Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Roland Burris on Thursday endorsed 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti over Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the Feb. 24 city election.
Although Fioretti has been an elected official for just the past eight years, Burris and the mayoral challenger have decades-old ties.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 1994 that the Fioretti & Desjardins law firm was the fourth-biggest contributor to Burris’ unsuccessful campaign for governor, pitching in $15,600. Fioretti’s firm had done $300,000 in state business through Burris, who was Illinois attorney general.
According to the Fioretti campaign, Burris said the candidate is “not a rubber-stamp alderman,” citing opposition to red-light cameras and Emanuel’s record school closing. Emanuel’s campaign spokesman declined to comment.
Burris also praised Fioretti for his integrity.
But Burris has faced many questions about his ethics at the end of his long career.
He accepted then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment to the U.S. Senate in late 2008 — after Blagojevich was arrested and charged with attempting to sell the seat.
Questions over whether Burris was truthful about his interactions with the Blagojevich campaign led to a criminal probe, which was later dropped, and a congressional ethics probe.
Burris was caught on an FBI wiretap asking Robert Blagojevich, Rod Blagojevich’s brother, about the Senate appointment, then offering to send the campaign committee a check.
The House ethics committee issued a qualified admonition of Burris, saying: “The Committee found that you should have known that you were providing inconsistent, misleading, or incomplete information to the public, the Senate, and those conducting legitimate inquiries into your appointment to the Senate.”
Burris did not return calls seeking comment later Thursday. Fioretti’s campaign manager declined to comment on the state work that Fioretti’s firm performed.
Fioretti’s firms received more than $2 million in payments from the state between the early 1990s and 2011, public records show.
About $1.5 million of that legal work came while Republican Jim Ryan was the Illinois attorney general. Fioretti and his firm at the time contributed nearly $62,000 to Ryan between his first successful run for attorney general in 1994 and his losing campaign for governor in 2002.
Ryan could not be reached for comment Thursday.