Intelligence Report: Justice Anne Burke

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The final decision on Rahm Emanuel's candidacy for mayor is in the hands of four men and three women who make up the Illinois Supreme Court.

Tuesday's Intelligence Report focuses on one of them, Justice Anne Burke.

We aren't talking United States Supreme Court where justices are selected and nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. This is the Illinois Supreme Court whose seven members had to win public elections to get there, running as candidates -- just as Rahm Emanuel wants to run for Chicago mayor.

Justice Burke carries one of Chicago's most notable and commanding political names. She and her husband, 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke, are considered an Illinois power couple.

Alderman Burke is the dean of the Chicago City Council, omnipotent chairman of the council finance committee and Democratic Party kingmaker for anyone who wants to become a Cook County judge.

Mr. Burke is also publicly backing his longtime friend Gery Chico in the race for mayor. Chico and Burke go way back. The mayoral candidate's family hails from Burke's 14th Ward. In the 1980's when Mr. Chico was going to law school, he worked under Alderman Burke on the city council finance committee. Later, Mr. Burke helped Chico land his first position with a law firm.

Following the I-Team's broadcast report, a spokesperson for the Chico campaign called the I-Team to provide more specific details about the candidate's relationship with Chicago's most powerful alderman. </p.

"Gery went to work in the Finance Committee under Ald. Wilson Frost in 1979 or 1980," said Brooke Anderson, campaign spokesperson. "Alderman Burke became chairman in 1983, and Gery stayed on under Ald. Tim Evans until 1987."

Further, Ms. Anderson provided this quote from Chico: "I worked in the City Council for six years, under four different Finance [Committee] chairmen. Wilson Frost hired me. Ed Burke is my dear friend. I worked with Burton Natarus. I worked with Chief Judge Tim Evans, and I got along with every one of them just splendidly."

Last month, the Burke-Chico alliance resulted in public suggestions of a "potential conflict of interest" were Emanuel's residency case to end up before the Illinois Supreme Court, which is right where it is Tuesday night.

Justice Burke did not recuse herself from Tuesday's court decision to keep Emanuel's name on the ballot, nor any suggestion that she will step aside from a decision on the larger residency issue.

If there is a feud between her husband Ed Burke and Rahm Emanuel, it would appear to be a combination of past, present and future:

  • beginning in 2001 when Emanuel ran for Congress on the North Side against a popular Democratic state representative.
  • continuing through 2005 when Emanuel bucked party regulars in county races
  • today, with Alderman Burke suspected of backing a 'stop Rahm' effort
  • and questions about whether Emanuel would cut Ed Burke as finance committee chairman if he was elected mayor

    On November 12 when a picture of Emanuel and Anne and Ed Burke was taken at a downtown fundraiser, little did they know that two months later they would be at the center of such Chicago political turbulence.

    The I-Team called Alderman Burke's office to talk about this but didn't hear back.

    There are six other judges on the Illinois Supreme Court. The chief justice is from the Quad Cities.

    Besides Justice Burke, three other judges are from Chicago or the suburbs including Bob Thomas, who began his career as a kicker with the Chicago Bears.

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