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.
At least, that’s what they say. The other possible explanation is that there is something in the details of their tax returns that voters might not like.
I will admit that I am often confused by the tax machinations that the wealthy are allowed to avail themselves of, but I’m sure I could find a good accountant to help explain them to the rest of us.
It is true that there is no legal requirement in Illinois for elected officials or candidates for public office to make public their income tax returns.
But for years it had been standard practice for most candidates in major statewide races to release their complete returns.
And if I had my way, that would be a requirement of running for public office—both national and statewide.
Releasing the front two pages of their 1040s accomplished little more than allowing the candidates to check off the box to say they had done so, along with resolving the titillation factor of how much money they make and how much they paid in taxes.
The first two pages of a tax return create as many questions as they answer, as was pointed out by the other major Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, who previously released five years of complete tax returns.
In Pritzker’s case, the tax returns begged the question of “Where’s the beef?”
Pritzker has been only too happy to advance the narrative that through his business acumen he’s more than tripled the $1.1 billion family fortune he inherited.
But over the last three years, he reported adjusted gross income of $15 million, $10 million and $3 million, hardly the stuff of billionaires.
The explanation seems to be that Pritzker’s real wealth is tied up in family trusts, which file separate tax returns he did not disclose.
The only reason we know about these trusts is that his campaign had the nerve to send out a press release accompanying the tax returns claiming that trusts benefitting him paid an additional $129 million in federal income taxes and $25 million in Illinois income taxes during the same three-year period.
I guess we’ll have to take his word for it.
I thought that Kennedy especially, who wants voters to differentiate between his millionaire wealth and Pritzker’s billionaire fortune, would have used the opportunity to make a clean breast of things.
But Kennedy arguably provided even less disclosure than Pritzker by coughing up just one year of tax returns, showing an adjusted gross income last year of $1.2 million, compared to Pritzker’s three years of returns.
The question arising from Kennedy’s returns is where he came up with $809,161 in itemized deductions, nearly two-thirds of his income.
It’s obvious that neither of the front-running Democrats wants to be in a position of putting more information out there for Rauner to exploit than is necessary.
Too bad they didn’t see it as an opportunity to put him on the spot.