By Joseph Bustos
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, his wife M.K., and his brother-in-law are under federal investigation for a property tax break that netted the billionaire governor $331,000 in tax relief, Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ reported Wednesday.
WBEZ reported the probe began in October while Pritzker, a Democrat, campaigned to unseat then Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The station added there are no signs that criminal charges are imminent.
The Pritzkers received the tax break after toilets were removed from a mansion the couple owns. That mansion was later deemed uninhabitable.
A Cook County inspector general called the move a "scheme to defraud" taxpayers.
During an unrelated news conference in Chicago on Wednesday Pritzker denied wrongdoing.
"I'm very confident that any review of this matter will show that all the rules were followed. I have not been contacted by any law enforcement. Neither has M.K.," Pritzker said, according to WBEZ. "My opponents raised this issue and it became a political subject last October. But today we're very focused on the important work that needs to get done in Springfield."
Marc Elias, an attorney for the Pritzkers, denied the governor or his wife did anything wrong.
"We are confident that any further review of the matter will show that the appropriate rules were followed," Elias told WBEZ.
Pritzker, who became governor in January, is pushing an ambitious agenda, which calls for moving the state to a graduated income tax structure, legalizing recreational marijuana and legalizing sports betting.
The tax break became a campaign issue last fall and Pritzker volunteered to repay the $331,000 in tax savings he received.
The Illinois Republican Party used the news of the federal investigation as a way to campaign against Pritzker's push to put in a progressive income tax in the state.
"An Illinois governor under federal criminal investigation 101 days into office must be a new record -- even for Illinois," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider. "We already knew Pritzker was a serial tax dodger. He stashes millions offshore in zero-tax Bahamas bank accounts and took the toilets out of his Chicago mansion to dodge over $330,000 in property taxes. The Cook County Independent Inspector General called it 'a scheme to defraud' taxpayers. Yet Pritzker continues to push tax hikes on Illinois families and businesses -- absurd hypocrisy from Pritzker. J.B. Pritzker can't be trusted. Pritzker must immediately cease all of his efforts to raise taxes, including his graduated income tax, because he's under federal criminal investigation for not paying his own taxes."
The Republican Governors Association on Wednesday even tied Pritzker to former governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying to sell Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat.
"After just a few short months in office, J.B. Pritzker has already proven to the people of Illinois that he is completely unworthy of their trust," said RGA Deputy Communications Director John Burke. "This investigation raises serious questions regarding Pritzker's conduct and shows that he is nothing more than another corrupt politician who thinks he's above the law, just like his friend Rod Blagojevich."
(c)2019 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)