Lightfoot: Burke scru­tiny ‘re­ally wak­ing peo­ple up’

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NEWS - John Kass [email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @John_Kass

The fed­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pow­er­ful Chicago Ald. Ed Burke is like a me­teor that has slammed into the 2019 may­oral cam­paign, says can­di­date Lori Lightfoot.

And the af­ter­shock from that Burke me­teor — a gi­ant, pink, pin­striped me­teor with the feds trail­ing be­hind it — threat­ens those old-school, goa­long-get-along Demo­cratic ma­chine can­di­da­cies of those clos­est to Burke:

Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle, Illi­nois Comp­trol­ler Su­sana Men­doza, lawyer Gery Chico and per­haps Bill Da­ley.

“I think this Burke mo­ment has re­ally been a wake-up call for peo­ple,” Lightfoot told me in an in­ter­view on my WGN-Plus pod­cast, “The Chicago Way.”

“Strangers are stop­ping me on the street, telling me to keep mak­ing the case,” said Lightfoot, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor. “This me­teor that hit is re­ally wak­ing peo­ple up, and we’re go­ing to keep rid­ing that lane.”

The fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Burke, the ex­tor­tion charge against him and the po­lit­i­cal domi­noes that have sub­se­quently fallen have re­fo­cused ev­ery­thing po­lit­i­cal in Chicago.

It’s all bad news for Preck­win­kle, who has all but shot her big po­lit­i­cal feet off, first by tak­ing Burke’s cam­paign money (that she since says she’s re­turned), then by try­ing to avoid re­porters’ ques­tions about that cushy $100,000 county job Burke’s son landed un­der her ad­min­is­tra­tion.

For­mer Burke aide Chico owes much to Burke, but he won’t throw the old man un­der the bus.

Not so with Burke pro­tege Men­doza — the pre­ferred may­oral can­di­date of out­go­ing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s min­ions — who is run­ning away from Burke as fast as she can. Burke? Who?

And Da­ley, though no fan of Burke’s, comes from the same Chicago po­lit­i­cal fir­ma­ment where po­lit­i­cal mus­cle and gov­ern­ment con­nec­tions have made for­tunes for the pink princes of the city.

All of it — the mus­cle and the oily clout and con­nec­tions — are front and cen­ter now.

Preck­win­kle has been hurt by her con­nec­tion to Burke, but so has Men­doza. In a video now cir­cu­lat­ing, Men­doza is in­tro­duced by Burke as a can­di­date for city clerk in De­cem­ber 2010.

“The lady of the hour!” an­nounces Burke. “The next city clerk of Chicago, Su­sana Men­doza!”

They give each other big hugs. “Ald. Burke,” says Men­doza, “you are a true cham­pion of mine. He is re­ally, pri­mar­ily the rea­son I’m stand­ing here!”

Of course he is, Su­sana. When Emanuel dropped out of the race for mayor, the in­sid­ers — Preck­win­kle, Chico, Men­doza, Da­ley — were do­ing just fine.

Can­di­dates like Lightfoot and for­mer Chicago Pub­lic Schools CEO Paul Val­las had set up their cam­paigns to run against Emanuel.

With­out him, the cam­paign be­came ex­actly what a bro­ken Chicago didn’t need — a pop­u­lar­ity con­test of rec­og­niz­able clout-heavy per­son­al­i­ties and who got their names in the news.

But the charge against Burke — with more pos­si­ble — has re­fo­cused the may­oral cam­paign.

Lightfoot says that Chicago has been forced to con­sider the ob­vi­ous — the cor­rupt po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, which has re­lied upon the gov­ern­ment ham­mer to make for­tunes at the pub­lic’s ex­pense.

Lightfoot agrees with me that can­di­dates who en­tered the race af­ter Emanuel de­cided not to run shouldn’t be con­sid­ered.

“Any­body who got into the race af­ter Rahm Emanuel bowed out, in my view, is au­to­mat­i­cally dis­qual­i­fied,” Lightfoot said on “The Chicago Way.” “Those peo­ple who only got in af­ter Go­liath (Rahm) was slain are just not cred­i­ble to me.”

Burke is al­leged to have used his lever­age at City Hall to shake down a com­pany that owns Burger King restau­rants. A Jan­uary 2018 Preck­win­kle fundraiser at Burke’s home that was at­tended by Chico ties many of these play­ers to­gether.

Preck­win­kle has said she re­turned the $116,000 raised at the event and in­sists she has done noth­ing il­le­gal or wrong.

“I won’t have my name dragged through the mud over the al­leged crim­i­nal con­duct of Su­sana Men­doza’s men­tor, Gery Chico’s best friend and Bill Da­ley’s long­time po­lit­i­cal ally,” she said.

That’s nice, Toni.

It’s also ridicu­lous.

“The lie keeps tak­ing dif­fer­ent forms,” Lightfoot said of Preck­win­kle. “But again, if you’re a leader … when you mess up, you ’fess up and then you clean up, all right. ’Fess up. Tell us about what the real re­la­tion­ship, tell us about the quid pro quo Ed Burke got and so­licited from you in re­turn for now what we know is $116,000.”

What I want to know more about is what Preck­win­kle re­fuses to dis­cuss: that Tri­bune story by Gre­gory Pratt about the $100,000 Cook County job that Burke’s son got un­der Preck­win­kle’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“He gets this very nice job with ben­e­fits, os­ten­si­bly some­thing that’s im­por­tant, which is home­land se­cu­rity, an im­por­tant job for which he’s not qual­i­fied, and then ap­par­ently, he can’t be both­ered to show up and do the work,” Lightfoot said. “And then quits when he gets ques­tioned. I mean, come on now!”

On Men­doza, Lightfoot said:

“In that video, she says, ‘I would not be stand­ing here to­day with­out Ed Burke.’ And now she doesn’t re­ally know him? If you’re friends, you’re friends, our friends make mis­takes. But be hon­est about it.

“What I’m con­cerned about with Su­sana is that she has so many Rahm peo­ple around her,” Lightfoot said. “Rahm’s me­dia ad­vis­ers, his po­lit­i­cal strate­gists. Is she (Men­doza) the Tro­jan horse?”

Emanuel’s po­lit­i­cal crew has flocked to Men­doza, and Preck­win­kle is dam­aged from many self-in­flicted po­lit­i­cal wounds.

Pay at­ten­tion, Chicago. The most im­por­tant may­oral elec­tion in decades is less than 45 days away.

Lis­ten to “The Chicago Way” pod­cast, with John Kass and Jeff Car­lin, at www.wgn­ra­dio.com/cat­e­gory/wgn­plus/thechicagoway.

AN­TO­NIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE 2018

If you’re a leader, said Chicago may­oral can­di­date Lori Lightfoot, “when you mess up, you ’fess up and then you clean up.”

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