Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Brown: “Pritzker and Kennedy fell far short of the ethical standards we should be demanding of an Illinois governor”
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Brown: “Pritzker and Kennedy fell far short of the ethical standards we should be demanding of an Illinois governor”

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017

* Mark Brown

J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy proved Monday that rich Illinois Democrats are no more inclined to be forthcoming about their personal finances than rich Illinois Republicans.

I know better than to be surprised, but I’m still extremely disappointed.

By making public only the front two pages of their income tax returns, Pritzker and Kennedy fell far short of the ethical standards we should be demanding of an Illinois governor.

They both chose to keep secret the accompanying schedules and statements from their returns that explain where they made their money, as well as the deductions used to lower their tax bills.

Their only real defense for this approach is that’s the way Gov. Bruce Rauner does it.

Sorry, Republican Rauner should not be the standard of good government for Democrats, even for the rich ones.

For some reason, rich people think their taxes are just too complicated for the rest of us to understand.


* The Tribune fills in some blanks

Pritzker’s income grew prominently the past three years largely through money from partnerships and trusts, which totaled $13.2 million last year compared with $5.9 million the year before. In 2014 the Pritzkers reported $2.7 million in business income as their primary source of money.

Pritzker spokeswoman Galia Slayen said the rise was based on investments and disbursements from trusts. “Some trusts are required to give distributions every year and in some years they did better, some years they did worse,” she said.

The returns also showed that in 2014, the couple paid no state income taxes after taking nearly $150,000 in tax credits for research and development, as well as for property taxes and educational expenses. Last year, the Pritzkers reported paying more than $456,000 in Illinois income taxes and in 2015 paid $180,000 to the state treasury, the documents show.

Asked why Pritzker paid no Illinois income tax in 2014, Slayen said the candidate “made personal venture capital investments in Illinois companies, which qualified him for angel investment tax credits.” […]

Kennedy, an heir of the iconic Massachusetts political family, and wife Sheila paid $174,000 in federal income taxes and $43,127 in state income taxes last year. The campaign did not make available tax records from previous years or schedules showing deductions. Records for last year show the couple had $810,000 in itemized deductions to reduce their federal taxable income to $433,644. A campaign spokeswoman said the large deduction figure was the result of a donation to Top Box, the nonprofit food company Kennedy and his wife run.


A Chicago tax attorney warns that it’s hard to extrapolate much information from just the tax cover sheets released by Pritkzer and Kennedy.

“You’re short on detail and long on conjecture,” said the attorney, who works for a top Chicago firm and asked for his name to be withheld for lack of specifics on the candidates’ financial situations. “There’s nothing about an income tax return really that tells about (an individuals’) net worth.” […]

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is not running for re-election, says the vast amount of money spent on campaigning is the single most important issue in politics today.

Orr says that while Illinois has done a commendable job of passing laws that make it easier for citizens to vote, including automatic voter registration, Election Day voter registration and extended early voting windows, “we’re losing people because of the money in politics.”

“If our speech is really determined by the amount of money you have, which it is now unfortunately, and then the campaigns get longer, and the harder the campaigns air distrustful, negative ads, that is having an enormous impact on think on the democracy.” […]

“The billionaires, no offense to either one of them, can start campaigning 15 months ahead, 18 months ahead and that is very undemocratic. It also ties people to big funders, discourages good candidates, turns off the public,” Orr said, as he warned that the feel-good, “fuzzy” ads will undoubtedly turn negative after the start of the new year. He says it’s hard for the public to discern the truth of those ads, and that wreaks havoc on democracy.

I get some of what he’s saying, but, c’mon. It ain’t just super-rich people running misleading ads.

* Sen. Biss went off on Twitter last night

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Retired Educator - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:37 am:

    This is why people hesitate to release tax information. No matter what they provide, it is never enough. People will complain no matter what the taxes reveal.

  2. - Hottot - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 6:05 am:

    Not to defend Pritzker or Kennedy, but how many of us average joes would take as many eligible tax credits as we can? I’m far from a millionaire, not even a quarter-millionaire, lol, but most of us, if not all of us would take advantage of as many tax breaks as we can. I’d still like to see their full tax returns, and of course Gov. Moneybag’s as well, so we can see if he’s buying state debt through his companies.

  3. - Perrid - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 6:42 am:

    I think they should release more or nothing. I’m going to assume they did nothing illegal, so that means the only reason to give their tax returns is a way to vouch for their character, to prove they aren’t taking advantage of loopholes normal people would think is unfair. This doesn’t prove that. And it doesn’t provide info on how they got the money, who their partners are. So yeah, this is a pretty empty gesture

  4. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 8:11 am:

    it sounds like the problem is not the tax returns, but the statements of economic interest.

    That said, seems like Biss is crying in his cheerios because there is nothing outrageous about Pritzker’s effective tax rate.

    Rather than requiring candidates to release their tax returns, why not just expand what we require on the statements of economic interest, if the concern is potential conflicts?

  5. - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 8:54 am:

    While I don’t really care about tax returns (although that is starting to change under Trump), i do really care about hypocrisy and lying. While I never expected better from Pritzker, I did Kennedy.

  6. - illinois manufacturer - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 8:59 am:

    The tax attorney is wrong. You can tell a lot about income producing wealth. Seaz and zuchman have done a wealth report based on income tax since 1913.Also if his trust has at least 3 billion based on taxes paid and a 3 % return.

  7. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:04 am:

    What YDD said. Statements of economic interests could give a clearer view of conflict of interests.

  8. - illinois manufacturer - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:04 am:

    Biss has some substantial wealth that does not show on his taxes. His GARS pension. Maybe he declined it when he tried and failed to cut it. If he kept it I am sure its over a million if you plug it into immediate annuities. We have a millionaire multi millionaire and billionaie pie fight. I suspect Daibar would also have a good sized pension.

  9. - cdog - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:11 am:

    You cannot tell from Pritzker’s tax-return-lite docs what his net worth is. If he is trustor, trustee, and beneficiary, or any combo of that, he can most likely distribute to personal income whatever he wants. You will never see those returns.

    Good for Biss calling out the contradiction between words and actions from these two. Lots of contradictions floating around these days.

  10. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:12 am:

    ==how many of us average joes would take as many eligible tax credits as we can?==

    As soon the state offers me a tax credit that effectively wipes out 100% of my tax liability without having to be a millionaire, I’ll let you know.

  11. - illinois manufacturer - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:14 am:

    Did Rauner disclose how much he and his firm made in his economic statement? In fairness he made no secret of it but what if he did? We should know if Kennedy and Pritzger have investments that would affect their behavior as gov. In the case of Rauner and Biss you could argue they acted against their own interests. But it still should be transparent.

  12. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:15 am:

    ==what his net worth is==

    Tax returns won’t tell you that.

  13. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:15 am:

    Stop Biss, just stop
    Beating Rauner is all that matters
    You are polling in the single digits on your best day
    You can’t begin to raise the amount of money necessary
    All you are doing is dog whistling to disaffected
    Privileged progressives- those people who could financially survive another Rauner term.
    I don’t have that luxury, that privilege
    Neither do the majority
    Of Illinoisans.
    So stop with your self righteous
    Billionaires are bad narrative
    Study up on Minnesota and their billionaire governor
    Biss, you are helping Rauner
    And not even being a cupcake.
    You are playing into Rauners hand
    By making the degree of wealth the metric of evil
    You make Pritzker more evil than Rauner
    Stop, just Stop
    Its how you use your money that counts.
    BTW, thank you Pritzker family for your support of art. I enjoyed the Pritzker gallery at the Art Institute on Saturday.

  14. - Anonish - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:27 am:

    I didn’t care about Rauner’s returns and I don’t care about Kennedy’s, Pritzker’s, or Biss’s returns either.
    If this is all Biss has to run to distinguish himself as a candidate in the primary, then I feel bad for him. Time to come up with a positive campaign narrative Senator.

  15. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:28 am:

    ==Biss has some substantial wealth that does not show on his taxes. His GARS pension.==

    He’s only 19% vested at the moment, but I agree the value of his annuity should reflect in his wealth status.

  16. - Honeybadger - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:32 am:

    Honeybear, to quote Meatloaf, ” you took the words right out of my mouth”…

  17. - Frankly - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:41 am:

    There’s a reason every pres. candidate till Trump released their returns. This is a legitimate issue of transparency and it speaks volumes that they won’t release the whole thing. What are they hiding?

  18. - People Over Parties - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:48 am:

    ==Beating Rauner is all that matters==

    So you’re basically ignoring any potential financial improprieties by Pritzker because beating Rauner is more important? By every account, this is a poor showing of transparency by Pritzker, as stated by Mark Brown. Great that you’re holding only a select amount of candidates accountable for their actions, as long as they don’t agree with you.

  19. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:52 am:

    - People Over Parties -

    So I’m guessing you support Rauner?

    While the tax returns issue seems to be something greater than what Rauner is doing, purposely mind you, are you saying now that both Kennedy and Pritzker are worth a vote to defeat Rauner, and his own record of destroying Illinois?


  20. - Donnie - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:54 am:

    ==The returns also showed that in 2014, the couple paid no state income taxes==

    It’s easy to see now why he doesn’t have a problem with raising the tax rate

  21. - People Over Parties - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:04 am:

    ===So I’m guessing you support Rauner?===

    Nope. I’m dissatisfied with just about everyone in Springfield. But I also think that beating the other candidate is a bad excuse for avoiding transparency in tax returns, or for supporters to look the other way simply because they want to beat the other candidate.

  22. - Trapped in the ‘burbs - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:14 am:

    Biss continues to whine about J.B. and Kennedy having more money and somehow that’s makes them unworthy. Both inherited great wealth but each has a long history of public activism and contributing to social causes. If you were honest, Daniel, you had an extraordinaraly privileged upbringing yourself. Nobody in Evanston believes that you are supporting your family off of the $34,000 adjusted gross income you disclosed. How much help are you receiving from your family or in-laws? See, it can be a slippery slope. Why not make the case why YOU should be governor instead of pushing this phony class warfare.

  23. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    ===… or for supporters to look the other way simply because they want to beat the other candidate===

    So, with all the damage Rauner has done, documented damage, you’d still support Rauner over Pritzker or Kennedy.

    My point?

    You want to take this stand, not just be disappointed or upset with the tax returns, fine.

    Your alternative is a failed governor destroying Illinois.

    I’m just trying to see if the returns are “enough” that you’d support continued failure.

  24. - People Over Parties - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:47 am:

    ===you’d still support Rauner over Pritzker or Kennedy.===

    Never said that. I was making a comment on holding candidates accountable, specifically on the issue of transparency in tax returns. There’s plenty to criticize Rauner on, but ignoring Pritzker’s own issues because he’s “not Rauner” isn’t right.

  25. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:53 am:

    To the Post,

    I’m approaching this issue of tax returns this way;

    Not discounting the responses by both Kennedy and Pritzker that by logical observation falls short of full transparency, the political hay that is being ginned up by Biss is without question fair game and has a foundation to make that hay.

    Having said all that, the pressure Biss needs to put on also must include Rauner, simply because the hurdle Rauner “cleared” when he ran for governor is now the logical hurdle both Kennedy and Pritzker could use as their own “outs”, and then Biss’ leverage becomes a tired story, even if it’s completly unfair to the voters.

    Pritzker will continue to swamp TV with ads, Kennedy will run ads playing catch-up to Pritzker, also saddled Witt the tax issue Biss wants, so Kennedy might not help Biss.

    Will this this buried enough, or “fixed” close enough to mirror Rauner?

    We’ll see.

  26. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:58 am:

    ===There’s plenty to criticize Rauner on, but ignoring Pritzker’s own issues because he’s “not Rauner” isn’t right.===

    It may not be “right”, but the politics of both in this issue allows a clarification of where one finds that “line”.

    If you choose to support Rauner specifically with the returns as part of that decision… that’s politics too.

  27. - DeseDemDose - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 11:07 am:

    Biss said, Zzzzzzzzz…Zzzzzz, wake me up when he is done.

  28. - Independent and Proud - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 11:45 am:

    I will have to agree. Pritzker especially, has not remotely met the proper ethical standards that we should hold for a gubernatorial race.

    === It may not be “right”, but the politics of both in this issue allows a clarification of where one finds that “line”.

    If you choose to support Rauner specifically with the returns as part of that decision… that’s politics too. ===

    This seems to be a problem in our politics, if you aren’t on one side then surely you are on the other. There is no logical inconsistency in pointing out things that you agree on with a particular candidate without selling yourself completely to that candidate.

  29. - I'mDone - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 11:48 am:

    If you are going to hold up Mark Dayton as an example, know your facts. He released his f-u-l-l tax returns and not just the cover sheets. He’s done that since he started running for the job.

  30. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    ===This seems to be a problem in our politics, if you aren’t on one side then surely you are on the other. There is no logical inconsistency in pointing out things that you agree on with a particular candidate without selling yourself completely to that candidate.===

    Which is exactly why… Biss finds his own call, and Brown and others’ too, to go after Rauner too, which makes Rauner’s response when he won, the hurdle.

    If Kennedy and Pritzker choose to show exactly as Rauner did, and the calls last time were swamped by Rauner’s own campaign doing its thing, you’re right, it’s a “tribal” thought, that one or the other is fine where they are, hypocrisy not withstanding.

  31. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 12:24 pm:

    People over Parties- no I’m not ignoring anything. If there are improprieties on a tax return that is for the IRS or IDOR to address.
    I’m sure Pritzker has things on his return that I don’t like. I don’t like tax havens. I don’t like all the tax breaks for the wealthy. But that is the “world as it is” to quote Alinsky.

    An individual’s financials are legally documented by professionals on their returns. The battalions of tax attorneys and accountants insure that they are legal. It’s only schmo’ like you and I who do our own returns that make screw ups and mistakes that get us into trouble legally

    The point is this. Determining intentions/ability to govern by the degree of wealth or how they handle their tax liability is in my opinion not the best method of assessment.

    The “world as it is” is that Rauner took a fiscally irresponsible state rife with problems and intensified it ten fold.
    Now we have billions in debt
    72000 students leaving illinois schools
    A destroyed private social safety net.
    State agencies starved to husks-DCEO
    A state workforce in active collapse (down 30% from being the smallest workforce per capita. Last years numbers)
    Rauner has trashed the state in order to destroy labor.
    This is the “world as it is”
    To be distracted by anything else is
    My opinion……horrific folly
    stopping the bleed out is all that matters
    Getting Rauner out is all that matters.
    The “world as it is” is that Pritzker is the only
    Competitive option to Rauner
    Rauner will destroy the other candidates.
    He may well destroy Pritzker
    Thus I am throwing myself
    Everything I’ve got behind JB
    If I go down, I go down swinging
    Which is the way I want it.
    But I’m choosing the person who has
    In my opinion
    The best chances.
    Second place gets nothing
    I urge my sisters and brothers of
    Council 31 to give JB our
    Full Throated Endorsement
    At our endorsement conference in Jan.
    We must build momentum to meet the
    Othismos of Janus
    AFL-CIO charges forward under Pritzker
    We should join them and not
    Mill about in indecision by not endorsing.
    Form the line against Rauner/Janus
    Labor United.

  32. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 12:38 pm:

    I’m done- Dayton is a billionaire and Minnesota is doing well financially. Therefore a billionaire governor can have the best interests of his people and state at heart.
    Rauner has proven over and over again that he does not have the best interests of his people or state at heart.
    I can think of only one time ( in fairness I’m sure there are others) where I felt Rauner made a call in favor of his people and state instead of Corporate or plutocratic interest. ( waiving the food stamp work requirement)
    So I’m done, I was using Dayton as an example of a billionaire governor who governs.

  33. - Hamilton - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    I find Honeybear’s response, the “privileged progressives” to be very compelling, but lacking logic.

    Biss isn’t actually making the degree of wealth the metric of evil. He is making the transparency and disclosure of wealth that metric. He is demanding more of his party in this regard.

    To somehow think that a wealthy D who won’t disclose potential conflicts is better for the vulnerable than a wealthy R who won’t disclose potential of conflicts – this logic only stands if one buys into political tribalism.

    Biss isn’t following the tribe, here, and is pushing his party further. His pushing the party towards an ethic of transparency will only help in the General, especially from the lens of the vulnerable.

  34. - ILDemVoter - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 1:21 pm:

    - Retired Educator -
    I think the difference is that JB & Kennedy waited so long. At the end of the day, everyone knows they are wealthy. It was something both campaigns should have prepared for before declaring. Phil Muprhy is a Goldman Sachs millionaire and now the Governor of New Jersey- he released 5 years of taxes in 2016 during the primary without being asked; to differentiate from him and the rich candidates here, he actually paid around 30-35% tax rate with a million dollars to charity each year. In my opinion, if you’re going to be a wealthy person running as Democrat, you need to be prepared.

  35. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 1:34 pm:

    ==Minnesota is doing well financially==

    With help from 15% of their over-65 population whose retirement income is taxed.

  36. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 2:16 pm:

    “to differentiate from him and the rich candidates here, he actually paid around 30-35% tax rate with a million dollars to charity each year”

    And JB paid 25-37% and gave tens of millions to charity. That’s not a differentiator except with Kennedy.

  37. - MissBentohs - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 2:48 pm:

    = Beating Rauner is all that matters =

    OW, the reason this statement is so wrong has nothing to do with Rauner … it is the “is all that matters”
    Our politics are so out of whack that you get these absolute ideas that leads to such oddities as someone saying I will support my pedophile over anyone from the other party.

  38. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 2:52 pm:

    City Zen, we are one of only three states who do not tax retirement income.
    Just 3

  39. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 2:53 pm:

    ===Beating Rauner is all that matters===

    Considering… I didn’t say that, I’m confused why you felt the need to ask me about this.

    ===Our politics are so out of whack that you get these absolute ideas that leads to such oddities as someone saying I will support my pedophile over anyone from the other party.===

    I did say this…

    ===If Kennedy and Pritzker choose to show exactly as Rauner did, and the calls last time were swamped by Rauner’s own campaign doing its thing, you’re right, it’s a “tribal” thought, that one or the other is fine where they are, hypocrisy not withstanding.===

  40. - Veil of Ignorance - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 2:53 pm:

    This is a transparency issue and one that has gained more prominence with progressives because of Trump. It’s a misstep on the part of Pritzker not to fully disclose. If one can’t be transparent with your finances then it does call into question how transparent of a governor one will be. Agree that Biss needs to push out positive agenda ideas too, but it’s a legit angle of attack that I think some here are underestimating its relevance with the progressive base. Alot more voters will be paying attention come January.

  41. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:07 pm:

    This is now the world of “real politik”. So so much is riding on this election. Absolutist? Absolutely. The fact that you cannot or will not see the current consequences of the 2014 election or cannot or will not contemplate the consequences of the 2018 election, does not negate the very real experiences of over a million people effected by Rauner.
    If you could or would,
    I believe you too
    Would exclaim
    Beating Rauner is all that matters

  42. - Frankly - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 11:36 pm:

    Honeybear, the fact that there’s a reasonably successful governor who’s a billionaire is not the issue. Dayton had governing experience - he’d served as a Senator before running for governor.

    I don’t have a problem with rich, qualified people running for high office. I have a problem with rich, unqualified people running for office and the establishment supporting them only because of their money. Pritzker wouldn’t have gotten a second look from the party if he weren’t a billionaire. That’s the problem.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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