Thursday, January 10, 2019

After the lights came on at the Burke affair

Best quote on the Burke(s) affair comes from S-T columnist Neil Steinberg:
Corruption is like rust. It spreads, both coming and going. When the party’s on and the lights are low, lots of people wander into the dim tent to help themselves at the long tables of pie. When the lights are snapped on, those same people are caught standing there with pie on their faces.
He adds,
It’s almost comical to see the casting call of mayoral candidates lunging for napkins to smear away Ed Burke’s money, or try to. It’ll be interesting to see how long that stain lingers around their mouths.
Yes, it would be comical if the cost of corruption at the highest political levels didn't weigh so heavily on the city's poor and working people facing severe cuts at their schools and city services. Dick Simpson and Tom Gradel, authors of Corrupt Illinois, put the "corruption tax" at $500M. Many experts believe it is much higher.
Examples include the costs of the Jon Burge police-brutality scandal, which has already reached one hundred million dollars and counting. The cost of Chicago police corruption averages more than $50 million per year. Since 2004, "Chicago has paid a staggering sum -- about $662 million -- on police misconduct, including judgments, settlements, and outside legal fees," according to the Associated Press' examination of city records. In 2015, the payment for the fatal police shooting of LaQuan McDonald cost the city $5 million in a settlement, while the cost to investigate and prosecute Police Officer Van Dyke is ongoing. Also, following that shooting, Chicago's legal and consulting bill for the subsequent Department of Justice investigation of city police practices totaled $760,000 through the middle of March, 2016. 
It's especially not funny when the lights come on and you see pie on the faces of the top three or four (at least) candidates for mayor, including the one being supported by many progressives, unions and community orgs.

I put an (s) in parenthesis above after Burke's name because Eddie's wife Anne Burke, the liberal IL state supreme court justice, who Steinberg once referred to as the “the platinum bar of probity” (look it up), was the one (not Eddie) who threw the fundraising party for Toni Preckwinkle, that netted $116K for her campaign war chest. She had already run and won her campaign for Cook County Board President, jumping into the mayor's race only after Rahm dropped out.

Burke (r) endorsed Gery Chico
I suppose Burke's fundraiser was legal and hopefully legally reported. Although you would think a supreme court justice would keep a money arm's length from Chicago politicians, especially when she's already married to the platinum bar of profiteering in the city council. It's not a good look. But Chicago reporters haven't even broached the subject. It seems, she's untouchable.

It was only after that backyard party at the Burke's house was revealed than Preckwinkle announced she would return ALL the money. Previously she copped to receiving only $5.8K.

Preckwinkle also removed Burke from the Cook County Democratic Party's judicial slating panel, a post he held for decades. Good for her. Although without demands for accountability coming from below, who knows if she and others like Bill Daley, Gery Chico and Susana Mendoza would have even bothered bailing on the Burkes for appearance sake alone.

Preckwinkle's progressive backers seem unfazed by the latest scandal. Some are just cynical, claiming "they all do it, so why pick on Toni?" Others blame it all on the "culture of corruption". 
S-T columnist Phil Kadner writes:
Let us remember Burke has not been convicted of anything, although he has been a symbol of Chicago political corruption for decades. He has had the best people into his home. He has done favors for scores of politicians who were happy to accept his support and his money. Maybe they are all victims of the culture of corruption. As someone once said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
SEIU Illinois State Council, unfazed by Burke affair, just dropped another $500,000 into Preckwinkle’s mayoral campaign, more that making up for the Burke money she was forced to return. The new money brings the union’s contribution to Preckwinkle to $1.5 million with more money on the way.

Progressives like Rep. Will Guzzardi and socialist Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) were among the first to endorse Preckwinkle and at least Rosa is now lashing out against his fellow left-wing critics of TP in the press and on social media.
 “There’s nothing here,” Rosa said of the campaign contribution investigators say Burke illegally solicited on Preckwinkle’s behalf. “Do people think she called Ed Burke and said, ‘You’ve got to shake down these guys for $10,000?’ Come on. Let’s talk about what’s important to the people of Chicago, which is who can bring change to City Hall. That’s Toni Preckwinkle.”
Burke scandal aside, it's hard for me to fathom this city's progressives and socialists pinning their hopes for change on the head of the Cook County Democratic Party. It just seems to run counter to national trend of victories by young, insurgent candidates, many of them women of color or immigrants,  over party regulars across the country.

My brother Fred traces the history of the problem in the inability of the Chicago left to unify early on around insurgent candidates in opposition to the old-guard machine.
 In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, there was no single candidate that truly represented the politics of the Bernie movement and you could find Bernie supporters dispersed among all of the candidates, painfully diluted and with little apparent influence. The same can be said about the current race for Chicago’s mayor.
Who knows what more fallout will come from the Burke trial itself or who will be implicated or left with pie on their faces if he decides to roll over for the feds. But by that time we will have elected a new mayor and most likely, one still tied to the old machine by a thousand threads.

You can bet we'll be talking about the Burke(s) affair tomorrow on Hitting Left with a group of insurgent Chicago teachers who are now running for political office. And then again next Friday, January 18th with in-studio guest, author, political consultant and expert on Chicago corruption, Tom Gradel.
Tune in to Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers, Friday on WLPN 105.5 FM Chicago, streaming live at 

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