Ald. Edward Burke’s brother, State Rep. Dan Burke, last made the news when it was revealed he granted a legislative scholarship to his secretary’s daughter, even though she didn’t live in his Southwest Side district.
Now, Burke is the subject of a Chicago News Cooperative report on legislators who are legally allowed to serve as lobbyists and to vote in favor of bills that benefit their clients.
A lobby report filed with the city shows Dan Burke was paid $5,000 to lobby City Hall for the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association, the local wing of the industry group that represents roofing contractors throughout the state.
In February 2005, Burke co-sponsored a bill backed by the association of state roofing contractors that sought to protect its member companies from competition. Burke said his sponsorship was not a conflict of interest, even though the measure, which passed, benefited his client.
Speaking of the line separating his city lobbying activities and his state legislative actions, Burke said: “It’s murky, of course, but I was careful not to blend the roles.”
The article points out that in Indiana, it’s illegal for legislators to lobby at all, and suggests that Illinois’s part-time legislature is one of the causes of this mischief, since it encourages politicians to take outside jobs. The salary of an Illinois representative is $67,836 a year plus a $132 a day per diem. The House spent 96 days in session last year. That adds up to a total pay of $80,508. How is 80 grand a year a part-time wage? It’s more than the $71,685 a year earned by Michigan legislators, the second-highest paid in the nation, after California’s. Its way more than Rep. Burke’s constituents.
The problem isn’t that legislators aren’t paid enough money. The problem is that Illinois law makes it too easy for them to leverage their offices for outside income. Super-powerful and super-wealthy politicians, such as Ed Burke and Michael Madigan, earn far more money from their law firms than their political offices -- but holding those offices attracts business to the law firms. In Illinois, politics is viewed as a means to…even greater means. Dan Burke is just following that tradition.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!