* 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.