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Burke roster of law clients doing business with the city shrinking

With a combined, $10.4 million in the three campaign committees he controls, Chicago’s most powerful alderman shows no signs of slowing down politically.

The clout-heavy law firm controlled by Ald. Edward Burke (14th) appears to be another story.

The longtime chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee had 38 law clients who did business with the city or other agencies of local government last year, according to his 2014 ethics statement.

That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually down 35 percent from the 59 law clients doing business with the city or sister agencies the year before.

The apparent retrenchment of Burke’s law firm specializing in property tax appeals coincides with his battle against prostate cancer.

The 71-year-old alderman was diagnosed last June, had surgery shortly thereafter and returned to work, at least part-time, in July.

Even with that health-imposed hiatus, Burke’s roster of legal clients includes: Aeroterm; AT&T; Bank of America; BMO Harris Bank; CenterPoint Properties, Chicagoland Laborers Training & Apprentice Fund; Commonwealth Edison Fifth Third Bank; Healthcare Service Corp./BCBS of Illinois; Kenny Construction; Lexington Marketing, LLC; MB Real Estate; Northwestern Memorial Hospital; Northern Trust; U.S. Equities; Avis Budget Group, B&W Truck Repair and Cole Taylor Bank.

The client list also includes: Community Housing Partners XI, LP; Greater Southwest Development Corp.; G/WDC 54 N. Fairbanks LLC; International Union of Operating Engineers; JP Morgan Chase Bank; LaMarche Manufacturing; Seaway Bank & Trust; Samy Hammad; Thermal Chicago Corp.; US. Bank; Brandenburg Industrial Services; Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local 130; Concession Services, Inc.; Flood Brothers; Gateway Park LLC; Iron Workers Local 1; South Shore Plumbing & Heating Supply; The Standard Companies; The Taxman Corporation and Walsh Construction.

Still, Burke lost some big clients in 2014.

They include:  Jewel Osco; CVS; Walgreen’s; the Habitat Co.; Dominick’s; Friedman Properties; Marc Realty; K-Five Construction; the American Dental Association; Southwest Airlines; CBS; Broadway in Chicago/Oriental Theater; the Union League Club of Chicago and Bobak Sausage.

Although Burke’s roster of law clients doing business with the city is shrinking, his investment portfolio appears to be doing just fine.

Last year, Burke reported having stock in ten companies that produced at least $5,000 in income. This year, his list of capital gains includes 16 companies. Those investments include Wynn Resorts Ltd., which owns Las Vegas casinos.

Burke is Chicago’s most powerful alderman and chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee. He is the husband of state Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.

He has stated repeatedly that he does not represent any of his clients in their dealings with City Hall. His firm specializes in representing clients appealing property taxes before the county.

During the 1990’s, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a series of stories detailing the alleged conflicts between Burke’s position as Finance Committee chairman and his private role as a lawyer.

The newspaper disclosed how Burke used a rare parliamentary maneuver to change the record of four past Council votes involving his airlines clients dating back as far as seven years.

Ever since then, Burke has abstained on a host of matters before his committee — and his annual ethics statement explains why.

Earlier this week, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Dan Mihalopoulos reported that one of the three political funds that Burke controls recently received a $20,000 contribution from Archer Daniels Midland Co.

The agribusiness giant is one of the world’s biggest producers of ethanol.

Mihalopoulos questioned whether the $20,000 check that was ADM’s biggest in seven years to any Illinois politician might signal a renewed push for Burke’s stalled ordinance requiring the sale of gasoline with a higher percentage of ethanol. That would be a boon to ADM.

Burke muscled the E-15 ordinance through his Finance Committee in December, only to have Mayor Rahm Emanuel block a vote on the full Council floor.

The mayor argued then that the clean-air ordinance “needs more work.” He was concerned the requirement would place too heavy a burden on the owners of independent gas stations.

When a Chicago Sun-Times reporter noted that the ordinance appeared to be “going nowhere,” Burke reacted angrily, then stormed away.

The deadline for filing ethics statements is May 1. Burke, who ran unopposed on Feb. 24, filed his early. So did other incumbent aldermen who sought re-election, as well as aldermanic candidates.