The FBI raids Alderman Ed Burke’s offices
Burke just after the raid Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

November 29, 2018

Everyone knew something big was going down when feds swarmed into the offices of Chicago’s longest-serving alderman. Burke was reelected the following February even as prosecutors built an extortion case against him, but the Teflon seemed to be finally wearing off, and suddenly Burke — long the most powerful man on the City Council — was a pariah, his taint helping sink the mayoral hopes of Toni Preckwinkle and Susana Mendoza, among others.

From the Archives

June 1997 issue
Photo: Michael Zajakowski

Jonathan Eig’s June 1997 feature about an earlier Burke-related scandal — one involving alleged city payroll shenanigans — gave readers a clear-eyed portrait of the alderman, and of the expansive ward operation that was the foundation of his political power.

“Along Western Avenue, Burke is followed by 14th Ward loyalists who fan out behind him like the proud plumes in a peacock’s tail. They are cops, firefighters, building inspectors, and water department foremen, most in green, most in debt to Burke for one thing or another. … To the men and women in the parade, patronage is not a disgrace but a warm and trusty relic.”