Chicago Ald. Ed Burke charged with extortion, challengers and mayoral candidates weigh in

Last week, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke was charged with extortion. Burke has represented Chicago’s 14th Ward since 1969 and is the longest-serving alderman in the city’s history.
 
The FBI filed a complaint in the U.S. Northern District of Illinois court alleging that Burke attempted to use his position as alderman to solicit business for his law firm, Klaner & Burke, from a restaurant owner who was seeking permits for remodeling in 2017.
 
The complaint also claims that Burke illegally sought a donation for another politician from an executive of the company.
 
The charges came after the FBI conducted two raids of Burke’s offices, first on November 29 and again on December 13.
 
Burke said of the charge, “I believe that I’m not guilty of anything, and I’m trusting that when I have my day in court, that will be clear beyond a reasonable doubt.”
 
On Monday, Burke resigned from his position as chairman of the City Council Finance Committee. He announced that he intends to continue his re-election bid, in which he faces four challengers—Irene Corral, Jaime Guzman, Tanya Patino, and Jose Torrez.
 
Patino called on Burke to withdraw from the race, saying, “It’s an embarrassment to know that your alderman is doing things for his own personal gain instead of the community’s interest.”
 
A representative of Jose Torrez said, “We are running on a platform of transparency so we’re not going to allow this to ever have to be an issue in the 14th Ward again.”
 
Following are reactions from some of the 15 mayoral candidates:
 
Toni Preckwinkle, who is chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, removed Burke from his role as chair of the Cook County judicial slating committee, announced that she would return all money raised at a fundraiser at Burke’s house in January 2018 during her re-election bid for the Cook County Board of Supervisors, and said Burke should resign from the council.
 
Preckwinkle also confirmed that she received a donation from the company executive named in the charge against Burke during her Cook County re-election bid. Her lawyer said the donation in question was not accepted but that the campaign made a possible technical error in not reporting the donation and its return last year.
 
Gery Chico, who was endorsed by Burke, said that he would not accept support from Burke in the mayoral race. He also called on Burke to step down as finance committee chair.
 
Susana Mendoza called on Burke to step down from the finance committee and said it’s time for someone else to represent the 14th Ward. Bob Fioretti had called on Burke to step down as finance committee chair as well, and Bill Daley also said the ward needs a new alderman.
 
Paul Vallas called on Preckwinkle, Mendoza, Chico, and Daley to withdraw from the mayoral race because of connections with Burke. Vallas also proposed rotating committee chairmanships on the city council.
 
Willie Wilson said Preckwinkle should resign as Cook County Board president and that, as mayor, he would use a citizen advisory committee to select city council committee chairs as opposed to allowing the city council to select them.
 
Lori Lightfoot called for Burke to resign as finance chair following the first raid of his offices and, since the charge, said Burke should resign from the city council.
 
Amara Enyia stated, “A lot of the other candidates have significant ties to Alderman Burke and therefore ties to corruption, so the question Chicagoans will be asking is can we trust individuals that came out of that same establishment.” She also called for Burke to resign from city council.
 
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About the author

Amee LaTour

Amee LaTour is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at amee.latour@ballotpedia.org

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