By Mark Weyermuller -
Longtime Chicago Alderman Ed Burke had a day in court Thursday. Federal Court, that is.
In a 37-page criminal complaint, Burke is accused of attempting to extort money from Burger King restaurant executives. Thursday afternoon Burke appeared at the Dirksen Federal Building around 2:30 p.m. accompanied by his attorney. A Chicago Police protection detail was not with the two as they left the Dirksen Building.
Some are calling the development a bombshell while others are saying the federal investigation is a “Whopper” – in reference to the signature hamburger at the fast food restaurant involved. The restaurant involved in the complaint is at 40th and Pulaski in Burke’s 14th Chicago Ward.
Burke at 75 years old has been a Chicago alderman for 49 years – first elected on March 11, 1969. He has been heavily involved in slating and supporting Democrat Party judicial candidates in Cook County for years.
According to the Chicago Tribune, 23 guns were found in his aldermanic office during a search last November by the FBI. As part of the alderman's bond, he will have to turn in those guns. In these cases, firearms are often given to a third party like an attorney or a relative and actually not given to the government.
Burke has fought for more gun control in the city. Last year he had a proposal to restrict banks from doing city work if they were involved with gun dealers. In the large amounts of media reports, there seems to be very few questioning why he had this arsenal of firearms in a city ward office. Most city offices are “gun-free zones. If Burke opposed guns then why did he own them?
The Tribune is also reporting that the money in the alleged extortion scheme was for Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle’s 2017 campaign fund. She is now running for mayor of Chicago.
This story is fluid and there may be more bombshells to come. As of Friday morning, Burke resigned his position in the City Council Finance Committee but has has not resigned his position as alderman.
The Chicago media likes to talk about one of Burke’s many clients. Burke represented Donald Trump on a tax appeal for Chicago's Trump Tower before Trump became president. The media never mentions the perhaps thousands of other clients Burke and his law firm have represented.
People often ask how an alderman can practice law without conflicts of interest with being an elected official. It seems like many property tax appeals, along with personal injury suits would involve city residents and businesses.
House Speaker Michael Madigan also has a law firm doing similar work including property tax appeals. Perhaps it’s time for these law firms owned by elected officials to stop doing property tax appeal work?
About 60 members of the Chicago media staked out the exit of the court house as Burke left Thursday with no comment. He jumped inside a Blue Diamond Taxi Cab and sped off to parts unknown.
Mark Weyermuller is small business person, real estate professional, and conservative activist in Chicago. He is a citizen journalist and regular contributor to Illinois Review. Mark can be heard weekly on the radio in a "man in the street segment" at 5:31pm as a regular guest on the Stephanie Trussell Show heard Saturday afternoons 3-6pm on 50,000 watt WLS 890-AM.