Two of Illinois' most prominent politicians spent a combined $800,000 in legal fees during the first three months of 2020. Still the coronavirus has had a definite impact on the ongoing federal investigation of political corruption.
While the federal probe may have stalled in some ways in this time of plague, don’t for a minute think it is over. It is not. Evidence of that is found in the continuing big checks state and local politicians are writing to their lawyers.
As the one-year anniversary of Ed Burke being indicted approaches next month, Chicago’s longest-serving alderman continues to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Since the beginning of 2019, Burke has spent over $1.1 million to a variety of laws firms, state records show.
And he is hardly alone. Legal fees for House Speaker Michael Madigan top Burke’s.
In that same period, records show Madigan has spent $1.7 million in legal fees.
Madigan is not charged in the federal investigation, though his closest associate, lobbyist Michael McClain, has been raided by the feds as has close political operative, Kevin Quinn.
Plus, Madigan has had to deal -- successfully -- with a lawsuit alleging political election dirty tricks in his ward.
For Burke and Madigan, the combined grand total in legal fees since New Year’s Day 2019 equals more than $2.8 million.
The federal investigation burst into the open in November 2018 when federal agents raided Burke’s 14th Ward and City Hall offices.
From the beginning Burke has maintained his innocence saying he has done nothing wrong and would fight the charges in court.
Casualties thus far in the sprawling probe include former state senator Martin Sandoval who plead guilty to corruption charges, and Jeffrey Tobolski, who resigned his Cook County Commissioner’s post. He has not been charged.
Meantime, sources say, the federal investigation continues, just at a different pace.
No grand juries are meeting. Physical surveillance has slowed. But agents are able to subpoena bank and cell phone records.
And get through mountains of paperwork.
Plus, as one law enforcement person put it, now is a great time for wiretaps.