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PostChicago Alderman Ed Burke Corruption Scandal (David Duggan, USA, 01/08/19 4:30 am)
As world-wide Chicago Bears fans are suffering from PFGD (post-field-goal-doink syndrome) following their last-second loss to the [Philadelphia] Iggles Sunday evening, they have to worry about Alderman Ed Burke's legal troubles, facing as he is a federal criminal complaint charging attempted extortion of a black-owned Burger King franchise.
He has not yet been indicted, the "criminal complaint" (No. 19 CR 001--it's nice to get the first charge of the new year), being supported by an affidavit from an FBI agent and endorsed by a US Magistrate (and former Assistant US Attorney). Still, he is under restricted movement, having forfeited his passport, and the 23 guns found in his office, limited to traveling only to his Powers Lake, Wisconsin retreat (the destination of choice of Chicago's Irish political mafia who don't make the trip around the horn to the Irish Riviera at the Indiana-Michigan line on the other side of Lake Michigan). As I noted to one of my neighbors, what took them so long?
As our editor noted, Burke is Chicago's longest-serving alderman, one of 50 members of the bloated City Council, but more importantly, with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, he is the head of the Illinois Democratic Party, which has the Prairie State in a death-spiral due to high taxes, lousy services rendered by over-paid "public servants" who get "non-diminishable" pensions when they've shown up for 20 years, and rampant corruption. Since the 2010 census, Illinois is the only state in the union which has suffered from a net-out-flow of population, as anybody with a brain has closed shop and moved to more tax-friendly states. First receiving notoriety in the mid-1980s with fellow South-Side ethnic alderman Ed Vrdolyak (that's not a misspelling) for co-leading the 29 (mostly white) aldermen who opposed then Mayor Harold Washington's reforms, Burke has had a City-provided security detail for some 33 years because he claimed that he had received death threats during this impasse known locally as "Council Wars." As a former cop who took over his father's aldermanic seat when his father died, Burke retained his powers of arrest as an alderman, a feature that so far as I can tell is unique among legislators in the United States. Not content with their "public servant" salaries, both Burke and Madigan have had active property-tax reduction practices, as strapped property owners hire politically connected lawyers to lower their property taxes in exchange for a third or a half of the first year's reduction. This fee-income is then recycled into judicial elections where, can you imagine it, the Hon. Anne Burke sits on the elected Illinois Supreme Court. Anne (nee McGlone) is Ed's long-time, but not quite as pickled, wife. Since Julius Caesar and Calpurnia (daughter of a Roman consul), I cannot imagine a more potent "power couple."
I have met Ed Burke a couple of times, about 20 years ago, when his wife performed the marriage of the daughter of a close friend at a venue at Lincoln Park Zoo, a couple of miles from my home. This was before Anne was on the Supreme Court (she was on the state's intermediate Appellate Court), and I was sharing office space with a woman who had run for the IL Supreme Court as a "Hyde Park liberal" some five years earlier. It didn't work out for my suite-mate, and I recalled this race to Ed: he claimed he had nothing to do with her defeat. The second time was at a forum on 19th Century Chicago politics (Burke fashions himself a historian), and in light of then Pres. Slick Willy's indiscretions, I commented that Pres. Grover Cleveland had to address allegations that he had fathered a child out-of-wedlock. "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? Gone to the White House, ha ha ha." Burke claimed that after Cleveland was elected, the chants subsided, unlike the steady drone of sexual-indiscretion-allegations against the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In her own right, Justice Anne Burke has had an interesting sideline as a celebrity Roman Catholic, sitting on various commissions designed to look into sexual abuse by priests and recommend changes in procedures. A recent report by, can you believe it, the daughter of Speaker Madigan--in her role as Illinois' Attorney General--says that the Church had withheld the names of more than 500 priests accused of sexual abuse in Illinois.
The criminal information, linked below, describes the "Chicago way," of hiring Burke to do tax work, then get the favors and benefits of greased skids at City Hall where permits can be held up for months. Burke also represented Donald Trump in getting a tax reduction for his garish Trump Tower along the Chicago River. When that representation became public, Burke quickly withdrew from representing The Donald. At a church dinner last night I spoke to a long-time Burke protege who had worked for Burke's City Council finance committee and been a Cook County judge for a time. This friend said that he'd never seen Burke look so dejected, as might be expected of someone facing the odds-on chance of spending the rest of his time on this planet bending over in a federal penitentiary. That this arrest has occurred during the impending mayoral election adds some comic relief to Burke's problems. Since he has sponsored the political careers of at least three of the leading mayoral candidates (out of 21), the others are clamoring for them to withdraw or distance themselves or at least return the money he has given them for their campaigns past and present. I'm sure Ed can use that returned money for his legal expenses: he's hired former US Attorney Anton Valukas, and former Assistant US Attorney Chuck Sklarsky at the prestigious Jenner & Block firm to represent him.
But regardless of what happens to Burke's legal situation, Chicagoans will be licking their metaphorical wounds for months after their Bears missed an opportunity to advance in the NFL playoffs. With more murders in Chicago than both Los Angeles and NYC combined in 2018 (no wonder Ed had all those weapons), the Blackhawks and Bulls sitting in their respective outhouses, and mournful rainy gray skies more typical of northwestern Europe than mid-winter Chicago, it's going to be a long time before joy returns. The Cubs don't open at Wrigley until April 8, three months away.
JE comments: Nobody does sports and politics better than David Duggan. Here we get a twofer--as well as a masterful blending of the tragic with the comic. I'm grateful to David, and to Gary Moore for posing the question.
See below for the sordid details on the Burke affair. Surprisingly (or not?), he is still running for re-election in February.