Martwick profits from property taxes, complains about lawmaker pay

Martwick profits from property taxes, complains about lawmaker pay

When it comes to touting oneself as a defender of the middle class, actions speak louder than words.

After state Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, lamented the lack of timely lawmaker pay Aug. 5, hundreds of comments poured in scolding him for a lack of awareness.

Many Illinois families are struggling in a sputtering state economy; it’s unsurprising they have little sympathy for state lawmakers who direct attention to the personal concerns of politicians.

But Martwick took to Facebook Aug. 10 to double down on his complaint.

“Now, all decisions that affect middle class and poor communities are made by wealthy people who most likely do not deal with the same daily struggles as the people who their decisions are affecting,” Martwick wrote.

“That is nothing less than a corruption of our democracy.”

A curious statement, given Martwick’s career is a master class in political impropriety and cronyism.

Born into a cloutheavy family, he profits from a Cook County property-tax game where political connections are priced at a premium, while actively fighting against policies that would offer much-needed help to Illinois’ middle class.

Martwick and his father, Robert Martwick Sr., are part of the cadre of politically connected property-tax law firms in Cook County that make money by lowering property-tax bills for corporate clients. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke also run lucrative property-tax law firms in Cook County.

And just like Madigan, Martwick claims to be a defender of middle-class Illinoisans while failing to take action on one of the most pressing issues those families face: the highest property taxes in the nation.

In fact, he was one of 31 state representatives to vote against a property-tax freeze in April.

And just like Madigan, Martwick maintains an ethically dubious business relationship with Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios.

Martwick’s law firm lobbies Berrios’ office to lower property valuations. Berrios, in turn, has hired Martwick as a political consultant. Berrios also depends on lawmakers such as Martwick and Madigan for success in his side gig as a Springfield lobbyist.

As a 2010 New York Times investigation revealed, lawyers at Martwick’s law firm were the top political donors to Berrios and his daughter, now-former state Rep. Maria Antonia Berrios, over a 10-year period, contributing more than $164,000 to their campaigns.

Still, Martwick has the nerve to cry “corruption” when his colleagues aren’t paid at a faster clip than state vendors, who struggle with untimely payments due to Illinois’ $7.5 billion bill backlog.

Beyond his work as a property-tax lawyer, Martwick betrays his rhetoric regarding the middle class in other, subtler ways.

Notably, Martwick’s complaint about lawmaker pay delays began with a defense of state Rep. Jaime Andrade, D-Chicago, who has taken to supplementing his income by driving for Uber.

“Kudos to Jaime for being willing to do whatever it takes to stay true to the people he represents,” Martwick wrote.

But Martwick fought for legislation that may have prevented Andrade and many more Chicagoans from working for Uber in the first place. Martwick voted for a 2014 bill that would have severely restricted ridesharing in Chicago, to the benefit of traditional taxi companies.

It took a veto from former Gov. Pat Quinn to kill that measure.

As a state politician, it’s easy to say you’re fighting for the middle class. But actually doing so requires taking action to alleviate mass middle-class suffering in Illinois.

Martwick prefers business as usual.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!