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From ‘young Turk’ to Trump tax lawyer — Burke’s half century of ups and downs

Alderman Ed Burke (left) with Donald Trump.

Ald. Edward Burke, left, with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at the City Club of Chicago in 2015. | Associated Press

After his City Hall and ward offices were raided by the feds Thursday, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) acknowledged that he’s no stranger to federal investigations.

“And in every instance nothing has been found,” Burke said in a statement. He spoke with reporters Thursday evening outside his home.

The feds aren’t sharing what they did or didn’t find on Thursday. But Burke is right that his long political career has survived some rough patches — of a legal and political nature.

Here are some of rockier stretches in his long journey:

1972: Freshman Ald. Edward M. Burke joined with another so-called “young Turk,” Edward R. Vrdolyak. They thought Mayor Richard J. Daley had too much power, so they launched what became known as “The Coffee Rebellion,” an attempt to break the iron-fisted control exercised by Daley and his Finance Committee Chairman Thomas Keane. Two years, later Burke bucked Daley unsuccessfully by running for assessor against Regular Democratic Organization candidate Tom Tully.

1984: Burke and Vrdolyak teamed  up again for the tumultuous “Council Wars,” with Burke filing a lawsuit against Mayor Harold Washington, alleging he was not legally allowed to hold office because he failed to file required financial disclosures before the deadline. The suit was dismissed, but for years, the two “Eddies” were remembered for their opposition to the city’s first black mayor.

Following the hour-long summit between Mayor Washingrton and leaders of the Vrdolyak 29, Ald Edward R. Vrdolyak (10th) talked to the press in 1984. Watching are (from left) Ald. Wilson Frost (34th), Corporate Counsel James L. Montgomery and Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), who all participted in the meeting. File Photo. Dom Najolia

Following the hour-long summit between Mayor Washingrton and leaders of the Vrdolyak 29, Ald Edward R. Vrdolyak (10th) talked to the press in 1984. Watching are (from left) Ald. Wilson Frost (34th), Corporate Counsel James L. Montgomery and Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), who all participted in the meeting. File Photo. Dom Najolia

1989: Burke was the state-registered licensee and secretary of a security firm co-owned by ex-Ald. Pat Huels (11th) and Huels’ family. From June 1989 to May 1997, Burke’s Finance Committee made annual payments totaling $474,162 to Michael Pedicone, the executive in charge of the fledgling firm.

1995: Marie D’Amico, daughter of former Ald. Anthony Laurino (39th), pleaded guilty of doing no work while on Burke’s committee staff from 1991 to 1993. Burke famously blamed it on a dead man, accusing the late Horace Lindsay, a former aide, of scheming with D’Amico. The alderman said he hadn’t been aware that D’Amico was a ghost payroller.

1997: Former Ald. Joseph Martinez (31st), who worked in Burke’s law office, admitted in federal court that he was a ghost payroller for City Council committees. Martinez’s lawyer alleged that Burke got him the no-show jobs.

1997: Burke changed the record of four past City Council votes involving clients of his law practice after the Sun-Times raised questions about possible conflicts of interest. He used a rare parliamentary maneuver to remove four “yes” votes regarding leases for Midway and American airlines — votes that the alderman cast as far back as 1990. He changed the yes votes to abstentions. Burke resorted to the blame-it-on-a-dead-man excuse again, attributing the yes votes to former Ald. Thomas Cullerton (38th), who chaired the Aviation Committee. Cullerton had died four years earlier.

2006: Two weeks after a Sun-Times investigation, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas to the Burke-chaired Finance Committee — which has sole authority to settle injury claims filed by city of Chicago employees and controls a $100 million annual budget — for records related to injury claims. The Sun-Times found that one in five patronage workers listed on the once-secret clout list kept by Mayor Richard M. Daley’s former patronage director had filed workers’ compensation claims — far outpacing those for any occupation tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor, including underground coal miners and foundry workers.

2011: Federal prosecutors filed a motion saying Saul Rodriguez, a drug trafficker, believed he paid $15,000 to two attorneys to bribe Burke to get the zoning on his Southwest Side property changed in order to build apartments. Rodriguez told federal agents he made the payment to those attorneys and then met briefly with Burke, who said the rezoning would be no problem. The City Council approved the rezoning in 2000. Burke wasn’t identified in the filing — only referred to as “Official A” — but he was later named in court. Burke was never charged with wrongdoing in that case.

2012: Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson attempted to audit the city’s worker’s compensation and duty disability programs, which fall under the control of the Finance Committee. Burke’s office claimed Ferguson didn’t have the authority to investigate the programs.

2016: A Sun-Times investigation found that Burke’s law firm had saved President Donald Trump $14 million after appealing property tax bills over seven years. Burke’s firm would stop representing Trump’s Chicago interests in 2018. But the Trump ties helped fuel the defeat of Burke’s brother, state Rep. Dan Burke, in the 2018 Democratic Primary, and sparked rivals to put a political bulls-eye on Ed Burke as well.

Ald. Ed Burke's plowed street

Ald. Edward Burke’s house on West 51st Street and the condo he developed next to it in February 2015 after a heavy snowstorm. | Dan Mihalopoulos/Sun-Times

2016: A report from the city inspector general’s office found that the 3900 block of West 51st Street, where Burke lives, was plowed far more often than other streets in the city after a record 19.2-inch snowfall in February 2015. Snow removal crews hit the street 46 times in five days.


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