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STATEHOUSE REEDER: Can't put the toothpaste back into tube

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was thinking about that quote this past week.

I couldn’t help but contemplate why a man would spend $150 million of his own money to run for governor, but then engage in a scheme to short the taxpayers of Cook County out of $300,000 by having the toilets removed from one of his mansions?

It doesn’t make much sense. 

But J.B. Pritzker did it and he got whacked on the knuckles by the Cook County inspector general last week. And the feds may be nosing around.

If J.B. isn’t careful, the only toilet he will have to worry about is one he’d share with a fellow named Bruno in a 6-foot by 8-foot cell. 

The inspector general’s report concluded an assessed valuation of a mansion owned by Pritzker was reduced from $6.25 million to just under $1.1 million because the residence was “vacant and uninhabitable” with no working toilets.

The toilets had been removed from the mansion 10 days before the tax assessor came to look things over. 

Think this is a dumb thing to get in trouble for? Well, former U.S. Rep. Daniel Rostenkowski went to prison for stealing stamps from the House post office. Oh, and former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock is in hot water with the Feds for allegedly taking tax dollars and campaign funds to decorate his campaign office with pheasant feathers and a coat of red paint. 

Yeah, Illinois politicians have gone to prison for dumber things. 

Now, J.B. has announced he is in the process of giving the $300,000 he saved on property taxes back to Cook County.

Sorry, J.B., life doesn’t work like that.

We ordinary folks couldn’t burglarize a house, get caught two years later and expect there not to be any consequences if we just returned what we stole. 

And I’m sure Rostenkowski would have paid the post office back for the $55,000 in stamps he swiped to avoid going to prison. And, Schock, well who knows what he’d be willing to do to get the Feds off his tail. 

But you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

J.B. Pritzker is worth $3.4 billion. To put that in perspective, if all his wealth were put in one-dollar bills and stacked it would tower 20.2 miles above the earth. On the other hand, if the amount Pritzker didn’t pay in taxes were stacked, it would be 107 feet high. 

So, for most of us, $300,000 is a fortune. But for J.B. Pritzker $300,000 is, well, a dribble in the bowl. 

SCOTT REEDER is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and can be reached at: scottreeder1965@gmail.com.

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