Longtime Chicago Alderman Edward Burke, who has been one of the mainstays Windy City’s Democratic political machine for decades, has been charged with attempted extortion.
Burke represents a ward on Chicago’s South Side, where former President Barack Obama’s rise to political power began, first as a community organizer and later as a state senator in the 1990s.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleges that Burke, who has been an alderman since 1969, “tried to extort the owners of a company that operates dozens of fast-food restaurants in the Chicago area and needed help with permits for remodeling a restaurant in Burke’s 14th Ward on the Southwest Side,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
The complaint further alleges that Burke asked one of the company’s executives to attend a political fundraiser, and the individual felt compelled to give maximum contributions to the candidate in order to satisfy Burke.
The alderman and his wife Anne, a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court, were max contributors themselves to Obama’s 2008 presidential primary campaign
An account in the Chicago Sun-Times appears to demonstrate Obama and Burke are friends, or at least had a friendly relationship with each other, based on the attention the then-president gave to the city politician at the Beverly Country Club in Chicago in 2012.
“I was waiting on the first hole while he (the president) was finishing up the ninth hole, when he graciously came over and inquired about Anne and Travis (the Burkes’ African-American son),” Burke recounted to the paper.
Breitbart reported Burke, 75, is the longest-serving alderman in Chicago.
“Anyone aspiring to a position of power in the Cook County Democrat Party must have Burke’s approval,” according to the news outlet. “He’s the Machine’s gatekeeper.”
The Tribune reported that Burke controls millions of dollars in campaign funds.
When federal agents raided Burke’s city hall and ward offices in late November, some in the media speculated whether the move could have something to do with private legal work the alderman did for President Donald Trump.
Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke, represented Trump’s companies repeatedly over a 12-year period, seeking to reduce the taxes owed on properties, including Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.
The attorney stopped working for the Trump Organization after the New York businessman became president.
The Times reported following the raids, based on a source, that they were in response to new allegations, meaning “for now, the investigation isn’t focused on Burke’s property-tax-appeal work for President Donald Trump.”
“It doesn’t mean, however, that those dots won’t be connected later,” the paper added.
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