Chicago Magazine features a hard-hitting piece on Democratic candidate for Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who's also Cook County Democratic Party chairman. An excerpt:
... His campaign coffers reflect hefty contributions from the attorneys who appear before him, presenting more potential conflicts of interest. For example, the Chicago News Cooperative reported in The New York Times that the law firm Crane & Norcross donated more than $143,000 to Berrios over the past decade, and between 2006 and 2008 alone, the firm’s clients received $467.6 million in assessment reductions—second only to Madigan’s law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, which won the largest total of reductions in that time, $490.4 million.
Overall, the generosity of the property tax bar raises questions about whether the county’s campaign donation limits are being ignored. (See “The Friendly Bar”) And the lawyers contribute in other ways, too: When Berrios is on the ballot, for example, it’s not uncommon to find property tax attorneys standing outside polling places passing out campaign pamphlets on his behalf, even in the frigid winter primary season. “It seems to be a clear conflict of interest to accept campaign contributions and other political assistance from lawyers with such obvious financial stakes in government decision making,” says Andy Shaw, the executive director of the Better Government Association (BGA).
The Cook County state’s attorney is investigating a possible influence-peddling case involving tax appeals that has been linked to Berrios’s office. The case centers on allegations that Paul Froehlich, a Democratic state representative from Schaumburg, worked through close associates of Berrios to win tax reductions for constituents in return for campaign donations. (See “Curious Deals”)