Chicago’s Longest-Serving City Council Member Jailed for Corruption

Former longtime Chicago Alderman Edward Burke was sentenced last Monday in federal court to two years in prison for bribery, racketeering, and extortion.

The 80-year-old Burke, who served on the Chicago City Council for 54 years before leaving office in 2023, was the longtime chair of the council’s Finance Committee, where he had complete authority over certain city affairs.

A federal grand jury indicted Burke in May 2019 on 19 counts related to bribery and federal racketeering.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Burke used his position to solicit work for his law firm Klafter & Burke from companies involved in a downtown Chicago redevelopment project as well as a fast food restaurant in the Southwest Side ward he represented.

Burke also threatened to oppose an admission fee increase for a Chicago museum after it failed to respond to his request about a museum internship for the child of his friend.

Burke was convicted in December 2023 on 13 counts, including racketeering, bribery, and attempted extortion.

Prosecutors sought 10 years in federal prison.

Meanwhile, the defense argued that Burke’s more than fifty years in public service outweighed a prison sentence and requested that the judge sentence him to home confinement.

Burke, who denied any wrongdoing when he was indicted, told the judge that he regretted the “pain” and “sorrow” he caused his family and friends.

In the end, US District Judge Virginia Kendall sentenced Burke to two years and fined him $2 million.

Assistant US Attorney Sarah Streicker from the Northern District of Illinois said the longtime alderman repeatedly “abused his power and exploited his office for private gain.”

Burke was first elected in 1969. His wife, Anne Burke, once served as a Justice on the Illinois Supreme Court.

After he was indicted in 2019, Burke decided not to seek reelection when his term ended in 2023.