Former Chicago Ald. Ed Burke Makes Illinois corruption naughty list

Former Chicago Ald. Ed Burke Makes Illinois corruption naughty list

Chicago’s longest-serving alderman, the “ComEd Four” and a collection of public servants in some of the highest-profile corruption cases in decades.

While most Illinoisans are preparing to give gifts to family and friends this holiday season, an extensive federal probe into Illinois corruption reminds us just how many powerful public servants were on the take in 2023.

Now ranked as the second-most corrupt state in the nation, Illinois’ holiday Grinches stand out in a crowded field for exploiting taxpayers’ good will. But with watchdogs’ help, some of the state’s longest serving politicians were exposed for their naughty behavior.

Here are a few of those notable public corruption and misconduct cases from 2023.

Former Chicago Alderman Edward Burke

Once considered the most powerful alderman in Chicago, former 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke was convicted on all but one of the 14 counts of racketeering, bribery, extortion and other crimes.

Burke used his aldermanic powers and finance committee chair position to divert business to his private tax law firm, Klafter & Burke and shake down groups attempting to work with City Hall.

The cases include threatening to block a proposed fee increase at the Field Museum, shaking down owners of a Burger King in his ward, accepting contracts for his personal law firm in return for support in the City Council and blocking approval of the Chicago Post Office redevelopment until Klafter & Burke was hired by the developers.

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the nation’s longest serving House Speaker, was indicted in March 2022 on 22-counts, including federal racketeering and bribery charges. Madigan is currently awaiting his corruption trial scheduled for April 1, 2024.

Madigan allegedly ran a criminal enterprise, exchanging influence on key legislation for job opportunities for constituents and other allies. Court documents state Madigan netted $2.85 million in illegitimate funds.

Madigan allies, including his former chief of staff and the “ComEd Four,” were found guilty by a federal court earlier this year in connection with Madigan’s patronage hiring scheme.

But Madigan denies all of it. He claimed jobs were given to his constituents because of good recommendations, not illegal influence. Madigan is now seeking to delay his corruption trial.

The “ComEd Four”

The “ComEd Four” were found guilty by a federal jury May 2 for their involvement in a multi-year scheme to bribe Madigan and influence legislation in Springfield.

The defendants: former state lawmaker and lobbyist Michael McClain, former Commonwealth Edison CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former contract lobbyist Jay Doherty were convicted of conspiring to funnel $1.3 million in jobs, contracts and payments to Madigan’s cronies.

ComEd admitted to the taking part in the scheme and paid a $200 million fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to review the federal bribery statute has led to a delay in sentencing the “ComEd Four” and could result in their convictions being overturned.

Riverdale Mayor Lawrence Jackson

After serving as the mayor of Riverdale, Illinois, for the last 10 years, Lawrence Jackson was indicted in November on federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

Jackson allegedly accepted secret payments from a garbage and recycling company in return for preferential treatment and lied under oath while testifying in a 2018 deposition. Jackson has pled not guilty to the charges.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Crystal Cooper

Chicago Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Crystal Cooper resigned from her position in September after an Inspector General investigation discovered she inflated her income to qualify for a higher COVID-19 relief loan on a side business.

Cooper was the highest-ranking of 14 CPS staffers exposed in the inspector general report to leave their jobs due to paycheck protection program fraud.

Other public corruption

Corruption costs Illinois

Government corruption cost Illinoisans $550 million in lost economic activity every year from 2000 to 2018. And Chicago is even worse.

Chicago was ranked as the most corrupt metropolitan area in America for a fourth consecutive year in 2023. It led the nation with an average 41 corruption convictions per year from 1976 to 2021.

Whether in treasure or trust, corruption costs Illinois. Vigorous federal prosecution can help curb it, but not much will change until state leaders get serious about ethics reforms.

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