Rep. didn’t list source of income because form was hard to understand
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
A Democratic legislator from the Northwest Side was paid $170,000 for work as a consultant to fellow Democrats during two years when he failed to list that work as a source of income on his required state ethics filings, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times show.
State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, who is an attorney, says the economic-interest statements that legislators have to file with the secretary of state’s office every year are so “poorly written” that he didn’t understand what he needed to include.
“When I get to the disclosures, I try to be as open as I can be,” Martwick says. “I’m a lawyer, but, looking at those questions, I don’t know what they’re asking.”
The ethics forms ask legislators to “list the name and instrument of ownership in any entity doing business in the state of Illinois in which [their] ownership interest” is worth more than $5,000 or from which they made more than $1,200 during the past year.
“I’m being honest,” Martwick says. “I don’t know how to interpret those questions.”
He has been operating his own political consulting firm, First Tuesday Inc., since 2005, with a client list that includes Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, the county Democratic Party chairman.
He was first elected in 2012 and took office in 2013. But he says he temporarily shut down the business around the time he was running and didn’t make any money from the firm in 2012 or 2013.
Campaign-finance records filed by other politicians, though, show they paid his firm a total of about $170,000 for the following two years.
Yet on the economic-disclosure form he filed for each of those years, Martwick wrote “none” where he was asked to list any business entity he had outside income from.
On the ethics form covering 2016, which he filed this past April 28, he did list First Tuesday.
“Why I disclosed this year and not any other year?” says Martwick. “Maybe I need to go back and amend those forms.”
Campaign-finance records show other politicians paid his firm a total of more than $66,000 last year for work he did for them.
Martwick says “the vast majority” of what First Tuesday is paid goes to printers and designers who help him produce campaign literature for clients.
“I don’t make a ton of money on this,” he says. “I don’t know that 20 percent of the money that people pay me is profit.”
Martwick says he makes much more from another job, working as a lawyer for his father’s firm, Finkel Martwick & Colson. The downtown firm has been a major campaign contributor to Berrios, who, as county assessor, rules on its clients’ appeals for seeking reductions in their property assessments and, as a result, lowering their taxes.
Martwick’s father, also named Robert Martwick, is a longtime Norwood Park Township Democratic committeeman and county party secretary.
The younger Martwick is the legislator who complained last August on Facebook that the state budget standoff delayed his paycheck. He blasted Gov. Bruce Rauner and then-state Comptroller Leslie Munger for withholding legislators’ checks, saying that amounted to “extortion and conspiracy.”
He was a village trustee in Norridge when he started First Tuesday in 2005, getting business from other Democrats, providing printing and design for election brochures, mailings and palm cards.
Illinois politicians have paid Martwick’s firm a total of $673,000 since 2005, campaign-finance records show.
Its best-paying client has been Mariyana Spyropoulos, a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago commissioner, who paid First Tuesday nearly $157,000 from 2007 until 2010.
Martwick’s company also has gotten $62,799.55 from political campaign committees controlled by Berrios. Preckwinkle’s campaign has paid First Tuesday $9,700, and her 4th Ward Democratic Organization has paid the firm another $8,046.40.
Not listing First Tuesday on his state ethics forms isn’t the only problem that attorney Martwick has had with following the rules regarding his company.
According to state corporate records, First Tuesday was dissolved in 2009 and hasn’t been registered with the state to do business in Illinois since then. Martwick says that, too, was a mistake, one that his accountant caught earlier this year. He says he’s paying nearly $1,400 to the state to reinstate the company’s corporate registration and to make up for fees he should have paid the past eight years.
Also, Martwick acknowledges not having a Chicago city business license. But he says he plans to go to City Hall and apply for one soon.
MORE FROM THE WATCHDOGS: