The Archdiocese of Chicago is weighing whether to keep a $10,000 donation pledged by Ald. Edward M. Burke now that he’s charged with corruption.
“We are awaiting the outcome of the case before making a determination on the donation,” says Paula Waters, a spokeswoman for Cardinal Blase Cupich.
Since prosecutors announced Jan. 3 they had charged Burke with attempted extortion, other politicians have scrambled to get rid of campaign money they got from the Southwest Side alderman, who controls three campaign funds that together hold more than $10 million.
Just as Burke has been a financial backer of many of the politicians, he also has been a big contributor to charitable causes tied to the Catholic Church in Chicago. In the past three years, the three Burke political funds have reported more than 70 expenditures totaling nearly $100,000 that went to Catholic churches, schools and other groups, including payments for masses and fundraising events, as well as membership dues in Catholic organizations, campaign finance records show.
Burke, who attended a Catholic seminary for high school, gave $40,517.98 to those groups last year, including:
• The Friends of Edward M. Burke political fund reported in October having made a $10,000 pledge to the archdiocese’s major fund-raising campaign, called To Teach Who Christ Is. That’s the donation the archdiocese is considering returning.
• The same month, the fund reported giving $2,500 to Old St. Patrick’s Church in the West Loop for an “event.”
• In November, the fund reported giving $180 for masses at church-run Misericordia, which provides housing and care for people with developmental disabilities.
Burke also has given money from his campaign funds to:
• St. Joseph Seminary in Rogers Park, including $2,000 reported Aug. 15 for a “table,” apparently for a fundraiser for the priestly training ground, which Cupich recently announced will be closed.
• Brother Rice High School, an all-boys Catholic school on the Southwest Side, which has gotten $8,500 in Burke campaign money over the past three years.
• Maryville Academy, a Catholic institution in Des Plaines that provides care for troubled kids, which was given $3,500 for a fundraiser last year honoring Burke’s wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, for her role in creating the Special Olympics. For years, Anne Burke has pushed for reforms in the church in response to allegations of sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by the church’s hierarchy.
• Presence Health Foundation, which is affiliated with a Catholic hospital network that’s been a client of Burke’s law firm and got $1,000 in a payment reported last February for an “event” and another $1,500 in March for a “donation.”
• The Rev. George Clements, the well-known, now-retired Chicago priest, who got $1,000 in a donation reported in 2017. At one time publicly at odds with Burke, Clements says he and Burke are now friends and that the money was for his charity.
• The Rev. Antoni Bury, who was given $250 in 2016. Bury is pastor of St. Bruno’s Church, the Southwest Side parish where Burke attended mass on the day federal prosecutors announced the alderman had been charged with attempted extortion. Burke is accused of trying to muscle a Burger King operator into hiring his law firm — which handles property tax appeals — and, as part of that unsuccessful effort, holding up city permits for renovations at the fast-food restaurant. Also in 2016, Burke reported giving $10,000 to St. Bruno’s.
Such campaign expenditures are legal, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
It’s unusual, though, how much of the money Burke has spent the past few years went to church-related causes.
Between the spring of 2017 and late 2018 — the time the FBI was secretly listening in on Burke’s cellphone calls — his three campaign funds reported giving a total of under $200,000 to candidates and political groups. The three Burke campaign funds took more than $2 million in contributions during that period, records show.
In November, Burke and his wife attended a Cupich speech to the City Club of Chicago. The Burkes had been among those consulted by Cupich after his 2014 appointment by Pope Francis to oversee the church in Cook and Lake counties. And Cupich has sought their counsel on church issues.
According to Cupich spokeswoman Waters, after arriving in Chicago, the cardinal “took the initiative to both host and attend social gatherings to get to know local people . . . Alderman Ed Burke and Justice Anne Burke, who served on the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board, were among the hundreds of people he visited with.”