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Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s self-enriching property tax scheme came to light this year when the Chicago Tribune reported on their investigation of corruption in Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios’ office – findings that were later confirmed by independent studies from the Civic Consulting Alliance and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.
Madigan, a property tax appeals attorney on the side, has made millions off of decisions from Berrios’ office that lower the assessed value of his clients’ properties.
Check out Reuters’ coverage:
As Illinois House speaker for more than three decades, Michael Madigan has often worked to raise people’s taxes. As a private attorney, he works to lower them.
… Between 2004 and 2015, the speaker’s firm won $63.3 million in refunds for clients, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the Cook County treasurer’s office. In 2015, Madigan’s practice ranked second among law firms in total property tax refunds, the county data shows.
Madigan’s chief political rival, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, has said Madigan’s law firm poses a conflict of interest for the speaker. Rauner alleged the conflict as legislation he supported to freeze property taxes stalled in the House, which Madigan and his Democratic majority controlled.
… Little is known about Madigan’s personal wealth. In 2014, after seeking to impose a 3 percent tax on Illinois’ millionaires, Madigan refused to release his income-tax returns to show if his plan would personally impact him. In a news conference, he offered only that he made at least $1 million “in a good year.”
Decisions on the property values used to calculate taxes are made by the Cook County assessor, Joseph Berrios. Property owners can appeal to Berrios’ office about his assessments or to separate boards with the county and the state. Businesses and homeowners often hire law firms to make their cases for tax reductions with those entities.
A former state representative, Berrios is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, a post he assumed with help from Madigan, who is a voting member of the county Democratic organization.
Berrios is also an investor in a lobbying firm with clients that have business before the legislature in Springfield. Berrios’ daughter, a former member of Madigan’s House Democratic caucus, is a registered state lobbyist.
With voters ousting Berrios on March 20th, Madigan’s grip on a network of power – that includes seven-figure earnings from his side job at his tax reassessment law firm – is in jeopardy unless his handpicked candidate, JB Pritzker, is elected in November. Pritzker has personally benefited from property tax reassessments from Berrios’ office.