CHICAGO (CBS) — The biggest guessing game in Chicago politics continues.

What were federal agents were looking for when they raided the City Hall office and ward office of powerful alderman Ed Burke? Two former federal prosecutors today who have already been retained by associates of Ald. Burke.

Which means those in political circles believe this investigation will likely touch others beyond Burke. At Burke’s City Hall office, it looked very much like business as usual, which is exactly how everyone wanted things to look just one day after computer equipment and files very publicly removed by federal agents from Burke’s ward office.

“What I think has likely happened since Thursday is someone for Mr. Burke or a representative from Mr. Burke has reached out to the prosecutor and asked to have a conversation,” said former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins. “How much the government will share, the government gets to make those choices, and I don’t know.”

Collins is the former federal prosecutor who helped send Governor George Ryan to prison. He said the federal raid indicates to him that charges may not be far off.

“In the court of public opinion where public officials have to operate, you’re presumed to have done something wrong when there’s a raid,” Collins said. “And I think it’s incumbent upon law enforcement to move quickly and do a dispatch if they’re going to take action like this. To show there’s some there there.”

 

What’s more, the feds came down with full knowledge that Burke’s only three months away from a tough reelection fight. Meaning the U.S. Justice Department headquarters was likely alerted to the plans.

“I would be shocked if there wasn’t discussion in advance about the sort of optics of this,” Collins said. “To go in there with this amount of resource and force, knowing there will be public attention garnered, it creates sort of an expectation that there’s some real evidence here.”

Collins has not been retained by an associate of Burke which is why he was free to discuss the case.

Alderman Burke has not been arrested or charged with anything. He has, however, filed for reelection for a record 14th time representing the 14th Ward.

Derrick Blakley