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Question of the day

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Better Government Association’s story on the governor’s blind trust investments

“The term ‘blind trust’ is being used here as a thin shield to conceal the governor’s pursuit of personal profits,” said Bridget J. Crawford, a professor at Pace University’s law school who reviewed the BGA reporting. “This is not a blind trust in any meaningful sense of the phrase.”

* The Question: What should the governor or the legislature do, if anything, to increase the “blindness” of Pritzker’s blind trust? Some ideas from NCSL are here.

       

19 Comments
  1. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:10 pm:

    This from Alaska - I mentioned in yesterday’s discussion

    “Trustee shall be directed to avoid knowingly making any investment in a corporation, business, or venture over which the settlor is likely to take action by virtue of the settlor’s official position”


  2. - vern - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:14 pm:

    I don’t have any serious suggestions because I think it’s basically impossible to make a billionaire put real walls between him and his wealth. So here’s what I’ve got:

    1. Make him give all his money to me and he can live on his governor salary, which is already more than I’ve ever made in a 5 year span.
    2. Make him liquidate everything and put it all in a money market account. He can earn 0.1 percent interest like the rest of us.
    3. He can realize he’s a literal billionaire, stop caring about state government, and go buy an island in the South Pacific to live on.


  3. - Derek Smalls - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:16 pm:

    If there is a need to address this issue it shoud be done by the General Assemby. Any action the Governor takes is purely voluntary and doesn’t bind a future Governor. In addition, any action by the General Assembly should cover all the elected officials in the Executive and Legislative branches along with a significant revamping of the Statement of Economic Interests to give the public a clearer understand of their elected representatives interests. Something that is just focused on the Gov is insufficient, concerns about corruption and influence peddling are not just a Governor thing, Arroyo, Link, Sandoval, etc.


  4. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:17 pm:

    Nothing.

    The hitch BGA is trying to use is profit. A blind trust does NOT prevent the assets from making a profit. It prevents the person in government from having any idea if his actions will or will not have a profit motive for him or her. The ‘mens rea’ for lack of a better term, is completely absent in the decision making.

    There is no way to make the BGA happy here, although a dictionary might be helpful for that person from Pace University.


  5. - Playing in Peoria - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:37 pm:

    I’m sorry I can’t answer this question bc the quote from this Bridget Crawford person is so absurd I can’t get past it. If JB Pritzker really gave up a job heading a very profitable venture capital business to try and eke money out of Illinois state government contracts then it’s not his blind trust I’m concerned about but his intelligence.

    In sum - I don’t have a solution to a problem I don’t think exists.


  6. - MOON - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:38 pm:

    Vern has the correct answer.


  7. - Name Withheld - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:39 pm:

    If we’re talking about how we improve the laws in Illinois so that a trust can be more ‘blind’ than the law currently requires - then, as Illinois has no laws regarding the Executive branch and blind trusts, simply implementing something would serve to increase the blindness of a trust, as right now - it’s whatever the Governor says it is.

    whatever the failings with Governor Pritzker’s blind trust, it seems at least marginally more blind than whatever Governor Rauner had in place

    From the link in the article, and given Illinois history with (real or perceived) corruption of public officials, Alaska’s laws would seem to be a good baseline to begin crafting something.

    I also like how Alaska’s disclosure rules are applied to the legislative branch as well. I’d also like to see them apply to the candidates for each Executive branch office, not just the incumbents.


  8. - Socially DIstant watcher - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:42 pm:

    Is the BGA really saying that the Statement of Economic Interest, itself a good government reform, defeats the value of the blind trust?

    Do they think the public is better off not knowing where the investments are if that allows the governor to say he doesn’t know, either? Because that just leads to a credibility test: do you believe him or not. And the idea of a blind trust was supposed to address that credibility issue. They’re turning a serious issue into a neverending problem.


  9. - SWSider - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:43 pm:

    “He’s too rich for anything to work” is… not a great argument for our society and what we value.

    It’s not enforceable, but moving his assets into a CD/Money Market/Bonds would have been a great opportunity to lead by example and follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law.


  10. - MisterJayEm - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:47 pm:

    “What should the governor or the legislature do, if anything, to increase the “blindness” of Pritzker’s blind trust?”

    If the following is true

    he is not a part of any decisions, nor does he have any information regarding any investments. He receives no regular reporting on what the trustees and investment advisers decide to purchase and plays no role in any investment decisions.

    then nothing.

    That’s a blind trust.

    As we’ve seen recently in D.C., all the rules in the world won’t prevent a corrupt but determined executive from enriching himself.

    If my father were elected governor, he could put all of his farm and ranch holdings into a blind trust — but that wouldn’t prevent him from having a pretty good idea how he could unethically enrich himself in office should he chose to do so. And he’s got a fairly modest operation. Just imagine how much mischief someone working more than 10,000 acres might get into.

    But the very idea of some kind of mega-farmer in the governor’s office is just silly, rite? Rite??

    I’m all for holding Pritzker’s feet to the fire — but the kind of “blindness” that the BGA seems to be seeking would require that elected officials liquidate all of their assets and investments and just sit on a passbook account for their term in office.

    And even then, what about the value of most people’s biggest investment, their home?

    The only sufficiently “blind” thing to do is to sell it and move the family into an apartment until you leave government service, I guess.

    – MrJM


  11. - Blue Dog - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 12:59 pm:

    Elect good people and we wouldn’t have to worry about it.


  12. - Louis G Atsaves - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 1:00 pm:

    The article made several references to the Governor pledging donations on any profits or income received on his holdings that may have come through the State. Who is he donating to, has this happened and how much?

    One fix would be to allow the trustees of the blind trust to file and sign the Conflicts form required annually of the Governor. Even that will not stop future BGA type of articles from being investigated and written.


  13. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 1:04 pm:

    “The term ‘blind trust’ is being used here as a thin shield to conceal the governor’s pursuit of personal profits,”

    Communism. Apparently that’s the only acceptable solution here for the BGA.


  14. - Facts Matter - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 1:41 pm:

    “Is the BGA really saying that the Statement of Economic Interest, itself a good government reform, defeats the value of the blind trust?”

    Apparently, that is what the BGA’s expert, Ms. Crawford, is saying. There is no way to establish a “blind trust” per Ms. Crawford’s definition and comply with requirements for filing the annual Statement of Economic Interests. Mr. Atsaves proposes a change that still wouldn’t comply, because my recollection from my time as a state agency ethics officer charged with reviewing the filings is that the filings are public.

    To the extent there is a database of entities with contracts with the state, I suppose the law could require something similar to what I had to do back in my accounting firm days - we were forbidden to invest in companies that our firm audited - you could forbid certain state employees (persons involved in the procurement process, the Governor, senior government officials, etc.) from investing in companies with state contracts (although you might want a de minimis rule for the value of certain contracts).

    But, I really don’t see that the BGA has identified a problem. It’s good clickbait, but not much else.


  15. - New Day - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 1:42 pm:

    First off, there is no law in Illinois that required JB to set up the blind trust. He did it voluntarily, unlike other uber-wealthy office-holders here and in Washington, because he had higher ethical standards that he wanted to uphold as governor. The only reason he knew anything about the assets in the Trust was the requirement to sign the annual statement of economic interests. And according to Pritzker he said he didn’t read it because it was so long. It’s kind of irrelevant whether he did or not because it doesn’t actually provide useful info other than the name of the holding.

    Second, I don’t know who this professor is who knows Pritzker so well that she can make this kind of accusation with zero basis in fact: “The term ‘blind trust’ is being used here as a thin shield to conceal the governor’s pursuit of personal profits,” Is she even aware that he divested from state contractors before the trust was set up and is disgorging any profits from state contractors? Of course not, because that wasn’t the goal of this BGA story.

    Finally, if we want to require governors or other electeds to put their money in a blind trust, then require it. But that’s a hugely expensive proposition that is likely irrelevant for 99.5% of office holders.

    But since BGA has sold its soul, they don’t really care about best practice. They only seem to care about gotcha practice. And the got nothing.


  16. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 2:11 pm:

    What Mr.JM said.


  17. - Friendly Bob Adams - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 5:07 pm:

    The Supreme Court is brimming with graduates of Pace U. Law School….


  18. - Jocko - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 6:07 pm:

    ==Elect good people and we wouldn’t have to worry about it.==

    Harp on JB all you want, but Rauner sat on air pollution data at Sterigenics, a company his investment firm co-owned.


  19. - Blue Dog - Wednesday, Aug 31, 22 @ 6:23 pm:

    jocko. exactly.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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