In a state known for its history of political scandals and corruption, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is the latest official reportedly under federal investigation.
The 54-year-old Democratic governor, his wife, and his brother in law are all being investigated, according to WBEZ, over a tax break appeal. Pritzker and his wife advocated for a property tax break after they purchased a 126-year-old mansion. According to a Cook County inspector general’s report, first lady M.K. Pritzker told workers at the home to remove toilets in the residence in order to declare it “uninhabitable” so that they could get a substantial tax break.
The inspector general's report says Pritzker’s brother-in-law Thomas Muenster and M.K. Pritzker’s personal assistant were involved and the alleged scheme cost taxpayers more than $330,000.
Pritzker denied claims that he or his wife violated the law during a press conference Wednesday, noting that law enforcement has not yet reached out to him regarding the matter.
“I'm very confident that any review of this matter will show that all the rules were followed,” said Pritzker. “I have not been contacted by any law enforcement, neither has M.K.”
Illinois, and its largest city Chicago, has been a magnet for corruption and political scandals for decades. Former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, 62, was impeached and sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to sell an appointment to former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat after he became president.
Republican George Ryan, 85, served as governor prior to Blagojevich from 1999 to 2003, was indicted after leaving office on a litany of charges including bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. In 2006 he was sentenced to more than six years in prison. Ryan was released in 2013. Democrat Otto Kerner Jr., who served as governor from 1961 to 1968 and later a U.S. circuit judge, was convicted on mail fraud charges and sentenced to three years in prison, although he was released early.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider blasted Pritzker in a statement, noting that the governor has also been accused of dodging taxes by holding offshore bank accounts.
“An Illinois governor under federal criminal investigation 101 days into office must be a new record, even for Illinois,” Schneider said. “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.”
The Republican Governors Association was also quick to condemn Pritzker. In a statement provided to the Washington Examiner, spokesman John Burke said after only a few months in office, Pritzker "has already proven to the people of Illinois that he is completely unworthy of their trust."
"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," Burke said.