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Under federal investigation, Ald. Carrie Austin holding fundraiser next month

The Sept. 20 fundraiser at the Martinique Banquet in Burbank is hosted by state Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago; Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island; Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago; and Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) talks to a colleague at the Council meeting Jun 12, two weeks after her South Side ward office was raided by the feds. Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Four Democrats are hosting a southwest suburban fundraiser next month for embattled Ald. Carrie Austin — whose 34th ward office was raided by the FBI last month as part of an ongoing political corruption investigation into Chicago aldermen.

The Sept. 20 fundraiser at the Martinique Banquet in Burbank is hosted by state Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago; Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island; Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago; and Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims.

Reached for comment on his support for Austin, Jones said simply, “Well, she hasn’t been charged with anything.” Slaughter, Sims and Rita did not return calls for comment.

Austin’s finances have been in the spotlight since June, after she was named in a federal grand jury subpoena seeking records regarding her latest home purchase and her campaign contributions, and FBI agents lugged out files and equipment from her Far South Side Ward office.

With the public raid last month, Austin, 70, joins the select company of veteran, powerful Chicago aldermen implicated in the investigations. Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) was indicted in May in a wide-ranging political corruption racketeering case.

Fundraising flyer for Ald. Carrie Austin/Provided photo
Provided photo

Helping the feds build that case was former Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who was implicated in wrongdoing himself by the feds and secretly recorded Burke and others for more than two years by wearing a wire.

After the Chicago Sun-Times first reported in January that Solis was wearing a wire, Austin told reporters: “Not about Danny. I might cry. You don’t do that. You just don’t.”

Burke has denied any wrongdoing. Solis has not been charged.

Austin, who is second in seniority on the 50-member City Council after Burke, has not been accused of any wrongdoing and did not return phone messages the day of the raid.

This week, Austin reached out to the Sun-Times regarding a recent story about the longtime alderman and her six children and stepchildren having declared bankruptcy 14 times, often while they were holding government jobs, largely at City Hall.

Austin on Monday portrayed herself as the victim of political and media “persecution” and questioned why she and her family are being dragged “through the mud.”

“They’re running a story about me or my family. Why? When you all got bigger fish that you say nothing about? Why am I being drug through the mud?” Austin said.

“I only called for that. I’m not gonna answer any questions about anything. I just wanted to ask you why am I being persecuted?”

Asked what she meant by being “persecuted,” the deposed chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee pointed to stories about her finances by the Sun-Times Watchdogs team.

“I shouldn’t have called you. But I felt that I could ask you this.”

If Austin is indicted, she will join a relatively short list of female aldermen who ran afoul of the law. Only three female aldermen have been convicted of corruption.

Altogether, 35 aldermen have been convicted since 1973.

Austin would join former Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), Arenda Troutman (20th) and Marian Humes (8th).