Chicago’s Corrupt Christmas: Notorious Democratic Pol Ed Burke Convicted in Landmark Racketeering Trial

Ed Burke, the longtime Chicago alderman and once one of the most powerful Democrats in Illinois, was convicted on 13 corruption charges on Thursday.


Ed Burke, the longtime Chicago alderman and once one of the most powerful Democrats in Illinois, was convicted on 13 corruption charges on Thursday, bringing the career politician’s 54-year career to an ignominious end.

  • Burke, the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history, now becomes the 38th alderman convicted of a crime since 1968. Burke faces a sentence of between eight to 12 years in prison.
  • He was first elected in 1969 and rose to prominence in the 1980s as the leader of a group of white councilmen who tried to bring down the mayoralty of Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor, in a political conflict nicknamed the “Council Wars.”
  • Burke was convicted on charges including racketeering, corruption, and attempted extortion and was acquitted on one charge of conspiracy. The corrupt schemes Burke participated in took place from 2016 to 2018.
  • Burke was accused of using his position on city council to solicit work for his private law firm from businessmen and others with interests in front of city council. Burke took money from companies working on redevelopment projects at the Old Main Post Office and a Burger King restaurant.
  • Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot hailed the conviction and predicted the “gluttonous” Burke would be remembered as “a man who elevated personal ambition and greed over doing the people’s work.” Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy said Burke’s conviction showed “Illinois Democrat corruption at the highest levels of government.”
  • Meanwhile, left-wing Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson offered a generic statement on the conviction: “Elected officials are responsible for serving with honesty and integrity, with a moral responsibility to their constituents to uphold and abide by the law. In the case that they fail to do so, it is imperative that they are held accountable. That is what the jury decided today.”


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “After three years as a Chicago police officer, Burke was first elected in a special election to replace his late father as 14th Ward alderman in 1969. He then spent his entire adult life building a clout-heavy empire, leaving office in 2023 as the longest serving alderman in Chicago history,” NBC News Chicago contextualized. “Long known as the “dean” of Chicago’s City Council, Burke chaired the Finance Committee for more than 30 years, under multiple mayors. With that role came control of not only the largest staff at City Hall, but all financial matters involving the city, including things like workers’ compensation.”
  • The Chicago Sun-Times called Burke’s conviction an “unwelcome birthday present” for the soon-to-be 80-year-old ex-pol. The Sun-Times observed, “In a nation where the inflamed ego of longtime politicians is driving us into the ditch on all fronts, it’s revolting to see it on a local level, a Chicago institution groveling before a man who feels his slightest requests should be acted upon, even without ever having to be made.”
  • CBS News reported, “As the judge read the verdict, Burke’s wife, Anne, came up from behind him to give him a hug and kiss as he sat stoically at the defense table, showing no emotion as each guilty verdict came down. Several of their adult children and a grandchild were sitting behind them.” Anne Burke, his wife, is a former Illinois state Supreme Court justice.



  • The New York Post reported, “Prosecutors also alleged that Burke threatened to block a measure raising admission fees at Chicago’s famed Field Museum over its failure to grant an internship to the daughter of a former alderman, whom he had recommended. Burke’s shakedown scheme targeted the developer working on a $600 million renovation of Chicago’s Old Post Office, a Burger King in the former alderman’s 14th Ward and Midwest liquor store chain Binny’s Beverage Depot.”
  • Fox News noted, “Since the 1970s, nearly three dozen aldermen have been convicted. A common joke in Chicago is that so many aldermen had gone to prison that when they saw each other behind bars they’d holler, ‘Quorum call!’”
  • The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board wrote of the verdict, “For the broader city, Burke’s fall from grace served as a reminder that allowing public officials to operate businesses in close proximity to their public service has always meant risking an unholy mixing of the two. For decades, cozy terms such as “the Chicago Way” or “old school” or “we don’t want nobody nobody sent” all served as cover for such sins. No more.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023