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Leaving Legislature lucrative for Ed Burke brother now drawing $160K in pensions

Former state Rep. Daniel J. Burke.

Chicago and Illinois taxpayers are still supporting ex-state Rep. Daniel Burke. Despite losing a reelection bid last year, the brother of Ald. Edward M. Burke gets two taxpayer-subsidized pensions — expected to pay him a total this year of nearly $160,000. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Dan Burke is gone from the Illinois General Assembly after losing his 2018 reelection bid in embarrassing fashion and then resigning before his term was up, days before a criminal complaint was unsealed against his brother, Ald. Edward M. Burke.

But Chicago and Illinois taxpayers are continuing to financially support Dan Burke. He’s now collecting two taxpayer-subsidized pensions that are expected to pay him a total this year of nearly $160,000, a figure expected to rise sharply in 2020, according to records and interviews.

Dan Burke, 67, worked for more than 25 years as a Chicago city employee, holding jobs that included deputy city clerk. That allowed him to start drawing retirement pay from the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago in 2004 when he was 52.

His yearly payout from his city pension at first was around $58,000. But, with regular increases for members of the plan, he’s set to get about $86,000 this year, records show.

Dan Burke has gotten more than $1 million so far from that pension fund, according to records that show that, during his working years, about $103,000 was deducted from his paychecks to go toward his pension.

He also was an elected state representative for nearly 30 years before losing the March 2018 Democratic primary to political newcomer Aaron Ortiz, who coasted on to victory in the November 2018 general election with no Republican opponent.

Ortiz took office Jan. 9.

But Dan Burke resigned from the post, which paid him $85,902 in 2018, on Dec. 30. That meant his second government pension, through the General Assembly Retirement System, took effect Jan. 1, records show. That pension will pay him just over $73,000 this year. He should be getting his first monthly check any day.

His yearly legislative pension payout will shoot up by 27 percent in 2020 — to more than $92,000, about $6,000 more than he made because of rules that reward legislators with more than 20 years in office.

First elected to the Legislature in 1990, he was closely aligned with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also heads the Illinois Democratic Party.

A man Dan Burke’s age can expect, on average, to live to be 84 or 85 years old, according to the Social Security Administration. If Burke lives that long, he would collect several million dollars more in pension payouts from the two retirement systems.

Dan Burke contributed about $180,000 toward his legislative pension, records show.

“I didn’t create the law, but I’m certainly very grateful to participate in it,” Burke says of his legislative pension. “I paid the dues, not only the travel” to and from Springfield “but being disassociated from my society” in Chicago.

“This is not the easiest job,” he says. “I didn’t sit in an ivory tower . . . We were, like, the grunts.”

His longtime legislative district, which includes the Southwest Side’s 14th ward represented in the Chicago City Council by his alderman-brother, has become increasingly Latino over the years.

Dan Burke’s defeat was seen, at least in part, as reflecting negative sentiment toward Edward M. Burke, whose law firm handled property tax appeals for the Loop high-rise developed by President Donald Trump, whose immigration policies have enraged many Hispanics.

The alderman, among the last of the Irish ward bosses who powered the Democratic Machine, faces a stiff challenge in his bid to keep the seat he’s held for 50 years. He’s facing at least two opponents in the Feb. 26 municipal election and a criminal complaint that charges him with attempted extortion. He’s accused of trying to hold up city approval of a Burger King renovation in his ward so the fast-food franchise operator would hire his law firm.

Dan Burke says of his brother’s situation: “This is all shocking. I have nothing to contribute to it.”

Asked whether he thinks his brother will beat the criminal case, Dan Burke says, “I don’t have an opportunity to even guess.”

The FBI monitored thousands of Edward M. Burke’s calls. Dan Burke says he’s not worried about being caught on FBI wiretaps talking about anything compromising. “I do not have those conversations,” he says.

Edward M. Burke has more than $10 million in three political campaign funds he controls.

Dan Burke’s campaign fund had $375,000 on hand at the end of 2018, which he can’t convert to personal use but can use for “committee-related” expenses, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

For a time, in addition to his government work, Dan Burke also was a City Hall lobbyist. But he says he’s not going back to lobbying: “I’m a private citizen.”