Following a drumbeat of negative press tying her to federally charged Ald. Ed Burke, Cook County Board President and mayoral contender Toni Preckwinkle said in an email Sunday she is returning all of the $116,000 she raised at Burke’s house in January 2018.
Crucially, she is also stripping Burke of his power to help get judges elected to the bench, removing him as chair of the Cook County Democratic Party’s judicial slating committee. She also called on him to resign from the City Council and as the 14th Ward’s Democratic committeeman.
“I won’t have my name dragged through the mud,” Preckwinkle said in her email.
Preckwinkle has found herself tied to Burke in a 37-page criminal complaint unsealed last week that charges him with attempted extortion. Though it accuses Preckwinkle of no wrongdoing, it says Burke leaned on a pair of Burger King franchise executives to attend a fundraiser for her.
The complaint says one of them made a $10,000 donation that was later reduced to within the campaign contribution limit of $5,600. Though the complaint does not name Preckwinkle, she has acknowledged she is the candidate in question.
Her opponents have seized on the connection.
Preckwinkle has previously returned $12,800 in contributions Burke donated to her over the years but has resisted returning the money she raised at his house.
“There were a number of people there at that event who were long-time Toni supporters who have nothing to do with Burke’s activities,” John Hennelly, a senior adviser to the Preckwinkle campaign, said last week.
He also said, “Toni knew nothing of Burke’s activities — and she’s appalled by them. If other people were intimidated or muscled or extorted into making donations, we hope that’s investigated and we hope it comes forward.”
Hennelly told the Sun-Times the fundraiser at Burke’s home was the result of a friendship between Preckwinkle and Burke’s wife, Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.
“Cynics say that corruption and Chicago politics go together,” Preckwinkle said in Sunday’s email. “I have never accepted that.”