Toni Preckwinkle said Friday that her campaign received, and then rejected, a $10,000 contribution from a Burger King franchise owner in 2018 as part of an alleged shakedown by Ald. Ed Burke, who was charged Thursday with attempted extortion in the case.
“Yesterday I learned from the press that a person involved with Ald. Burke attempted to make a contribution to my campaign in January of 2018,” Preckwinkle said Friday morning, reading from a statement. “We investigated and determined the contribution was rejected. To this day, we have never accepted a contribution from the individual involved.”
The unsealed federal complaint against Burke says that in a December 2017 meeting between Burke and two representatives of a restaurant group, Burke asked them to “attend a political fundraiser for another politician.”
The meeting came as authorities claim Burke was using his official position in an attempt to stymie renovations on a restaurant in his 14th Ward – later identified as the Burger King near the scene of the high-profile police shooting of Laquan McDonald – in an alleged effort to direct the company’s business to his own property tax law firm for personal gain.
One of the representatives of the restaurant company, identified in the complaint only as “Individual A,” told law enforcement that they “felt it necessary to attend, or at least give a donation, because otherwise Burke would not support… efforts to do business in Chicago, including at the restaurant.”
Individual A told investigators that he “made a $10,000 donation to a campaign committee for the politician, which was subsequently reduced to within the campaign contribution limit of $5,600.”
After the complaint against Burke was made public Thursday, the “Preckwinkle for President” campaign committee filed an amendment to its quarterly report to reflect a “rejected contribution” from Shoukat Dhanani, listed as the owner of Tri City Foods Inc, based out of Sugar Land, Texas.
The contribution was made on Jan. 12, 2018, according to the report filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, which was amid Preckwinkle’s ultimately successful campaign for re-election as Cook County Board President.
When questioned further, Preckwinkle – now running for Chicago mayor – went on to explain that Burke and his wife Anne Burke, an Illinois Supreme Court Justice, and Gery Chico – another candidate for mayor who, like Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, counts Ald. Ed Burke as a mentor – held a fundraiser for her during her campaign for Cook County Board president.
“I've worked very closely with Anne Burke for eight years,” Preckwinkle said, adding, “She's been head of my justice advisory council. I am deeply indebted to her for her help on criminal justice reform.”
Preckwinkle, who also chairs the Cook County Democratic Party, said she did not know how much money was raised at the Burkes’ fundraiser for her. When asked if those donations may be “tainted” by the connection to Ald. Ed Burke, she said that “a number of people who contributed at that fundraiser were long-time contributors to my campaigns” and that to answer that question would require further examination of each individual contribution made.
“I am dismayed by Ald. Burke's apparent abuse of his position for personal gain, breaking the public trust,” Preckwinkle read from her statement. “It's clear he can no longer uphold the integrity of public office and should step down from his role as alderman immediately.”
Burke, who is the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history and widely seen as one of the city’s most powerful politicians, resigned from his role as chair of the City Council Committee on Finance, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement early Friday.
Burke, 75, turned himself in Thursday and was released on a $10,000 bond, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 18.