Secret footage of Chicago alderman detailed in corruption probe

Secret footage of Chicago alderman detailed in corruption probe

Chicago Ald. Edward Burke was secretly videotaped in City Hall by federal authorities as part of the corruption probe into Illinois politics. Burke reportedly confided in an informant how they would avoid being caught.

Federal prosecutors released the 160-page affidavit behind the 2018 raid of Chicago Ald. Edward Burke’s offices, confirming video exists of Burke allegedly  leveraging his City Council seat to benefit his private tax law firm.

The recordings were part of a deferred prosecution agreement between former-Ald. Danny Solis and federal authorities. They will be considered Feb. 8 by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow during oral arguments related to Burke’s indictment.

Charged along with Burke are political aide Peter Andrews and developer Charles Cui. Burke has plead “not guilty” on all counts.

The video reportedly shows Burke complaining to Solis that he was not “happy” about the lack of work directed to his law firm. He later promises Solis “you and I are not gonna … get in trouble over this … at this stage in the game.”

“I am a believer that if you’re making money, that you should share the wealth,” Burke allegedly said. “So you and I’ll never have … we’ll just figure out a way that’s gonna be above board, legal, etc.”

Burke is a cigar-chomping political boss with a taste for pinstripe suits who has been an alderman for over 50 years. He once controlled the city’s purse strings, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced reforms that severely limited his power.

He was originally charged in a criminal complaint in January 2019 after FBI agents raided his City Hall office. He was later indicted in May 2019 on an expanded 14-count corruption charge, alleging Burke committed extortion, racketeering, federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion and used interstate commerce to facilitate unlawful activity.

The 59-page indictment described a scheme by Burke to drive business developers to his law firm, Klafter & Burke, to appeal their property taxes. The indictment alleged aide Andrews and Burke attempted to shake down businessmen looking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the 14th Ward.

The document also accuses Cui of employing Klafter & Burke to fast-track a sign permit and financing deal for a project in the Portage Park neighborhood.

Burke has challenged the legitimacy of the federal investigation, insisting he was the target of an overzealous FBI that baited him into committing illegal activities. However, federal authorities wiretapping Solis claim no one had to entice Burke to abuse his public office for personal gain.

“Again and again, Burke shamelessly tied official action to his law firm’s receipt of business,” prosecutors wrote. “The government acted more than reasonably in investigating Burke’s conduct, an inquiry that… revealed Burke to be thoroughly corrupt and worthy of prosecution.”

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