a politician, which makes me a crook- simple logic. If you’re in politics, you live with the brand…true or not)

  19. - Downstate Commissioner - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 2:54 pm:

    Mr. Westgard, ALL candidates have to fill out and sign a financial disclosure statement and file with the election board; a copy of the receipt HAS to be filed with nominating papers: they can’t “refuse ANY disclosure.”

  20. - Hoffman hammering - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 3:12 pm:

    Here’s the Hoffman campaign hammering Alexi for saying that the $2.5 million he received from Broadway Bank was “minimal”:

  21. - Nihilate - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 4:11 pm:

    I agree that thee tax returns dont need to be released. however, there should be something that lets voters know the candidate has paid theeir taxes correctly prior to running.

  22. - Ghost - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 4:16 pm:

    I pretty much follow Words sentiments….

    But I would add they should have to disclose who cuts/styles their hair; and all sermons from any religious services conducted at any church/temple they have attended for the last 5 years.

    Oh and whether they support the Sox or the Cubs should be disclosed as part of the petition filing process.

  23. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 4:21 pm:

    ===Oh and whether they support the Sox or the Cubs should be disclosed as part of the petition filing process. ===

    Now, that’s an important disclosure.

  24. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 4:55 pm:

    …disclosure of campaign donations in real time.

    I think Gidwitz did that fairly effectively during his Gov race. Did anyone else? I kind of liked that.

  25. - Louis Howe - Monday, Nov 30, 09 @ 8:20 pm:

    Yes….disclosing the last 3 years tax returns would give voters insight into the source of the candidate income and the extent used to avoid paying taxes. It’s really a no brainer. Public office requires public discloser of income.

  26. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 1, 09 @ 9:09 am:

    Oh, good. You saw that last post that someone had made and deleted it. Odd.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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