MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Chicago Alderman and Notorious Nanny-Stater Ed Burke Charged in Federal Corruption Scheme

Burke has tried to ban everything from electric cigarettes and self-driving cars to trans fats, plastic straws, and marijuana-flavored candy.

Brian Cassella/TNS/NewscomBrian Cassella/TNS/Newscom

In court documents unsealed last week, longtime Chicago alderman Ed Burke was charged with trying to extort a Burger King franchise owner for legal work and campaign contributions.

Prosecutors allege that Burke, a powerful politician and notorious government nanny, used his position as alderman to steer legal work towards his own law firm and directly asked Burger King executives to make political donations to certain candidates. The fast food chain was seeking permits to renovate a restaurant within Burke's ward.

Though Burke did not step down from the city council seat he's held since 1969, he did, at the urging of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, resign his powerful post as chairman of the council's finance committee. Burke has professed his innocence.

As the Chicago Tribune notes, the extortion charges could be just the tip of the iceberg for Burke, whose office and law firm were raided by the FBI in November. According to the complaint against Burke, a federal judge allowed the FBI in 2017 to wiretap Burke's cell phone. The bureau had been recording his calls for months before the alderman allegedly tried to shake down Burger King in May 2017.

The charges against Burke gained additional national attention because of his longtime ties to President Donald Trump. Though the professional relationship between Trump and Burke formally ended in June of last year, the alderman's 12-year run as one of Trump's personal attorneys included convincing the city council, of which he was a member, to cut property taxes by $14 million for the Chicago Trump Tower.

Here at Reason, Burke is probably best known as Chicago's biggest nanny—and often a hypocritical one.

For example, Burke has been an ardent supporter of gun control laws. But while he was trying to deny residents of one of America's most violent cities the right to defend themselves and their property, he was protected day-and-night by a team of four Chicago police officers. Having personal bodyguards is not a typical perk of a city alderman, but it's one Burke has enjoyed for decades, at taxpayer expense, due to threats made against him in the early 1980s. When the FBI raided Burke's office in November, 23 guns were found.

In 2017, Burke introduced a bill that would have banned cashless businesses in Chicago, while making the argument that refusing to accept cash was "an elitist attitude that doesn't really reflect what Chicago is about." Perhaps cashless businesses are harder to extort?

Few things were beyond the reach of Burke's political nosiness. In 2006, Burke championed a bill that would have made Chicago the first large city in the nation to prohibit restaurants from cooking with trans fats, even before New York City did. Burke co-sponsored a proposed ban on caffeinated beers in Chicago in 2010. He also supported a ban on foie gras—though he later sank the bill after the mayor's office turned against it. In 2013 he led a charge to ban energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster. Summing up all that nannyism, Reason contributor Baylen Linnekin labeled Burke "the staunchest elected opponent of food freedom in America whose name you've never heard."

And, of course, he's a supporter of an effort to ban plastic straws in the city, too.

Burke has also tried to ban self-driving cars from Chicago, arguing that the technology is "not 100 percent safe"—unlike human drivers in Chicago, of course.

He's also opposed to electronic cigarettes and vaping, even though they are safer alternatives to smoking, which Burke led the charge to ban in Chicago restaurants and bars in 2005. He introduced the bill that banned chewing tobacco from Chicago baseball stadiums, a bill that would have banned powdered alcohol from being sold in Chicago (even though it wasn't yet for sale at the time), and a bill to ban marijuana-flavored candy (whatever that is).

Burke's fall from power is surely a win for freedom in the Second City. Though, to be fair, Burke did have at least one libertarian bone in his body: in 2016, he backed the repeal of a longstanding ban on Chicago strip clubs being allowed to sell alcohol.

Photo Credit: Brian Cassella/TNS/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Eddy||

    "the city council seat he's held since 1969"

    OMG

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    In all fairness, he probably paid good money for that seat.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I bet it appreciated nicely.

  • Fats of Fury||

    Yah. No! He inherited it from his father.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    That's 50 years of service, bud.

  • DenverJ||

    Ok. I was born in 69. Summer of life. I'm only 49, guy, not 50. 50 is old.
    (Note: in August of 2019, the age for "old" will become someone much older than 50)

  • Sevo||

    "That's 50 years of service, bud."

    "Service" is here subject to definational variance.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Service", "graft", it is all much of a muchness.

  • DonP||

    He's a living example of the Chicago City Motto: "Ubi est mea?"

  • Earth Skeptic||

    I am sure he has "serviced" many Chicago residents.

  • Ray McKigney||

    That photo seriously needs some Rod Steiger alt-text.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If you ask me, the Burger King joint was asking for it, trying to set up shop in Chicago.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    What's Chick-Fil-A? Chopped liver?

  • gimmeasammich||

    According to Rhambo, yes.

  • Fats of Fury||

    BTW That particular Burger King was the one Laquan MacDonald was shot in front of.

  • Rockabilly||

    May I say..........

    ahahahahhahahahahahahahahaaaahahahhha!!!!!!!!!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Good ol' "Easy" Ed Burke.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "Burke has professed his innocence."

    No doubt, the policies weren't clear and some additional training is all that'll be needed to straighten this matter out.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    All progtards should be destroyed in this manner. Let's hope the next AG focuses on prosecuting corrupt democrats.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    So you're saying it's possible that a Chicago Alderman (D) is guilty of some sort of corruption? Well I for one am stunned by this development. Of course this can only be explained by the Trump connection.

  • DenverJ||

    He was elected fairly. His constituents voted early and often.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Even the dead ones.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    And their pets.

  • Longtobefree||

    It is further rumored that the sun may rise in the east tomorrow - - - - - -

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I like his hat.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    That's where you are supposed to put the bribe, under then his hat.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

  • Jerryskids||

    Since when has "Nice business you got here, be a shame if something was to happen to it" been considered extortion in Chicago? Just what the hell do you think "the Chicago way" means? The city was once run by Al Capone for Guido's sake.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Just what the hell do you think "the Chicago way" means?

    Cheese on first?

  • Rich||

    When the FBI raided Burke's office in November, 23 guns were found.

    How many plastic straws?

  • Still Curmudgeoned (Nunya)||

    That was funny, sir.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Typical Rich. The motherfucker always has to be funny. Makes us all look bad.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • Curly4||

    And yet this political hack is still an alderman!

  • DenverJ||

    That's the guy in charge of the navy, right?

  • gimmeasammich||

    I live in Chicago. I just found out this morning that my wife's boss' father is not only running for mayor, but also worked for Burke back in the 90s. He keeps flipping back and forth between a law practice and "public service." I wonder where his clients come from....

  • DenverJ||

    I wonder where his clients come from....

    Only if you speak of it at all. I'd suspect that you are too smart and too in love with your wife to bring the matter up at all.
    I mean, whatcha gonna say? "Hey, dad, how can I get myself some of that sweet, sweet lucre"? After he knows that your doing unspeakable things to his little girl?

  • DenverJ||

    "Wife's bosses father"
    Sorry, but still funny, no?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

  • Fats of Fury||

    There was a photo spread in the old National Lampoon that showed a variety of Chinese businesses with the name Fuk Yu.

  • Eddy||

    "Oh, so sorry, we had no idea what meant Fuk Yu, we shall correct mistake at once, thank you for calling problem to our attention, round-eyed dog."

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Well phu-ket then.

  • TangoDelta||

    "gained additional national attention because of his longtime ties to President Donald Trump"
    Finally! Someone willing to reach across the aisle and work together in a bipartisan approach. [/sarc]

  • Fats of Fury||

    This asshole has been doing the extortion routine for 50 years. He got his real estate lawyer wife a seat on the Illinois Supreme court.
    His kids all have local government jobs. He slates all the judges in Cook County and even re-slates the ones that were turned out by the voters. And he never loses a court case.

    Now why all of the sudden are the Feds wiretapping Burke? Dollar to donuts it's his connection to Trump. The Feds will probably squeeze him for dirt on Trump.

    Tax Appeals are the scam most of these Illinois politicians engage in. The Rotten speaker of the House, Mike Madigan also runs a Tax Appeal firm. The fun part are all the Chicago pols scrambling around to disassociate themselves from Burke even though they do the exact same thing. It's like the crooked town officials in the old Danny Kaye film, "The Inspector General".

  • TangoDelta||

    Plebs will surrender any potential weapons of resistance now!

  • Eddy||

    If a headline begins "Chicago Alderman," then most of the time we can make a decent guess what the rest of the headline will say.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Chicago Alderman Sells Orphans to Mob, Dumps Kids down Laundry Shoot into Garbage Truck

  • LiborCon||

    "Burke's fall from power is surely a win for freedom in the Second City."

    Chicago is a cockroach breeding ground, step on one and more take its place.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The comment about his ties to Trump remind me of the 'scandal' that was 'trumped' up over the builders of the Brooklyn Bridge making payments to William Tweed. This came up AFTER Teed's downfall, and there was a lot of denouncing and Viewing With Alarm, until somebody on the Bridge's board asked if anyone could imagine getting anything done at the hight of Tweed's power WITHOUT paying Tweed.

    *crickets chirping*

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yes, Chicago has a bad reputation.

    Ruka Fruka Fruka Rit! My best friend just texted me. You know that thing in some cultures where a man bonds with you forever if you save his life? Maybe I should piss off a Chicago drug den so that they kill me soon. Paterson and Harlem aren't as tempermental.

  • hakuna matata||

    Not like things will be better once Burke is gone. The city is insolvent. And one extortionist replaces another.

    https://trib.in/2sf7yDq

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online