CHICAGO (AP) — One of the most powerful City Council members in Chicago history has been charged with attempted extortion for “corruptly soliciting business” for his private law firm, according to a federal complaint unsealed Thursday.
If convicted, Alderman Ed Burke could face up to 20 years in prison. The charge follows November raids of the Democrat’s offices at City Hall and in his Southwest Side ward.
Burke’s law firm represented the high-rise tower that bears President Donald Trump’s name. There’s no indication the case is at all tied to his firm’s work for Trump.
The 75-year-old is one of the last of the old Chicago machine politicians. He’s been on the council for 50 years and has chaired its finance committee for the last three decades.
Burke joins a long list of Chicago lawmakers charged criminally, including ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year prison term for corruption.
Burke said after November raids he was sure agents wouldn’t anything “amiss.”
Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke, specializing in property-tax appeals and its former clients included Trump’s luxury tower in downtown Chicago. The Chicago-Sun Times reported in 2016 that the law firm saved building enterprise $14 million by appealing property tax bills over seven years.
U.S. Rep.-elect Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and other Burke critics in Chicago’s Hispanic community have drawn attention to that tax work in a bid to hurt Burke politically.
Burke’s wife, Anne Burke, is an Illinois Supreme Court justice. Ed Burke’s father was also influential in Democratic circles in Chicago until his death in the 1960s. Other Burke relatives also have been involved in Illinois politics.
Since the 1970s, nearly three dozen aldermen have been convicted. A common joke in Chicago is that so many aldermen had gone to prison that when they saw each other behind bars they’d holler, “Quorum call!”
Burke is associated by Chicagoan with insider benefits long accorded alderman. A city inspectors report in 2016 found snow removal crews plowed the street where he lived far more often than other streets after a 2015 snow storm. They worked his street 46 times in five days, the report said.