Fake news is the source of right-wing disinformation about taxing the rich and the graduated income tax amendment.

I’ve been spending some of my time recently sending out emails and making phone calls to retirees around the state in support of the ballot measure changing Illinois’ flat tax to a graduated income tax.

I’m hearing a lot of support for the amendment. But I’m also hearing those who have only heard that the amendment will lead to taxing retirement income.

Which is total nonsense.

Still, I got an email response this morning: “No! It will lead to taxation of our pensions! Do not trust Illinois politicians!”

To be clear. I don’t trust Illinois politicians. And if there were a ballot measure to not trust Illinois politicians I would be all in.

But where do my retiree friends get this stuff about the amendment leading to taxing our pensions? Taxing retirement income is something Illinois politicians could do right now if they wanted. It would be political suicide. But they could do it even without a constitutional amendment.

The source of so much disinformation about the Fair Tax amendment and other political issues is the network of phony right-wing news outlets, most serving small towns and downstate communities. This fake news network is exposed in an investigative story in The New York Times today.

The network is largely overseen by Brian Timpone, a TV reporter turned internet entrepreneur who has sought to capitalize on the decline of local news organizations for nearly two decades. He has built the network with the help of several others, including a Texas brand-management consultant and a conservative Chicago radio personality

The Chicago radio personality is Dan Proft. Proft’s fake news outlets were profiled in a Chicago Tribune article in 2018.

Recently obtained documents and interviews show that an organization called Think Freely Media helped fund the operation that produced the article for the East Central Reporter’s website. As a nonprofit, Think Freely is forbidden by federal law from engaging in politics, and it has described the articles it funded as news.

But State Board of Elections records also show a political committee, Liberty Principles, paid the same private company to publish the story in a print newspaper and mail it. That group, which state law says must spend its money on politicking, has labeled such content political ads.

What these organizations have in common is one of the state’s most visible and controversial political figures, Dan Proft. Though Proft is known for backing conservative candidates for office through Liberty Principles, recent tax, business and campaign filings illuminate how other organizations with ties to Proft helped spread his political views through publications that showcase candidates he supports.

The New York Times investigation reveals that our old friend John Tillman from the Illinois Policy Institute also has connections to Timpone.

John Tillman, an activist who once led the Illinois Opportunity Project and whose other groups have paid Mr. Timpone’s companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, said in an email that some of the payments to Mr. Timpone were to underwrite his news operation. Mr. Timpone, he said, allows “community leaders and influencers” to “pitch (not ‘order’) story ideas.”

This web of right-ring influencers and the rise of fake news disinformation outlets is not surprising as real newspapers and real reporters have become more scarce.

It is one more reason why I make the phone calls and send out the emails to my list of retirees. I still believe that personal contact by those of us with facts can win against even these billionaire-backed phonies.

5 thoughts on “Fake news is the source of right-wing disinformation about taxing the rich and the graduated income tax amendment.

  1. Just because nobody discusses or even seems aware of this part of the constitutional amendment proposition I thought I would bring it up on this forum. I have asked high and low for a reason part of the current law was proposed for elimination. I found this originally from the Chicago tribune.” Opponents also take issue with the amendment’s removal of language which states “there may be no more than one such tax imposed by the State for State purposes on individuals and one such tax so imposed on corporations,” claiming the removal of the language allows for tax bills such as “education surcharges” or other such fees on top of the regular income tax.
    Those in favor of the bill, however, say the prohibition on levying multiple income taxes was simply a companion to the requirement for a single flat tax rate. The framers’ inclusion of the language, proponents say, was aimed at stopping lawmakers from creating a multi-tiered tax structure through a series of limited flat taxes on different levels of income. Allowing for a graduated tax renders the language moot, they argue. ”
    Only mention in any media about this. Perhaps some of you readers can tell us why?

  2. Hi Fred,

    I have been a political activist for a long time—one of my good friends is Joni Lindgren. I’ve been getting your blogs for years and I am grateful for all you do.

    I already voted for the Fair Tax and encouraged everyone I know to do the same. Your blogs helped me with the information needed to tell them. Thanks for that.

    But I have a question. One of the people I was encouraging to vote Yes for the Fair Tax, and who said she voted yes but was still concerned about it, said that J.B. Pritzker gave $51 million to the Fair Tax initiative. My question—is that true? If so, why would Pritzker do that? And if not, have you heard of this? And if so, who could be spreading these lies?

    Thanks Again, Pam Verner


    1. Thanks Pam,
      Governor Pritzker ran for governor promising he would support a graduated income tax. He has indeed contributed $50 million to the campaign.
      To me it makes perfect sense and is not a surprise.
      Pritzker is a Democrat and a billionaire. There are a few – if not many – of these around.
      He has the money as his self-funded campaign for governor is evidence. And $50 million for him is chump change.
      He is not being entirely altruistic. He believes that the state’s economic growth, including his own and those of his class comrades, is currently constrained by the state’s inadequate revenue supply and debt. A flat tax is a drag on business as well as workers and retirees.
      Billionaire hedge fund managers like Ken Griffin are not as dependent on Illinois’ economic growth and are more interested in their personal tax bill, even if he still has plenty afterwards. Pritzker is a capitalist with a broader view.
      Hope this helps.

  3. JB ran on a Millionaire’ s Tax . Now it starts at $250k and does not solve the problem.

    Facts –

    Vote NO – this is not the solution

    1. You are factually wrong. Pritzker ran on a promise to support a graduated income tax on the ballot. The so-called “Millionaire’s Tax” was Madigan’s idea to avoid having to deal with a constitutional change. There are a number of things that need to be done. Taxing the richest 3% is one.

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