Alderman Edward Burke, Part III: Top Machine Boss of Obama's Chicago

As we watch Obama govern, we don’t need to look far to find where he learned Chicago-style politics. One of his professors was Alderman Edward M. Burke, boss of the Chicago City Council.

Ed Burke

After Alderman Fred Roti was convicted on 2 RICO, 5 bribery and 4 extortion charges, the Outfit lost much of its leverage over city business. Over time, Burke stepped into the void and centralized legislative power in his own office.

As chair of the Finance Committee, Burke gained control over the purse strings, and the City of Chicago carries a big purse. The Chicago Sun-Times reported:

When city workers get hurt on the job, they usually turn to a handful of lawyers tied to City Hall. And the city often fights back by hiring lawyers with ties to Ald. Edward M. Burke, chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, which has sole authority to settle workers compensation claims against the city. Injured city workers most often turn to Frederic Krol Sr., who went to prison for five months in the 1960s for bribing a federal prosecutor and temporarily surrendered his law license. The city has paid more than $65 million to settle 3,750 workers comp cases Krol has filed since 1980, records show.

Burke had familial influence over the restructuring of Chicago’s judicial system in the wake of Operation Gambat. Here’s how.

Anton Valukas was U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois when Robert Cooley wore a wire in Operation Gambat. After serving as U.S. Attorney from 1985-1989, Valukas returned to practice law at Jenner and Block. In the wake of the Operation Gambat trials, a special commission was tasked to study how judicial practices in Illinois could be reformed. Illinois Issues reported:

Appointed to chair the study, due December 31, 1993, was Jerold S. Solovy, senior partner in Chicago’s Jenner & Block law firm. Solovy headed a similar commission that studied Cook County courts from 1984 to 1988 in the aftermath of the federal Operation Greylord of the early 1980s…The new Solovy commission has the authority of the state’s highest court behind it and will take in the entire state judicial system.

One of the attorneys appointed to the Solovy commission was Alderman Burke’s wife, Anne.

Ed Burke is now in charge of slating the Democrat Party judges for elections in Cook County.

Burke also has familial influence in the remapping of ward boundaries. On February 17, 1997, in an article entitled “Role In Two Suits Raises Ethics Issues,” Chicago Sun-Times reporters Adrienne Drell and Charles Nicodemus pointed out Burke’s ties to the law firm of Jenner and Block.

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), whose decisions on hiring lawyers in the City Council ward remap case have funneled $7.5 million in city fees to the prominent Jenner and Block law firm, holds co-counsel status with that firm in two recent lawsuits, court records show. Burke’s links with the firm do not appear to violate any laws or regulations…

Managing partner Jerold Solovy – who is the lead attorney in the remap case – was treasurer of the unopposed 1996 campaign for Illinois Appellate Court justice of Anne Burke, the alderman’s wife. And prominent [Jenner and Block] partner John Simon served as her campaign chairman. The firm provided $14,414.15 in services and money to the campaign.

The firm hired Burke’s daughter Jennifer A. Burke in June, 1995, shortly after she graduated 173rd in a class of 385 from Chicago Kent College of Law. In making new hires, the firm usually draws top students from the nation’s leading law schools. Two weeks ago, Burke, whose name has been linked to the federal investigation of ghost payrolling at City Hall, hired Jenner and Block partner and former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas to represent him in that inquiry.

So, the man who chaired the commission to reform the judicial system in Chicago over which Burke gained control was the treasurer of Anne Burke’s successful campaign to be elected a judge. And, he also received $7,500,000 in fees from the City Finance Committee that Burke chaired. Plus, the former U.S. Attorney during whose tenure allegations against Burke surfaced was Burke’s attorney during a ghost payrolling investigation.

The quote above mentions “the federal investigation of ghost payrolling at City Hall.” Here’s how ghost payrolling works.

Document No. 101317 of the Illinois Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, dated May 18, 2006, told the story of Burke’s ghost employee, Joseph Anthony Martinez-Fraticelli. He was a newly minted attorney hired by Burke to a succession of city jobs for which he performed no work at all. That eventually led to him losing his license to practice law. Burke, who hired him, was never held accountable. Martinez cleaned up his act, paid restitution, and was reinstated to the bar by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Before Anne Burke became an Illinois Supreme, both Ed and Anne attracted attention in the murder case against Herbert Cammon. On January 22, 2008, Karyn Mehringer, co-founder of Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates, requested that the Illinois Supreme Court investigate Alderman Burke and his wife, now Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, concerning the Cammon murder case. Mehringer wrote:

Herbert Cammon’s case was a murder case in which it was alleged that Herbert Cammon, a gay black man, murdered his wife with the help of his gay lover by stabbing her over 40 times and leaving the knife sticking out of her mouth. It was alleged that he murdered his wife to obtain the proceeds of a $250,000 life insurance policy. The case was originally assigned to Judge Arthur Cieslik. [Judge Cieslik lived in the 14th ward.] After a mistrial because of a hung jury, Ed Burke approached Judge Cieslik and told him to withdraw from the case. When the judge refused to withdraw from the case, he told the judge, “What’s the big deal. It’s only a fucking nigger.”

… Anne Burke also requested that the judge withdraw from the case saying, “My husband was the one who put you on the bench.” When the judge finally withdrew from the case due to media pressure initiated by the attorneys, the case was assigned to Judge Tom Maloney. Judge Maloney dismissed the case in a bench trial. Cooley revealed that he was wearing a wire when the aforementioned events took place such that the FBI was fully informed. Cooley revealed that he was in communication with Judge Cieslik and he tried to encourage the judge to not let the case go. He also reported to the feds that the case would be assigned to Judge Maloney who would fix the case.

Judge Tom Maloney, mentioned above, is the only judge in U.S. history convicted of fixing a murder trial. He received a 15-years prison sentence. There’s no indication that the Illinois Supreme Court ever investigated Justice Anne Burke in response to Mehringer’s complaint.

Anne Burke was selected to be an Illinois Supreme Court Justice after Cooley made allegations against her and her husband in his book When Corruption Was King. No Chicago Tribune or Chicago Sun-Times editorials questioned Anne Burke’s ethics or the wisdom of having the wife of the powerful Chicago City Council member on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Just last week, on April 9, when this story appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, its connection with Anne Burke was noticed by Newsalert, a local Chicago blog.

Three reputed mob burglars, two of whom were convicted of stealing the 45-carat Marlborough Diamond, were arrested on a Bridgeport street this week– allegedly as they were on the verge of robbing the home of the late, feared mob boss, Angelo “The Hook” LaPietra, federal prosecutors said today. Charged in the case were Jerry “The Monk” Scalise, 73, of Clarendon Hills; Art Rachel, 71, of Chicago — both convicted of the Marlborough Diamond theft — and Robert Pullia, 69, of Plainfield.

Scalise and Rachel are associates of the Outfit. The “Marlborough Diamond” theft was covered by the Sun Times back on April 26, 1987:

Two Chicago jewel thieves are being held for ransom in British prisons, according to their Windy City lawyer. The ransom demand: location of a $1 million gem and information on the crime syndicate. Attorney Anne Burke said that’s the real reason the Brits are holding onto her clients, Joseph “Jerry” Scalise and Arthur “The Genius” Rachel. Burke said Scotland Yard detectives recently have been visiting Scalise in his prison on the Isle of Wight in an apparent effort to learn the whereabouts of the Marlborough diamond.

In addition to being a convicted thief, Scalise is a reputed hit man for the Outfit.

The grisly nature of the chop shop business in the late 1970s was underscored by 14 unsolved murders of individuals linked to this most lucrative enterprise. Several of these killings were linked to Dauber who was to eventually find himself outside the mob’s good graces, and especially with “Butch” Petrocelli and Jerry Scalise, a thief with a proclivity for jewelry. Scalise who had traveled to merry old England and snatched the famed Marlborough Diamond several years earlier from a British arcade…

Legal documents from 1989 show that attorney Anne Burke represented Scalise and Rachel in their effort to be extradited from England to serve their sentence for the jewel theft in a U.S. prison. So, in that case, she was a mob lawyer. Here she is later swearing in the Pat Quinn as Governor of the State of Illinois.

A. Burke & Gov. Quinn

Alderman Burke’s power is such that he can ignore the rules in the City Council. For example, Barack Obama’s friend, neighbor and financial supporter, “Tony” Rezko, knew to go to Burke for results. In October 2007 the Chicago Sun-Times asked,

Why did Ald. Edward M. Burke vote to approve Tony Rezko’s plans to develop the South Loop’s biggest piece of vacant land even as he [through his law firm] was working for Rezko on that same deal?

Burke says: I forgot to abstain.

The much-conflicted alderman says he meant to sit out the vote. He’d even sent a letter to the Chicago Board of Ethics in August 2003 saying he would abstain from any Council votes on Rezko’s plan to put as many as 5,000 homes and stores on a 62-acre site along the Chicago River at Roosevelt Road.

But then Rezko’s project came before the City Council on March 31, 2004, and Burke cast his vote — in favor. “An error occurred,” the alderman said in a written response to questions, “and Rule 14 was not invoked.” That would be the Council rule under which aldermen are supposed to abstain from a vote when they have a conflict of interest. Of course, it’s up to the alderman who has a conflict to invoke the rule.

Burke’s legal work for Rezko’s Rezmar Corp. is referenced in records on the 62-acre site Rezko wanted to develop with $140 million in city subsidies. The project fizzled, and Rezmar sold the land.

So let’s see if we have this straight: Burke forgot to invoke a rule against himself based on a clear conflict of interest between his role as a voting alderman on a project while also providing legal services to a bidder. The project involved $140,000,000 in city money.

Accusations against Alderman Edward M. Burke are not new. Several appeared in Robert Cooley’s book When Corruption Was King. Former FBI Agent John O’Rourke said this about the veracity of Robert Cooley’s testimony.

…Mr. Cooley has previously provided information that has been independently verified and found to be reliable by the FBI.

Here’s the question: Why hasn’t The Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois (ARDC) opened an investigation concerning Cooley’s allegations against Alderman Burke? And why hasn’t the Chicago media demanded it? Cooley says,

I sent a letter that offered to provide the necessary information, but never got a response.

This is politics Chicago-style, where President Obama learned how big government works, with Alderman Ed Burke as one of Barack’s tenured teachers.

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