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Patlak campaign receives thousands from lawyers who appear before his board
In the race for the Cook County Board of Review, challenger Marty Stack is calling for a moratorium on all campaign and election donations from tax law firms whose lawyers appear before the county’s tax review board, and is criticizing incumbent Dan Patlak for accepting thousands in campaign donations from law firms that appear before the board through his campaign election fund
Originally published in the DVN, The Regional, The Reporter Nov. 3, 2016
By Ray Hanania
It won’t be easy, though. Stack is the underdog in the race for the Cook County Board of Review, which is supposed to help taxpayers appeal their property taxes if those taxes are higher than the average tax on the same homes in your community.
The innocuously named Board of Review doesn’t really help taxpayers at all, but does seem to help tax lawyers make easy profits, and board members loads of campaign donations.
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The system is confusing for many taxpayers, especially seniors. The forms are confusing. The deadlines are confusing. Even if you manage to fill out everything and provide all the legal documents, chances are the board will reject it.
But – and this is a big, wealthy, fat check of a “but” – if a taxpayer “hires” a tax appeals law firm to complete the forms, your chances of getting your appeal approved increases.
Who are these tax law firms? You could go online and spend months researching their names. Or, you could go to Patlak’s campaign forms at the Illinois State Board of Elections, www.Elections.IL.Gov, which reads like a Yellow Pages listing of tax appeal lawyers.
Tax firms have made huge contributions to Patlak, boosting his campaign fund to nearly $550,000. Patlak has received $121,000 since July 1 from only 138 contributors. Wow! He’s received $12,500 from PACs like the Tea Party Liberty PAC, which Patlak’s pal, activist Jean Lotus, seems to question.
Lotus, a schools activist, wrote a 3-page, pro-Patlak fluff-piece profile that attacks Stack in a local political newsletter. Attacking me, too, Lotus asserted Stack “overloaded” public property with his blue and white campaign signs, but fails to note that Patlak’s yellow campaign signs crowd public locations, too.
Not surprisingly in the same issue, the publication ran 23 full pages of fine-print and costly property foreclosure Legal Notices, paid advertising, from, you guessed it, Cook County.
Why do tax lawyers give so much to Cook County officials? The system is skewered in their favor, not the favor of taxpayers.
Tax appeals lawyers keep 50 percent of the “savings” they achieve. So, let’s say they appeal your taxes before Patlak’s board, who they’ve given big fat donation checks, and the appeal is approved. Let’s say the tax saved is $2,000.
You have to pay the attorney half, or $1,000 right away, but that savings comes off of your bill until the next tax assessment year.
Worse, the “reduction” is not always permanent. After a few years, it’s erased and you’re forced to go back to the tax lawyer to do it again.
All they do is hand in a few completed forms through a complex system to an elected official they seem to know real well. Why else would a tax firm lawyer give a tax board member a $5,000 donation?
Marty Stack wants to prevent tax appeals lawyers from donating to the Board of Review to eliminate this troubling concern.
Marty Stack wants to simplify the Board of Review’s confusing system so you won’t need a lawyer. Because, now you do.
Marty Stack wants you to fill out one form, anytime (no deadlines), and compare your property online to other properties exactly like yours in your community to see if your taxes are higher than the average.
You can’t do that now, of course. If you could, the lawyers and attorneys would be out of jobs. And if they are out of jobs, they might not donate to the Board of Review.
Banning contributions from lawyers and law firms who appear before the Board of Review is essential to a fair system.
Making it easier for you to challenge your property taxes based on facts, rather than cronyism and connections, is essential, too.
The only way you can do that is to put someone on the board who cares more about you, the taxpayers, than they do about Dan Patlak. That’s Marty Stack.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Email him at email@example.com.)
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