Ax­el­rod pre­dicts Burke will be in­dicted af­ter fed­eral raid

Says fed­eral raids likely the end of al­der­man’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRAN SPIELMAN,

The fed­eral raid of the City Hall and ward of­fices of Ald. Ed­ward Burke (14th) is the cul­mi­na­tion of a “ma­ture in­ves­ti­ga­tion” that is likely to re­sult in the po­lit­i­cal or le­gal demise of Chicago’s most pow­er­ful al­der­man.

That’s the bot­tom line from David Ax­el­rod, the for­mer pres­i­den­tial ad­viser now serv­ing as di­rec­tor and founder of the In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Chicago.

One way or an­other, Ax­el­rod said the ex­tra­or­di­nary events of Nov. 29 are likely to trig­ger Burke’s po­lit­i­cal demise.

If Burke is in­dicted, as Ax­el­rod be­lieves he will be — and soon — the chair­man of the City Coun­cil’s Fi­nance Com­mit­tee is likely to drop out of the tough­est al­der­manic race of his 50-year ca­reer.

“My as­sump­tion is that this is a pretty ma­ture in­ves­ti­ga­tion. For the FBI to raid an of­fice at City Hall know­ing that it’s go­ing to be a pub­lic event — and cover win­dows with pa­per — sug­gests to me that this wasn’t an ex­ploratory ef­fort but the end of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Ax­el­rod said Fri­day.

“Once you’re raided like that, it usu­ally por­tends an in­dict­ment . ... If he gets in­dicted, he’s not gonna run . ... He just with­draws.”

If the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion does not come to a head be­fore the Feb. 26 al­der­manic elec­tion, Burke could lose to a chal­lenger backed by Con­gress­man-elect Je­sus “Chuy” Gar­cia, Ax­el­rod said.

The race is cer­tain to be dom­i­nated by Burke’s prop­erty tax ap­peals work for the river­front tower that bears the name of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Ax­el­rod noted that there is “this rule within the FBI, within the Jus­tice Depart­ment” not to take ac­tion against a politi­cian ei­ther lo­cally or na­tion­ally in the mid­dle of a cam­paign.

“Well, he’s in the mid­dle of a cam­paign. This can’t be help­ful. He has the first real se­ri­ous threat of his ca­reer now. The ward has changed de­mo­graph­i­cally . ... Given the fact that his brother lost, [it doesn’t look good]. One way or the other, this doesn’t look very pos­i­tive for Ed Burke,” he said.

“If this drags on and hangs over him in the course of this elec­tion, it seems un­fair. They need to be at a point where they’re ready to do some­thing. Or else, they’ve re­ally hurt him with the out­come un­de­ter­mined of the probe.”

Ei­ther way, Ax­el­rod said it’ll be the end of an era in Chicago pol­i­tics.

It may also be yet an­other les­son about stay­ing too long at the dance.

Just like Dan Rostenkowski, the for­mer pow­er­ful U.S. House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee chair­man whose sto­ried ca­reer ended in a fed­eral cor­rup­tion con­vic­tion.

“One of the things about be­ing around 50 years is that things that were com­mon­place 50 years ago are freakin’ il­le­gal to­day,” Ax­el­rod said dur­ing a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with the Chicago Sun-Times.

“That’s what hap­pened to Rosty. It was prob­a­bly com­mon prac­tice to cash those stamps in by the day when he started. By the end, it was a crime . ... If you’re gonna stay, un­der­stand when the rules change.”

Burke could have taken the $12 mil­lion-plus in his cam­paign war chest — and that was be­fore the “loy­alty trumps in­tegrity ev­ery time” show of force at Burke’s Tues­day’s fundraiser — and rode off into the po­lit­i­cal sun­set.

In­stead, both he and his Coun­cil Wars co­hort, for­mer Ald. Ed­ward Vr­dolyak (10th), are se­nior cit­i­zens in the crosshairs of fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

“How much f------ money do you need? It’s al­most like patho­log­i­cal. Like he does it for the sport of it,” Ax­el­rod said.

“He may need it now.”

Ax­el­rod has known Burke since 1979. He was a re­porter cover­ing then-may­oral can­di­date Jane Byrne for the Chicago Tri­bune when Byrne ac­cused Burke of be­ing part of a “ca­bal of evil men” who “greased” a taxi­cab fare in­crease a few years be­fore.

Four years later, Ax­el­rod watched Burke and Vr­dolyak play star­ring roles in the Coun­cil Wars power strug­gle that thwarted Mayor Harold Wash­ing­ton’s ev­ery move.

“What he and Ed­die Vr­dolyak did was out­ra­geous. Re­ally a fore­run­ner of what we see in Wash­ing­ton to­day,” Ax­el­rod said.

Ald. Ed Burke

RICH HEIN/SUN-TIMES

David Ax­el­rod

Ed­ward Burke

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