CHICAGO (CBS) — Over the years there have been ethics probes, allegations of influence peddling, and the overall misuse of public power for personal profit. But who would have ever thought it would come down to something as mundane as a permit for a fast food restaurant?
Ald. Ed Burke and Donald Trump shared a hand shake in 2015. The two did business for more than a decade together in Chicago but had a falling out last year. Around the same time the feds were starting to tighten the noose around Burke and his alleged use of influence in exchange for political donations or business for his private legal firm.
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While there is no mention of president Trump or the $14 million in property tax Burke saved the Trump Tower in Thursday’s criminal complaint, there is an abundance of allegations involving a year’s worth of surveillance and secret wiretaps, targeting Burke for allegedly using his influence to shake down the owner of a restaurant chain in need of city permits.
By November of last year, the feds very publicly raided Burke’s ward and city hall offices. At the time the alderman assured the public he would cooperate and there would be nothing to find.
“As far as I am concerned I will cooperate in any way I need to, and I am certain there will be nothing found in this,” Burke said.
The high powered alderman is no stranger to facing questions involving allegations of the possible sale of his influence. His business relationships have also been investigated in the past.
Just last year he was examined by the Chicago Board of Ethics for allegedly violating conflict of interest rules by standing in the way of a proposal that would have required two of his clients pay more property tax. He was cleared of that wrongdoing in March of 2018.
And two decades ago in 1998 CBS 2 reported he was questioned for receiving up to $300,000 from a developer he helped get millions of dollars in city assistance. He denied that wrongdoing, too.
And finally three weeks ago as he left last year’s final city council finance committee meeting that he chairs as the heat from the fed probe persisted. Burke abruptly walked past reporters and took the stairs, taking the slow climb up to get away.
As of last year Burke’s financial interest statements revealed his law firm had 41 legal clients who did some form of work with city government.