Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner launched a feisty new attack on Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker Tuesday in an escalating battle of the billionaires.
Both Rauner and Pritzker are considered billionaires. Although Rauner is said to be worth just under $1 billion, Pritzker, as a member of the Hyatt Hotel chain family, has an estimated $3.6 billion worth.
Based on tax information Pritzker released last week, Rauner attacked his potential opponent with the claim that he is hiding much of his income in offshore accounts to avoid taxes.
Pritzker’s highly-anticipated release revealed that he made $15 million in 2016. Democratic challenger state Sen. Daniel Biss was the first to question whether that figure was accurate, with spokesman Tom Elliott saying that Pritzker "hasn’t disclosed his income from his private trusts, or even their names, so we have no idea how much he’s making and who’s paying him."
On Tuesday, Rauner told reporters "the candidate Pritzker inherited over 3 billion dollars and he and his family has chosen, chosen on a massive scale to hide hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of their money offshore in accounts."
When pressed about his own financial dealings, Rauner said that while there were reports when he first ran for office of his investments channeled through the Cayman Islands, that was through his business dealings. But as governor, he said, "I don’t even control it, I don’t have a voice in it."
Rauner added, "I moved everything out, so I don’t have conflicts."
The governor also said he does not believe Pritzker is telling the truth when he reported his 2016 income, saying the Democratic candidate "inherits 3 billion dollars, still got 3 billion dollars years later, mostly, and he only reports 16 million dollars of income – how do you do that? You have to be one of the worst investors on the planet."
"How do you do that? By hiding from taxes, and tax avoidance," he reiterated.
In response, Pritzker’s campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement that Rauner’s "accusations are false and he is lying about J.B. Pritzker."
"In addition to releasing his personal tax returns, the total taxes paid by trusts benefitting J.B., charitable contributions made personally and by his foundation, J.B. also filed a detailed Statement of Economic Interest that lists personal investments and assets as well as those held by trusts benefitting him. J.B. and trusts benefitting him have paid a combined $25 million in state taxes and $136 million in federal taxes over the last three years," the statement continued.
"In regard to the offshore question, there are some trusts that were established by J.B.’s family a couple generations ago. J.B. did not set them up, has never received a personal disbursement from them, and he has directed that any disbursements from these trusts be given to charity," Slayen added. "Those are facts, and Bruce Rauner’s attempt to distract from his disastrous campaign can’t change them."
Tuesday marked the second day Rauner attacked Illinois Democrats. On Monday, he blamed longtime House Speaker Mike Madigan for the state’s budget crisis, claiming "I’m not in charge" when asked why he hadn’t fulfilled his campaign promises.
Rauner doubled down on that notion Tuesday, adding that "there’s too much concentration of power in one individual" and that he believes Madigan "will be going somewhere, into retirement."