Former alderman and long-time political boss Democrat Ed Burke was found guilty on Thursday of 13 criminal counts in federal court. The convictions came after the jury deliberated for nearly a week in the sprawling corruption trial.
Burke served on Chicago’s city council for an astonishing 54 years, during which time he served as chair of its finance committee for 3 decades. In that time, Burke became one of the most powerful men in Chicago, earning a reputation as an old-school “machine” politician. In spite of the cloud of corruption hanging over him, Burke’s tenure on the city council only ended when he decided not to run for re-election this year.
Burke was finally undone by a scheme that his critics alleged had become commonplace: he attempted to extort Burger King executives by threatening to withhold construction permits on a new location unless the franchise owners signed on as clients at his property tax law firm.
Federal agents finally raided Burke’s offices in 2018 and charged him with numerous offenses related to corruption in January 2019. Despite this, he cruised to re-election in 2019, winning by almost 25 points. He finally faced trial this year on 14 counts, including counts of racketeering, federal program bribery, and extortion. He was convicted Thursday by a 12-person jury of all but one count. Burke is not due back in court for sentencing until next year.
Even disgraced former mayor Lori Lightfoot shed no tears at his conviction, saying that Burke “should rightfully be remembered as a man who elevated personal ambition and greed over doing other people’s work.” She also slammed other elected Chicago officials who “looked the other way as Burke systematically monetized the Finance Committee for his own personal benefit.”
Over 30 Chicago aldermen have been implicated in corruption charges since 1973.