Alderman Ed Burke to seek re-election after attempted extortion charge

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Alderman Ed Burke to seek re-election after attempted extortion charge
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One day after he was charged with attempted extortion, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke reassured his supporters he is running for re-election.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A day after he was charged with attempted extortion, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke reassured his supporters he is running for re-election.

While his opponents and some mayoral candidates are calling for the longtime alderman to resign, Burke refuses and will seek yet another term.

Alderman Ed Burke went to church Friday morning as he does every day. While he may be looking for some divine intervention, the 14th Ward alderman remained steadfast about his innocence.

"I haven't done anything wrong and I'm looking forward to my day on court to establish that I'm innocent of this charge," Burke said.

Yet, Burke did step down as the longtime chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee. Federal prosecutors said Burke used his powerful position to shake down a fast food restaurant owner seeking remodeling permits. In exchange for his help, Burke allegedly tried to steer the company to use his law firm for tax business.

READ: Criminal complaint against Alderman Ed Burke

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Burke's resignation as the chairman the appropriate step.

"I believe this this reflects his affection for the city and his deep respect the institution of city council," Emanuel said.

Emanuel's City Council floor leader 40th Ward Alderman Pat O'Connor will replace Burke as the chair of the Finance Committee. The first order of business is removing the $100 million a year workman's comp program from the Finance Committee to another city department. Emanuel also plans to introduce new ethics ordinances, but the mayor said no laws can replace an individual's moral and ethical compass.

"You also have to have judgment as an individual and it doesn't require a law to say that your private life is not supposed to be enriching your private life," Emanuel said.

While there have been calls for Burke to resign as alderman, he made it clear on social media Friday that he will continue to seek his 13th term.

"By now I'm certain you know of yesterday's events. I want you and my friends and supporters to know I fully intend to seek reelection," Burke said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

With four opponents running against him and a federal charge hanging over his head, Burke faces a tough re-election. Meantime, some alderman are calling Mayor Emanuel's changes to the workers comp program hypocritical. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) said the mayor and Alderman O'Connor have spent years blocking oversight.

WATCH: Chicago City Hall's sordid history of corruption

Alderman Burke is just one of a long list of City Councilmen who faced legal troubles.

City Council has a sordid history of corruption. Currently there are two other alderman in legal trouble aside from Alderman Ed Burke, who was charged Thursday with one count of attempted extortion.

It seems Chicagoans have grown accustomed to this type of headline.

"We need far more money than we have to support Chicago's needs, and yet we have elected officials who are at the trough who are stealing from us," ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington said.

Washington said there have been dozens of convicted aldermen.

"It seems like we have a very high tolerance for corruption in this city. It's almost as though corruption's in our water, it's in our way of doing things, the political way of doing things in Chicago," she said.

UIC professor Dick Simpson wrote about serving in City Council with Ed Burke and conflicts with the late Mayor Richard J. Daley in his book, "The Good Fight." He has been keeping track of corruption coming out of City Hall, saying there have been 34 aldermen who have served time since Burke was first elected 50 years ago, including Larry Bloom.

"We will never end individual corruption once case at a time. It's not a matter of a rotten apple, it's a matter of a rotten apple barrel. The way to begin to do that is to take a broom to City Hall and sweep out the machine politicians who have been choking this city now for decades, even 150 years," Simpson said.

The broom may be coming, at least in the 14th Ward. Alderman Burke, who rarely is challenged for re-election, now faces four challengers. They are all Latino candidates from his increasing diverse ward.


Alderman Burke's voting record has come into question, especially in light of the charge he now faces.

Before the feds filed the complaint this week, the Better Government Association investigated Burke's roles as an alderman and the owner of a private law firm, and how that may impact his votes at City Hall.

During the last eight years, the BGA found Burke has recused himself from voting 464 times. That means he has declined to vote because of a conflict of interest. He has the most recusals of any aldermen on the council.

Alderman Tom Tunney is second with 21 recusals. Alderman Roberto Maldonado is third with 15.

That means, overall, Burke makes up 81 percent of all recusals since 2011.