Burke dips into campaign fund for nearly $400,000 in legal fees

The campaign fund spent $391,582.74 on the alderman’s defense. His other campaign fund, the 14th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, reported no expenditures for legal services.

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Ald. Edward Burke (14th), center, walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.

Ald. Edward Burke’s campaign fund spent $391,582.74 on Burke’s defense, according to campaign finance records.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th) recently paid nearly $400,000 in campaign cash to attorneys mounting his defense against federal charges he used his powerful position to steer business toward his private law firm, according to campaign finance records.

Friends of Edward M Burke reported a $245,348.70 payment to the law firm Jenner & Block on Sept. 12. The committee also paid Loeb & Loeb $73,873.85 on Aug. 5 and another $72,360.19 on Sept. 17.

All told, the campaign fund spent $391,582.74 on Burke’s defense. Burke’s other active campaign fund, the 14th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, reported no expenditures for legal services.

Federal prosecutors indicted Burke in May on charges of racketeering and bribery, accusing the alderman of using the city of Chicago as a “criminal enterprise.” Racketeering charges have traditionally been used to prosecute mobsters and other underworld figures and bring down criminal organizations.

The Burke indictment centers on a series of schemes, including two involving city landmarks — the Field Museum and the Old Main Post Office. Danny Solis, the former 25th Ward alderman, helped the feds ensnare Burke and recorded conversations with his former City Hall ally about the Old Main Post Office developer.

“The cash register has not rung yet,” Burke complained in one conversation. “Did we land ... the tuna?”

In addition to the Post Office scheme, Burke is accused of trying to block an admission fee hike at the museum. The indictment also details a shakedown involving a Burger King restaurant, as well as a scheme related to a redevelopment project on the Northwest Side.

Burke’s legal woes began last November when FBI agents carried out a dramatic raid at his City Hall offices, blocking out the windows with brown paper and ultimately leaving with a cache of evidence.

Despite being ousted as the chairman of the Finance Committee, Burke was still able to win reelection in February.

Burke has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Contributing: Jon Seidel, Fran Spielman, Tim Novak, Lauren FitzPatrick

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