If you had the right connections, you could just get your property taxes erased from the books.
That shouldn't come as a surprise, but every time we hear straight from the horses' mouths how the Chicago Way works it still grates. Today a former county treasurer offers a sneak preview of his forthcoming political memoir by telling in a New York Times column how he played the game.
"If you had connections or could be useful to [county treasurer Ed] Rosewell, a close confidant to Mayor Richard J. Daley (the father of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley), you could count on me to, say, simply erase the taxes on your property, even going back several years," writes Gary Goehl. "Another service I rendered to the banking community was to dump million-dollar chunks of county money in 'operating accounts' - the kind that paid no interest. In an era of stagflation, when interest rates were well into double digits, every million-dollar account I opened amounted to tens of thousands in annual profits for the lucky banker. As an expression of abiding gratitude, these bankers gave me cash donations for Rosewell, and basically carte blanche to write myself the interest-free loans that eventually led to my downfall."
Goehl ended up doing 18 months in the federal pen. Not much has changed since he got out.
"One deeply appreciative steward of the public purse was a banker from suburban Chicago with strong ties to organized crime and friends in high places in the state capital, Springfield," he recalls. "It came as a little bit of a jolt, given my lowly station in Chicago’s municipal pecking order, when he told me that he was considering having the governor name me state insurance director. That I knew nothing about the insurance industry was not a handicap in his eyes; he would effectively run the department himself."
After all, the fellow had paid $50,000 to control the appointment.
"All these years later enough of them have gone to their reward to make me a little less queasy about telling their stories," Goehl writes. "But evidently one thing hasn’t changed: Political office still carries a price tag in the great state of Illinois."