1 Year After Raid, Much Has Changed for Ald. Ed Burke

From powerhouse to ordinary alderman

ed burke 1 year later

One year after federal agents conducted a surprise raid on the offices of Ald. Ed Burke, the longest-serving member of the Chicago City Council has seen his personal and professional life turned upside down.

Early on the morning of Nov. 29, 2018, about two dozen federal law enforcement personnel entered City Hall, taking the elevator to the third floor and the warren of offices of the City Council Committee on Finance.

The brown paper agents used to cover the glass windows offices were meant to shield prying eyes from the task at hand: search for clues that would lead to charges of attempted extortion and racketeering.

A few miles away on that November day, in plain sight at Burke’s 14th ward office, agents simultaneously hauled out computers and boxes of documents. Within weeks, Burke was charged in a criminal complaint and by May he was indicted on 14 counts of corruption.

The city’s longest-serving and most powerful alderman immediately proclaimed his innocence.

"I believe I am not guilty of anything," he said, standing in front of his Southwest Side home.

Once a prolific fundraiser, since Jan. 1, according to state campaign finance records, Burke, in three political committees he controls, has raised just over $68,000 but spent more than $1.6 million. That includes nearly $400,000 in legal fees, though what they were for was not specified.

In the months following the Burke raid, the U.S. Attorney’s office unleashed a swarm of subpoenas targeting lobbyists, civic leaders and suburban governments in what appears to be a massive investigation.

The offices of both state Sen. Martin Sandoval and Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski have been searched by federal agents. Sandoval, in a letter released the day before Thanksgiving, announced he will resign his senate seat on Jan. 1. Neither has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo, meantime, was charged with federal bribery and has since resigned from his seat in the Illinois House.

Burke has remained at his elected post, though in a diminished capacity. He was ousted as Finance Committee Chair, from which he controlled hundreds of millions of dollars in city funds. Democratic Party leaders called on him to step down as 14th Ward committeeperson. He has not and is running to retain that office in March. He was stripped of his party role in endorsing judicial candidates. And resigned as a partner in his law firm, Klafter & Burke.

In the Chicago City Council, Burke lost his seat of power. For years as Finance chair, he sat directly in front of the mayor’s podium. Today, he sits off to the side. At the first Council meeting chaired by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the 50-year veteran and parliamentary expert was summarily silenced by the novice new mayor.

As the anniversary of the raid that shook Chicago approached, the city budget passed, no longer with Burke as a powerhouse but rather as an ordinary alderman facing an extraordinary federal probe.

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