CHICAGO (CBS) — For a country founded on fair taxation, Cook County has always appeared like a shake down, like you needed an attorney to get a fair tax bill — especially if you’re a business here. It appeared like a shakedown. You just never had the most powerful politician in the city doing the shaking down, until now, allegedly.
The criminal complaint states Ald. Ed Burke “corruptly solicited unlawful personal financial advantage.”
Burke for a time appeared to play nice with the company he allegedly shook down. After allowing some reconstruction, Burke allegedly told a company representative, “Oh, that’s good. So I made you half a million bucks.”
He, per the feds, eventually stonewalled reconstruction in an effort to get the company’s tax business, once allegedly saying “I’d also like to get some of this law business.”
One of his clients he saved millions for is President Donald Trump’s Chicago Tower. His firm is located at 225 West Washington.
When CBS 2 went to Burke’s office, a doorman said guests were not being welcomed.
Journalist Jason Grotto, with ProPublica Illinois, contributed largely to “How the Cook County Assessor Failed Taxpayers,” a Pulitzer prize finalist and assessment of Cook County’s broken property tax system.
“We analyzed over 100 million property tax records,” Grotto said. “What our reporting bore out was the fact that this system is like a black box; it took us two years to figure out what was going on in there. That’s not how it should be.”
They also found which firms make the most in the commercial appeal business. Atop the list is Speaker Mike Madigan’s firm. In fourth is Burke’s firm.
Between 2011 and 2016 per ProPublica research, the firm appealed $4.7 billion in initially assessed value, getting reductions for clients of $864.9 million. And from that, the firm gets a cut.
There’s no doubt that his firm made millions and millions of dollars over the last decade at least.
Burke had a duality as the head of the finance committee, responsible for budgets and revenue and getting as much tax money for the city as possible, all the while trying to get his big business clients to pay as little as possible in property taxes.
He only held those two seemingly irreconcilable roles for 35 years.