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Facing Federal Heat, Chicago Ald. Ed Burke Gets Help From Famed Lawyers

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Ed Burke

File: Alderman Ed Burke at Chicago’s City Hall in July of 2018.

Bill Healy

In the wake of the shocking FBI raids at his City Hall and ward offices last month, powerful Ald. Ed Burke enlisted the help of two prominent defense lawyers, including former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, WBEZ has learned.

Sources said Wednesday that the 14th Ward alderman -- who has not been charged with wrongdoing -- is being represented in the federal corruption probe by Valukas and Charles Sklarsky.

A generation ago, Valukas and Sklarsky worked on the famous “Operation Greylord” probe of judicial corruption in Cook County. Now, both lawyers work for Chicago’s Jenner & Block LLC firm.

A spokeswoman for the firm declined to comment, while the spokesman for Burke did not return messages from WBEZ.

On Nov. 29, FBI agents dramatically served search warrants on the offices of Burke’s Finance Committee, on the third floor of City Hall, and on his constituent service offices in his Southwest Side ward.

The nature of the investigators’ suspicions is not publicly known.

Burke -- who is up for re-election in February -- has said he will cooperate with the probe and is confident that the feds will find he did nothing wrong.

In addition to the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is also involved in the investigation.

Valukas was the top federal prosecutor in Chicago in the late 1980s and later became chairman of Jenner & Block. He also authored a report in 2009 on the collapse of Lehman Brothers financial-services firm.

Sklarsky was an assistant U.S. attorney who is credited with being one of the main players in the Greylord probe.

It’s not clear what or how Burke may be paying Jenner & Block. The alderman, who will mark a record 50 years in office in 2019, has more than $12 million in campaign accounts that he controls, records show.

Valukas and Sklarsky’s firm also has represented the Finance Committee in a dispute between Burke and City Hall’s independent inspector general, Joe Ferguson, according to a spokesman for the city’s Law Department.

Disclosure: Other attorneys at Jenner & Block have represented WBEZ on legal issues unrelated to this story. Neither Valukas nor Sklarsky have been involved in those matters.

Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter for WBEZ. Follow him at @dmihalopoulos.

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