Another case showcasing corruption of Chicago public officials unfolded this Thursday. Currently the most powerful and longest-serving Chicago Alderman, Edward Burke, was charged with extortion. If convicted, he could be facing a jail time of up to 20 years. This is still a developing story, so here is our brief overview of what’s been happening.
Among high-profile clients of the firm are Bank of America, Commonwealth Edison, Northwestern Hospital, Walgreens and Walsh Construction. And that’s not all of them.
What’s Burke’s connection to President Trump?
Donald Trump was one of his most high-profile clients. During the investigation in 2016 it was found that Burke’s law firm saved President Trump $14 million after appealing property tax bills over seven years. Klafter and Burke stopped representing Trump in 2018.
There is an opinion that ties to Trump helped Burke to fuel the defeat of his brother, state Rep. Dan Burke, in the 2018 Democratic Primary.
Is this the first time Burke’s being investigated?
No. In August of 2012, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for records from the Committee on Finance, worth of six years involving the Workers Compensation Program. Among the subpoenaed records there were injury records, medical assessments, and information on the city workers who run the program.
“This is a scam that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars,” commented UIC political science professor Dick Simpson, while referring to the Workers Compensation Program at that time.
Following the issued subpoenas, Ald. Burke has denied any wrongdoing and collaborated with the investigators. No charges were brought against him.
What Burke is being charged with now?
The case that’s brought up this Thursday relates to Burke’s interaction with a fast food restaurant chain looking to renovate one of their Chicago locations based in the 14th ward. Although the restaurant chain isn’t publicly named in the complaint, according to the media sources it’s most likely Burger King at 4060 S. Pulaski Road.
Several of Burke’s quotes have been included in the criminal case against him. It is alleged he didn’t know the two out-of-state business owners very well, so several of his phone conversations were related to him strategizing with his stuff as to how steer their business. In one of the conversations, Burke complains that he “took them to launch” and “was playing nice with ‘em – never got back.”
“All right, I’ll play hard ball as I can,” the staffer replied, according to the complaint.
“Hard ball” involved a stop-work order placed on the project, as well as sending an inspector from the city’s Dept. of Transportation to issue tickets for failure to procure a permit for a driveway at the restaurant. According to the owners, that permit was actually previously obtained.
In October 2017, an architect from the Dhanani Group that was in charge of the project sent an email to the Department of Buildings and complained about harassment. Later that month, a field rep for the company sent an internal email citing, “These guys are very powerful and they can make life very difficult for all of our Chicago stores.”
According to the complaint, in one of his conversations with the company’s executives Burke openly stated that he “can expedite the permits” on the condition he gets business for his law firm first.
What is the criminal complaint alleging?
According to the federal complaint released Thursday, Burke is charged with extortion and using his public office position to steer business for his private law firm. If convicted, Burke may face up to 20 years in prison.
Not all of the complaint has been unsealed as of yet, and the government may add more charges later.