Morrison 'very grateful' feds pursing attempted extortion charge against Burke
A suburban Chicago state representative said during a recent interview that he is "very grateful" to federal authorities who are pursuing an attempted extortion charge against longtime Chicago Alderman Ed Burke.
"I'm very grateful that we have federal law enforcement that took an interest in this," Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) said during a North Cook News telephone interview. "Because there have to be checks and balances."
What federal authorities are going after in their case against Burke is nothing new in Illinois, Morrison said.
"Clearly this behavior and behavior like it has been going on for decades, and Cook County law enforcement and Illinois law enforcement have turned a blind eye to it," he said. "You look at who has prosecuted the political scandals in Illinois over the last couple of decades, it's almost always the feds. It's almost always the federal prosecutors."
The 37-page federal criminal complaint against Burke unsealed earlier this month alleges attempt, by extortion, to obstruct and affect commerce, including an attempt in 2017 to shake down executives of the national fast-food restaurant chain Burger King. Burke allegedly informed the executives, who were attempting to obtain remodeling permits, that they could get the permits if they became clients of his private property tax-appeal law firm, Klafter & Burke.
"My hat's off to the owner of this Burger King chain and the employees who decided they were not going to take it," Morrison said. "They could have decided to have just played along, play ball so to speak, and let it continue. I'm grateful that they notified the appropriate authorities, and the appropriate authorities took it seriously and pursued it.
The complaint against Burke follows a raid on his office by federal agents and other law enforcement in November.
Burke has said he is "not guilty of anything" and has "done nothing wrong."
Morrison, a lifelong Illinois resident, said the allegations against Burke are the sorts of rumors he has always heard about widespread corruption in the state "by various entities."
"I'm not judging Ed Burke. He needs to be tried; there needs to be a trial," Morrison said. "What I'm saying is that for decades I have heard about city employees, county employees, elected officials using the levers of government abusively and to benefit themselves."