Indicted Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) – deemed “thoroughly corrupt” by federal prosecutors – will not run for a 15th term representing parts of Chicago’s Southwest Side, ending an era of Chicago politics that has lingered for more of half a century.
Burke, 78, faces trial in November 2023 on racketeering, bribery and extortion charges centered on a charge that he repeatedly – and brazenly – used his position of power at city hall to coerce those who do business with the city to hire his private law firm by the Department of Justice. Racketeering charges – usually leveled against members of the Mafia or street gangs – support a pattern of corruption unknown to its victims.
Burke, who pleaded not guilty, saw his case stall due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive amount of evidence amassed by federal investigators against the powerful politician, who once ran Chicago City Hall with an iron fist.
Burke was the subject of the “longest wiretap in the United States ending in 2018,” according to prosecutors. In all, according to court documents, investigators intercepted 9,101 calls Burke made or answered during the investigation.
Burke’s palatial City Hall offices were raided on November 29, 2018, exactly four years and one day ago, the first public indication that the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois had the most long-lived Chicago chairman and City Council Finance Committee in the crosshairs.
In January 2019, Burke was charged with extortion, as prosecutors said he attempted to direct real estate tax work to his law firm by withholding renovation permits and an access permit for a Burger King in his Southwest ward. Side.
But that criminal charge — though it cost Burke his position as finance committee chairman — didn’t stop him from winning a 14th term on the Chicago city council with 54 percent of the vote.
Three months later — after corruption charges completely shuffled Chicago politics, helping a little-known Lori Lightfoot win the mayoral race — federal prosecutors hit Burke in a 14-count indictment, outlining a plan to “land the tuna” by forcing the company that was redeveloping the old post office to hire its private law firm in exchange for an $18 million subsidy and a $100 million tax break.
The former Ald. Danny Solis (25th Ward) is expected to testify against Burke. Solis entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors that will likely mean he will avoid jail time and keep his city pension despite Solis’s admission that he accepted bribes while he was chairman of the city council’s zoning committee.
The indictment also alleges that Burke threatened to derail a proposed $2 per person increase in admissions fees requested by the Field Museum in September 2017 because he would not hire a friend’s daughter as an intern.
Charged alongside Burke were his longtime aide Peter J. Andrews and Portage Park businessman Charles Cui. Andrews and Cui also pleaded not guilty.
Burke ignored repeated calls by Lightfoot to resign, even after federal prosecutors revealed he had been recorded making anti-Semitic statements.
The 14th Ward, which includes Gage Park, Archer Heights, Chicago Lawn, West Elsdon and parts of Brighton Park, was significantly redesigned by Burke City Council colleagues after the 2020 census results.
This meant that a bid by Burke for a fifteenth term would be perhaps his most difficult, with much of his electoral base shifted to adjacent wards. The ward is now more than 88% Latino.
Jeylu Gutierrez, assistant to Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, is running to replace Burke with the support of U.S. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García, also running for mayor. Also in the running is Raul Reyes, who has ties to Burke’s political operation and works for the city clerk’s office.
Burke has served on the Chicago City Council since March 14, 1969, after winning a special election called to fill the 14th Ward seat vacated following the death of his father, Joseph Burke, in May 1968. Burke, just 24 years old , was the youngest person ever elected to the City Council.
When former Mayor Harold Washington was elected in 1983, Burke led a blockade of white aldermen who thwarted the initiatives of the city’s first black mayor at every turn.
As a city council member, Burke crusaded against cigarettes and tobacco, which he blamed on his father’s death from cancer.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, married to Ald. Burke will retire from the state’s highest court on Wednesday, ending a judicial career that included 16 years on the state’s highest court.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]