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Burke finally busted cold

Monday, Jan 7, 2019

* Legislation introduced solely to pry money or other stuff out of a targeted entity used to be called a “fetcher bill.” Ald. Ed Burke was often considered the king of the fetcher ordinance in Chicago. There were tons of rumors that he’d introduce a particularly onerous ordinance banning this or that activity or product in order to pry loose a campaign contribution or maybe even property tax law firm work. But, he’d been investigated by the feds before and nothing was ever turned up, so people went on their merry little ways.

And then somebody finally called him out

Longtime Ald. Edward Burke, one of Chicago’s most powerful figures and a vestige of the city’s old Democratic machine, has often been considered too clever and sophisticated to be caught blatantly using his public office to enrich himself.

But after years of dodging investigations while watching dozens of his colleagues hauled off to prison, Burke has been accused of crossing the line himself — and doing so in a quintessential Chicago way.

A federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday charged Burke with attempted extortion for allegedly using his position as alderman to try to steer business to his private law firm from a company seeking to renovate a fast-food restaurant in his ward. The charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison on conviction.

The complaint also alleged Burke asked one of the company’s executives in December 2017 to attend an upcoming political fundraiser for “another politician.” Sources identified the politician as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is running for Chicago mayor.

* Burke’s targeted entity

On June 27, Burke used his target phone to call a company executive, saying “we were going to talk about the real estate tax representation.”

The following months include recorded “hard ball” references, permit denials and work stoppages.

By Dec. 2017, executives agreed to give Burke tax business “to avoid any further delays”.

The restaurant company extended their correspondence for several months with Burke’s law firm and completed their renovations, but never gave him any tax business.

* This was no ordinary, defenseless local small businessman, however

Shoukat Dhanani, 60, isn’t the type of entrepreneur who courts publicity, but his company, Dhanani Group, has gotten too big to ignore.

Dhanani Group is the largest franchisee in the Popeyes system, as well as a giant Burger King franchisee, making it the nation’s third-largest restaurant franchisee, with 2015 revenues of $871 million, according to trade publication Franchise Times. But those numbers capture only a piece of the group’s businesses, which include convenience stores and gas delivery, as well as the franchised restaurants. In a recent conversation, Dhanani told me that “if you add everything up, it would be over $2 billion” – an amount that would likely qualify Sugar Land, Tex.-based Dhanani Group for FORBES’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies.

Remember when Patsy and Burt tried to shake down a Starbucks manager during a Soprano’s episode? Yeah, it was something like this.

* And then all heck broke loose…

* Campaign money tied to Ald. Edward Burke’s alleged extortion scheme was intended for County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, sources say

* Toni Preckwinkle’s administration hired Ald. Edward Burke’s son to nearly $100K-a-year county job

* Damage control: How Toni Preckwinkle is addressing her ties to the Ald. Edward Burke corruption scandal

* In about-face, Toni Preckwinkle says she’ll return $116K from fundraiser held at Ald. Edward Burke’s home

* Preckwinkle returning Burke cash, stripping his power to help get judges elected

* Toni Preckwinkle calls for Ald. Ed Burke to resign after extortion allegations

* Preckwinkle, FBI at Odds Over Campaign Contribution

* Burke Spurns Calls To Drop His Bid For Re-election, But Change Is Coming To City Council Regardless

* Forensic audit ordered on workers’ comp program under Ald. Ed Burke

* Mark Brown: No escaping the Burke bug for mayoral candidates

* Laura Washington: 4 candidates looking over shoulders after Burke scandal erupts

* Mayor Rahm Emanuel seeks ethics changes as Ald. Edward Burke steps down as finance chairman following federal charge

* Bill Daley: Shrink Chicago City Council from 50 aldermen to 15

* Corruption case fosters uncertainty in Chicago mayor race

* Chicago Mayoral Candidates Try Distancing Themselves From Ald. Ed Burke After Corruption Charges

* Burke’s own words could come back to haunt as wiretap on cellphone lasted at least 8 months

* Chicago alderman facing charges contributed to Franks’ campaign

* Editorial: Shakedown City: Employers and Chicago’s corruption tax

* Why Ald. Ed Burke May Have Been Allowed To Have 23 Guns In Government Building - It’s still not known if the guns that were found in November were discovered at Burke’s ward office or at City Hall, but it’s hard to miss the irony of a staunch gun control advocate having to turn over 23 guns as a condition of his bond.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

50 Comments »
  1. - anon2 - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:26 pm:

    === a staunch gun control advocate having 23 guns ===Reminds me of the liberals who used to support racial integration of public schools, but sent their kids to private schools lacking much diversity.


  2. - Sox Fan - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    Love the Sopranos reference. You can also equate holding up the building permits to the other great HBO series The Wire and the great Clay Davis


  3. - JS Mill - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:33 pm:

    Burke was long over due for s long stay at the pinstrips penthouse.


  4. - west wing - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:34 pm:

    Bill Daley continues to lead the campaign in terms of churning out significant government/ethics/campaign finance reforms.


  5. - Montrose - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:35 pm:

    I have not had a ton of interaction with Burke over the years, but I have had enough to say that the indictment fits squarely with everything I’ve seen.


  6. - QuimbysSash - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:37 pm:

    Burke — Don’t tell us that you’re innocent. Because it insults our intelligence and it makes us very angry.


  7. - Chicago_Downstater - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    So impacts on the Mayoral Race could be interesting. It looks like it’s hitting Preckwinkle the hardest, but Mendoza & Chico can’t find enough cover either. I bet it doesn’t help Bill Daley to have reminders that the “good ole days” under his father & brother were actually quite shady.

    So this looks to hurt quite a few top candidates, but who’s the most likely to benefit? Lightfoot? I personally just hope it’s not McCarthy that benefits.


  8. - Amalia - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    such petty tyrant action to make money. any lawyer should be embarrassed. I’m particularly interested that Toni would shift immediately to “Justice Burke held the fundraiser for me” since any Judge cannot create a fundraiser for a politician in my understanding. they can write a check, but this would be a different matter. If so, is there an ARDC beef in the future for the Justice? and which or whatever, how awful that she’s affected by Burke and Toni. I know she got where she is with lots of his help, but still it seems really sad to push it off on someone who is a judge.


  9. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:48 pm:

    Everybody who’s ever amounted to anything in Cook County has brushed up against Burke. He integrated himself deep that way; it was an insurance program for the guy. But it’s also true that when no one’s hands are lean, no one gets too muddied by the association.


  10. - SSL - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    I guess complacency and sloppiness happens to the best of them. Has anyone ever gone through the Burke family tree to see just how many of them are on the public payroll? Enough to make everyone sick I wager.

    Remember when his offices were first raided recently and some commenters tried to link it to Trump. That’s pretty funny. Not that the orange man doesn’t have his problems, but they didn’t want to believe Slick Ed had been tagged.


  11. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:54 pm:

    Burke must have thought he was back in the 1950s with that driveway permit stuff. That used to be a big thing for the grey wolves back in the day, but Alderman don’t have any power over those anymore, as the indictment states. Heck, I believe Richard J. Daley took those powers away from the alderman back in 1955. So much for Burke’s encyclopedia knowledge of City government. Couldn’t have happened to a better person.


  12. - Downstater in Chi - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 12:57 pm:

    I dont see Burke really doing well in prison, a former cop, an arrogant pol. My bet is he cuts a deal and sings to the feds. I really wouldnt want to be a politician in the same line of work as him.


  13. - Keyrock - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:07 pm:

    It’s hard to believe, but Bill Daley has identified a very significant reform.

    The US Attorney and the IG can’t police 50 different aldermen who can control (or at least impede or grease) much of the permitting power in their wards. Many of them don’t cross the line to criminality, of course, but too many have.

    If the Council were cut back to 15 members, and control over all kinds of corruption centralized, it would strike a serious blow against the City’s culture of corruption.


  14. - Brian - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:11 pm:

    Looking forward to the spectacle during sentencing of Burke being wheeled in via wheelchair, hooked up to an oxygen tank, in a pathetic attempt for mercy.


  15. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:22 pm:

    When will we learn. Either party. 50 yrs. Nobody to blame but ourselves.


  16. - Keyrock - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:24 pm:

    That should be “all kinds of permitting centralized.” :-(


  17. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:32 pm:

    We still don’t know why the wire was on him in the first place. He wouldn’t be the first Trump associate to be under surveillance.


  18. - Shytown - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:33 pm:

    This generated the kind of news coverage that few scandals create where every single outlet is reporting it out morning, news and night for days. There’s no way that Preckwinkle’s numbers don’t take a hit on this. And it’s going to be hard to change the conversation in this campaign. But besides all of that, Bill Rutthart’s story on team Toni’s damage control (lack thereof) did a fine job of putting all of her misssteps into context. That team is clearly not ready for prime time.


  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:46 pm:

    ===Trump associate===

    lol


  20. - BC - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:47 pm:

    Two things kinda being overlooked: 1) the feds already had Burke under surveillance when the Burger King caper fell into their lap. That means they developed a case against him on a different matter that was strong enough to get a judge to approve an overhear warrant — which requires a pretty high “probable cause” standard.

    2) His conversations were being surveilled through most of 2017. So, in addition to the who’s who of local pols the G-men have on tape, there’s a good chance they listened to Burke talk to members of the Trump biz organization.


  21. - Roadrager - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:51 pm:

    “Either party” is a good way to define Ed Burke’s body of work.


  22. - RNUG - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:53 pm:

    == If the Council were cut back to 15 members, and control over all kinds of corruption centralized, it would strike a serious blow against the City’s culture of corruption. ==

    One lesson from Quinn’s GA cutback … fewer people just concentrates power. Term limits need to be part of the deal.


  23. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 1:55 pm:

    It appears the federales were already on Burke for something before the shakedown in the indictment.

    ==According to the complaint, the FBI had won a judge’s approval to wiretap Burke’s cellphone and was already recording his calls before the alleged shakedown at the center of the charge began to unfold in May 2017. It’s unknown what other evidence federal prosecutors presented in the application for the wiretap because that filing remains under seal.–

    Also, they wiretapped him for eight months. The federales had to present evidence every 30 days to get a judge to reauthorize.

    Eight months listening in on Fast Eddie IIs phone. Lot of politicians, judges and money-types racking their brains as to what they might have said to him.


  24. - Keyrock - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    RNUG - this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with one of your postings. The Cutback Amendment hurt our state, and I’ll never forgive Pat Quinn. But legislators don’t have control over almost everything that happens in their districts the way aldermen do over their wards.

    Centralizing permits and licenses, if effectively done, would cut back the ability of each alderman to expect some cash, business, or contribution in exchange for every service. The inspectors and clerks may still be tempted, but it’s easier to police a handful of citywide offices instead of every ward.


  25. - Colin O'Scopey - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 2:23 pm:

    =It appears the federales were already on Burke for something before the shakedown in the indictment.=

    If this is indeed true, it didn’t take the Feds long to stumble across it. The first call logged in the complaint is call 309. That’s the 309 inbound or outbound call to the “target phone”.

    And if I read correctly, there were close to 10,000 calls in an 8-month period, that comes out to approximately 42 calls a day, every day. It would take about a week (7 days) to reach 309 calls at that rate.

    So if the Feds’ statement is correct, this scheme came to light fairly early in their surveillance.


  26. - Hammer - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    This Burke business hurts Toni (and Chico and Mendoza to a lesser extent). The wheel of outrage picks it’s victims at random.

    It’s sort of like speeding, everyone does it and cops pulling people over should serve as a deterrent to people getting too crazy with it.

    There are a lot of Burkes in the system and while this timing is bad for Toni it’s good that people get to see some sort of check on machine politics/governing.


  27. - JoanP - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 2:47 pm:

    I have to say that my first reaction to the news was “Rich picked a lousy time to take a break from the blog”.


  28. - RNUG - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 3:08 pm:

    - Keyrock - I’m always willing to listen to a better idea or argument. Besides, I think we both agree on the key premise that some reform is needed.


  29. - Rudy’s teeth - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 3:13 pm:

    Perhaps the two Eddies— Burke and Vrdolyak — will soon share suite #29 at the Greybar Hotel. One can only hope.


  30. - Haaaa - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 3:38 pm:

    Also, although he may disagree, Rich I think you promised a bridge to sell.


  31. - labour - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 4:07 pm:

    Thank you to Three Dimensional Checkers observation “so much for Burke’s encyclopedic knowledge of city government”. That was always overrated. He has had very capable carrer civil servants making it easy for him.

    The last two pages of the indictment are almost funny in a way as he realizes he failed. He tried to play them but in the end he got played.


  32. - Christopher Moltisanti (Many Saints) - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 4:13 pm:

    Patsy said it best in the Sopranos clip…”its over for the little guy”


  33. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 5:01 pm:

    Does anyone know if Burke was an avid hunter? Or was he just a gun collector?


  34. - revvedup - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 5:08 pm:

    A classic case of hubris resulting in nemesis. And another example why I despise the State of Chicago, and its politicians who often sell themselves so cheaply, as they sell out the residents wholesale.


  35. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 6:00 pm:

    === a staunch gun control advocate having 23 guns ===Reminds me of the liberals who used to support racial integration of public schools, but sent their kids to private schools lacking much diversity.–

    Yeah, Burke has always been such a liberal. Don’t be a schnook.

    See Council Wars. Read Cooley’s book (curl your toes, the Burke parts). See Gene Sawyer as Mayor. Buy a beer for anyone over 50 who knows Burke.

    If you’ve been played by Burke’s goo-goo p.r. play over the last 25 years or so….. well, if you can’t spot the chump after the deal goes round, you’re it.

    Keane famously described his relationship with Richard I as: “I wanted money, Daley wanted power. We both got what we wanted.”

    Burke wanted, and got both.


  36. - Huh? - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 6:02 pm:

    I still can’t grasp the idea that Burke had a cell phone. And then to use the cell phone to blatantly strong arm someone for his private law firm.

    I guess Burke is following in the path of his mentor, Ed Vrdolyak.


  37. - Boat captain - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 6:13 pm:

    @ wordslinger- what is the book you referred to. I would like to read it.


  38. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 6:16 pm:

    –I still can’t grasp the idea that Burke had a cell phone. And then to use the cell phone to blatantly strong arm someone for his private law firm.–

    My long-time theory is that both Eddies have been federales informants for many decades, giving up dingbat aldermen and the likes of Hired Truck and HDO schmucks so they could keep on earning.

    You get away with it for so long, you get lazy and sloppy. But at some point, maybe old arrangements are no longer respected…..


  39. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 6:26 pm:

    First Burke. Then Munoz. If nothing else, you folks upstate keep us downstaters entertained.


  40. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 6:38 pm:

    –First Burke. Then Munoz. If nothing else, you folks upstate keep us downstaters entertained.–

    Isn’t that sweet, some sad lonely old troll is desperate for attention, in the only way he knows how, the worst way.

    Whatsa matter, huckleberry, none of the whittlers around the cracker-barrel ever informed you about Metro East and Southern Illinois political history? Geography is virtue? You’re that ignorant?

    Thoughts and prayers.


  41. - Steve - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 6:57 pm:

    It appears that Bob Cooley’s book will be back in the news. The Eddie and Anne Burke stuff is quite … amazing.

    https://www.amazon.com/When-Corruption-Was-King-Chicago/dp/0786715839/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=


  42. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 7:00 pm:

    Word. Happy New Year. Actually missed you. We’ve certainly had our share of ‘incidents’. Problem now is, between the BND and the Southern were lucky to get the weather, obits and want ads. BTW. You used the huckleberry,whittlers and cracker-barrel reference almost the same time last year. I still find it pretty darn good.


  43. - Boat captain - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 7:04 pm:

    @steve-thank you.


  44. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 7:54 pm:

    The Feds handling of Hired Truck and the Streets and Sanitation patronage was hot garbage. How can you put Daley’s patronage chief in prison but wiff on the big guy himself? If Burke was an informant, that just makes it worse.


  45. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 7:58 pm:

    –The Feds handling of Hired Truck and the Streets and Sanitation patronage was hot garbage. How can you put Daley’s patronage chief in prison but wiff on the big guy himself?–

    So Pat Fitz was in on it? You might want to check with chief jock-sniffer Kass on that one.


  46. - Keyrock - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 8:10 pm:

    “The Feds handling of Hired Truck and the Streets and Sanitation patronage was hot garbage. How can you put Daley’s patronage chief in prison but wiff on the big guy himself?”

    Maybe nobody flipped and/or the feds didn’t have the evidence?


  47. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 8:28 pm:

    What kind of message does it send when you imprison the top bureaucrat but can’t imprison the politician that he ran the patronage scheme to benefit? That’s just bad government. No conspiracy necessary


  48. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 8:37 pm:

    You’re the one with the theories, Word. I hope the feds weren’t giving the big fish Eddies a pass to catch HDO and Hired Truck minnows.


  49. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 7, 19 @ 9:31 pm:

    –We’ve certainly had our share of ‘incidents’. Problem now is, between the BND and the Southern were lucky to get the weather, obits and want ads.–

    Don’t sell yourself short (or blame others). You’ve earned and deserve all the credit for the willful ignorance that leads you to pretend that you’re more virtuous due to your geography.

    I mean, the Gallatin County sheriff would deliver the weed and meth to your door in county prowler. You don’t get that kind of customer service up here.


  50. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 8, 19 @ 10:19 am:

    Wordslinger - we pride ourselves on our neighborly attitudes./s


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