‘Fair tax’ supporter indicted for tax evasion
Four long-time Illinois General Assembly members who pushed through the “fair tax” referendum have been charged with crimes. A fifth faces a bribery investigation.
State Sen. Terry Link, D-Indian Creek, was indicted Aug. 13 on tax evasion charges accusing him of filing false income taxes in 2016. He appears to be prepared to plead guilty, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Last fall, Link was identified as the state senator who wore a wire for the FBI and captured former state Rep. Luis Arroyo offering him a bribe. It was believed Link agreed to wear the wire in exchange for a lighter sentence on his own pending charges.
Link until Aug. 13 served on the Legislative Ethics Commission, which the former legislative inspector general said blocked her from pursuing wrongdoing by lawmakers. Link resigned from the commission after he was charged.
Arroyo and Link met at a Highland Park restaurant last August where the two discussed support for Arroyo’s gambling legislation, according to a Chicago Tribune report. They then went outside and Arroyo offered Link a bribe. Link was wearing a wire for the FBI.
“I’m going to give you this here. This is, this is, this is the jackpot,” Arroyo said as he handed Link a bribe of $2,500, with a promise for monthly payments of the same amount.
“Let’s be clear, my word is my bond and my, my reputation,” Arroyo said.
The federal complaint did not identify Link as the FBI’s informant, stating a bribe was made to “cooperating witness one” who was an Illinois state senator. Link repeatedly denied being the federal witness.
State lawmakers have resisted calls to reform oversight of their chambers, including allowing their watchdog to gain some teeth. Former Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter testified lawmakers restricted her ability to conduct oversight.
“Although I completed dozens of investigations without incident, in some significant matters, when I did find wrongdoing and sought to publish it, state legislators charged with serving on the Legislative Ethics Commission blocked me,” she testified at a hearing of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform.
Link was a key supporter of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment, which Pritzker calls the “fair tax.” In April 2019, Chicago Magazine remarked that Link, as assistant majority leader in the Illinois Senate, would be responsible for “whipping votes to place the progressive income tax on next year’s ballot.” The Senate passed the amendment the following month.
He is the fourth General Assembly member who supported the tax to be charged with a crime.
In addition to Link and Arroyo, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty in January to taking $250,000 in bribes from SafeSpeed, a red-light camera vendor, as well as filing a false tax return.
Sandoval was a vocal proponent of Pritzker’s “fair tax.”
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, was also indicted a year ago on 41 counts of embezzlement, conspiracy and making a false statement. He also supported the amendment.
House Speaker Michael Madigan brings the list of progressive tax supports who have been implicated in criminal cases to five. He was implicated on July 17 in bribery charges filed against Commonwealth Edison. ComEd admitted it directed $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates in exchange for support on key legislation to benefit the energy company. Madigan was also allowed to name people to jobs at ComEd, a prosecution agreement stated. The FBI served Madigan with a grand jury subpoena in search of documents about his relationship with several companies and individuals, including whether he helped the individuals or a family member get a job.
Madigan has denied wrongdoing and is resisting calls for him to resign.
Pritzker’s “fair tax” would only provide $6 in relief to Illinois’ low-income residents, yet take $3.7 billion out of the Illinois economy as it increases taxes up to 47% on 100,000 small businesses – the most fertile source of Illinois jobs. Pritzker, himself facing a federal probe for a $331,000 property tax dodge, put $56.5 million of his own into the “fair tax” campaign to convince voters Nov. 3 to trust state lawmakers with greater power to decide who should be taxed.
With so much corruption in Illinois politics, can voters really trust there is a need for more of their taxes or that lawmakers will fairly use greater taxing powers?