Chicago attorney says Alderman Burke is driven by power, money
A Chicago attorney recently remarked that in the Windy City one man rules the roost, and that’s Alderman Ed Burke.
With his high-profile lifestyle, Burke is a man that you want to be friends with, especially if you are a business in the city. Amassing a record breaking 40 years in office, Burke is has held the office longer than any alderman ever has and doesn’t look like he is leaving anytime soon.
“I don’t ever see him putting down the sword and shield,” Gene Keefe, an attorney at Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates LLC told the Chicago City Wire. “I think you’re going to have to carry him out. He’s not going to quit.”
Rising to an unrivaled power over several years in office, Burke controls the city’s revenue and expenses by chairing the City Council’s Committee on Finance. From here, Burke is in charge of all the legal aspects that go on with Chicago’s finances, ensuring money goes to the right places that are most certainly of his interest.
“If you want your business to do well in Chicago and you’re a friend of Ed Burke’s lots of people like you and other business like you too,” Keefe said.
Unlike any other political figure in Chicago, Burke has huge campaign finances to back his political moves. At last count, it totaled in the $8 million to $10 million range and it was reported at one time that he and his wife, Anne, were the richest family in Illinois.
“He has been in power forever,” Keefe said. “He’s literally made millions and millions of dollars. He likes making a lot of money. He likes being very wealthy, which he is.”
It may be his wealth that makes him a self-prescribed target as Burke has a security detail that follows him along with a car that stems from a court order and a lawsuit that was issued some 30 years ago. This was during the time when the City Council was at odds and threats were being made against Burke.
Burke was issued security and as time passed so did the threats. When Mayor Harold Washington tried to have the four to six guards removed in 1986, Burke filed a lawsuit and later Mayor Richard Daley let the bodyguards remain. Today, he still runs with up to six guards at a time and has come under fire for this as it may be excessive to taxpayers.
While Burke has been in office for years he seems to rule with a quiet poise, never really ruffling feathers along the way.
“Like [House Speaker] Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) in my view, they don’t take credit for anything and they don’t take responsibility for anything,” Keefe said. “There’s no Ed Burke plan or some amazing development that I’ve ever seen."
What Burke does best is make money and he makes a lot of it, running a property tax business that serves high-end clients who make up a list of big corporations as well as the city of Chicago. But for Burke, the position as alderman gives him notoriety.
“He just likes being in power and quietly controlling things and makes a lot of money doing it,” Keefe said. “If you’re in the cadre of people working with him of course you like him. They’re making money.”
Burke’s wife also adds an interesting element as she is a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court while Burke serves as Chairman of the Democratic Party's Judicial Slating Committee, selecting judges for positions in the Cook County courts who ultimately report to him. This may explain how Burke has a court order that has lasted several decades.
“Understanding that most of the judges in this part of the world report to Ed Burke, whatever court order he wants he can easily get,” Keefe said.
Burke may be a legend in the making as he is responsible for many people’s jobs and controls where and how Chicago spends its money. Plus, the political power he has aspired to make him a revered by many.
“If there are 2,000 to 3,000 people in that area that have city jobs, county jobs and state jobs, they look to Ed Burke as their godfather or political patron,” Keefe said.