JB Pritzker has come under intense fire in recent days after a watchdog report by the Cook County Inspector General detailed how the billionaire engaged in a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers by ripping toilets out of his mansion in order to get $330,000 in tax breaks.
Pressed by reporters yesterday, Pritzker squirmed and dodged, refusing to answer even the most basic questions. Capitol Faxcalled the exchange “brutal” for Pritzker. It’s clear – Pritzker has no answer to the charges made by the watchdog report.
Read the transcript below and listen for yourself:
Pritzker: So, let me be clear about this, we followed the rules.
Question: And the rules are to get a break when you can?
Pritzker: We followed the rules.
Question: What are the rules? What are the rules?
Pritzker: I can’t relay them to you, I’m not a real estate lawyer. What I can tell you is…
Question: There are rules that let you take the toilets out of your home?
Pritzker: We’re in the process of that paying that back. But the fact is, the reason we’re paying it, for the last 34 days of this campaign we should be talking about the real issues. The real issues…
Question: But why are you taking so long?
Pritzker: 14 people died. There are people who are seriously, negligence is causing…
Question: You’re deflecting, the question is about your home.
Pritzker: Negligence is causing, negligence is causing the the deaths of our veterans. That is what were here to talk about.
Question: People want to know, who would also love to have a property tax break, what are those rules?
Pritzker: I’m not a real estate lawyer, I couldn’t elaborate.
Question: You said that this is nothing new, that there was nothing new, and yet the inspector general’s report or presentation of the affidavit, the presentation of the inspector, there were things that were new in that, and there were things in there that alleged that your wife wanted the toilets pulled before the inspector.
Question: And you received a proactive tax break.
Pritzker: There were a lot of mistakes in that report, but let me…
Question: What are they?
Pritzker: We are talking today about a criminal probe…
Question: Talking about one for you as well.
Pritzker: Just like…but there isn’t one.
Pritzker: Bruce Rauner is now under investigation, with his administration, there is a criminal probe into that administration to see what it is that caused the deaths of these family members, truly criminal negligence is what seems to be at stake here.
Question: Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx is also reviewing whether or not laws have been broken in your property tax appeal. So there is also…
Question: A criminal investigation.
Pritzker: I’m pointing out there is a criminal probe into the Rauner administration.
Question: Well their office also says there is a review.
Pritzker: You should focus on the fact that people died here, the criminal probe could lead to, like we talked about in the Flint case, there are people who have been charged, there are people who have been, now even, involuntary manslaughter, this is very serious.
Question: Do you wish that you had not asked for that property tax break?
Pritzker: The veterans in Illinois, the veterans in Illinois, their lives are at stake when you have an administration that has ignored them, that has mistreated them, that does not understand how to care for them.
Question: Why does a billionaire need to rip out toilets to save $330,000?
Pritzker: Well, that was not obviously what happened. We renovated the home, renovated the home, I stopped that renovation, we restarted it, we paid the taxes that were assessed on that property.
Question: You took action to make the house look like it wasn’t worth as much, so you could take a cut, correct?
Pritzker: No. No.
Question: Then what was it? Then explain what it was? [crosstalk]
Pritzker: A renovation project.
Campaign: Final question, last question.
Question: Who rips out 5 toilets?
Pritzker: When you’re renovating, and literally gutting, when you’re renovating a home…look, let me remind all of you that this gradual situation that occurred at the Quincy veterans home…
Question: Wait a second, we’re talking about the house, why are you…
Pritzker: Because we’re talking today about the Quincy veterans home and I want to remind you that gradual situation which could have been dealt with all along. Someone should have stood up for those veterans, someone in the Rauner administration. But they didn’t, and people died as a result. That’s the fact, those are the things that happened to the service men and women at the Quincy veterans home that Bruce Rauner should have stood up for and he didn’t and people died. It’s criminal.
Question: You told us last night at the debate that parts of the IG report are not accurate, can you tell us what’s not accurate?
Pritzker: I’ve said all along, I said this last night, that we followed the rules. And I’m telling you now what’s important to recognize is that this was a renovation project that literally didn’t know, and the reason it was halted was because as we said, we didn’t know whether the home would be sold, didn’t know whether the home would be rented out, the project was restarted.
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