CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is returning $116,000 in campaign contributions collected at a fundraiser hosted by Ald. Edward Burke’s house last year, seeking to distance herself from the attempted extortion charge against him.
Preckwinkle, who also is chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, also has removed Burke as chair of the party’s judicial slating committee, and is calling on him to resign as alderman and as Democratic committeeman of the 14th Ward.
A candidate for mayor, Preckwinkle has come under fire from her political rivals, after she was tied to the federal corruption case against Burke.
Burke is accused of using his position as alderman to illegally pressure two executives with a fast food restaurant company to hire his law firm for property tax work. The criminal complaint against Burke also accuses the alderman of asking one of the executives to make a campaign contribution to another politician in exchange for his support for a restaurant renovation project.
Court documents indicate the $10,000 donation was later reduced to $5,600 to comply with contribution limits. Although she is not identified in the charge against Burke, Preckwinkle has acknowledged she is the candidate in question, but has insisted her campaign returned the entire $10,000 donation.
According to the feds, the fast food executive agreed to the $10,000 donation because he did not want to attend a Preckwinkle campaign fundraiser Burke allegedly asked him to attend.
Preckwinkle said the fundraiser was really hosted by Burke’s wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, not the alderman. After initially stating she would only return campaign funds she received from Burke’s political committees, Preckwinkle now says she will return all $116,000 raised at that event at the Burkes’ home.
Meantime, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is ordering a forensic audit of the city’s workers’ compensation program, which Burke oversaw for decades as chairman of the City Council Finance Committee. Burke resigned his seat as Finance Committee chair after he was charged, and the mayor plans to move the workers’ compensation program out of the Finance Committee, and under his own control.