Kessem raises concerns about offshore holdings amid questions surrounding Pritzker
Ammie Kessem thinks Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker has some explaining to do.
Kessem recently posted on Facebook that “[e]very citizen should be extremely concerned about the fact that so many of the 'Ruling class' (Billionaires turned politicians) participate in financial practices that leave their loyalty to the U.S. in question.”
She added a quote from Washington, D.C., lawyer and money laundering and offshore tax expert Jack Blum to the Chicago Tribune, which said: “Illinois is bankrupt-plus. You have a hell of a problem. And the question you have to put is: You may want to come in with a platform of raising taxes, but why don’t you begin with telling us how you’ve escaped taxation by being offshore? How are you separating yourself from the common man here?”
Pritzker, who is set to face off against Gov. Bruce Rauner in November’s general election, has been in the hot seat about his billionaire family’s offshore bank holdings, which many view as a coordinated effort to avoid paying taxes on the largess.
The trusts were set up nearly six decades ago by Pritzker’s grandfather, with the money earmarked for his charitable foundation, according to the Tribune. More recently, Pritzker told reporters he had received no distributions from the trusts, which he added are now only providing charitable contributions.
But a Tribune investigation found that several offshore shell companies have been created since the death of the elder Pritzker and “are either wholly owned by J.B. Pritzker, his brother and business partner Anthony Pritzker, or list other close associates as controlling executives.”
Pritzker’s offshore Moreau Capital Holdings Ltd. is now planning to purchase city-owned land along the Chicago River to launch duck boat tours downtown, according to the Tribune. Records indicate Pritzker is the sole owner of Moreau Capital Holdings, which was created in Nassau, Bahamas, in January 2011.
On the campaign front, Pritzker, whose personal wealth has been pegged by Forbes and Bloomberg as being approximately $3.5 billion, has been pushing the idea of a temporary increase to the flat tax while lawmakers work toward a change in the state Constitution that would pave the way for a graduated income tax.
Pritzker, who bested rivals Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss in the Democratic primary after the Tribune reported he pumped at least $63 million of his own money into the primary, said his plan would also boost credits and deductions, though he shied away from detailing what he thinks the final, increased tax rate would look like.
During the heat of the campaign, Pritzker also added his graduated tax idea would make tax rates synonymous with income levels. Ultimately, the issue would be placed on the ballot for voters to consider as early as 2020.
When word began to spread that Rauner, too, has his own line of investments in offshore funds and has been equally scant in offering details about them, Biss took to calling the pair of billionaire candidates “two sides of the same shiny gold coin.”
Through it all, Kessem, who is running against Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) in the 19th District, has kept her focus on what she sees as the welfare of the people of her community.
"It's property taxes, income taxes, gas taxes and other incidental taxes like water and sewer,” she recently told North Cook News of the issues that the people of her district consider to be their most pressing. “Taxes are too high and are only going up. People are fleeing this state for relief in other states.”
A recent analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute of newly released census numbers points to that same conclusion.
Researchers found from July 2016 to July 2017, nearly 115,000 residents left Illinois for other states; and over the past seven years, that number is almost 643,000, with the state's decline in population coming at the same time neighboring states are experiencing population growth.
“We should be giving tax incentives to businesses looking to move to our state as well as current businesses so that they do not leave and so they can hire more employees,” Kessem said. “We also need to rein in the upper administration in our education system and end these enormous pension payouts.”