Showing posts with label Richard Daley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Richard Daley. Show all posts

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke Charged with Extortion by Federal Prosecutors #Corruption

Federal prosecutors on Thursday filed a corruption case against Edward M. Burke, who has been Chicago’s most powerful alderman for decades, just weeks after FBI agents dramatically raided his offices at City Hall and on the city’s Southwest Side.

As the longtime chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee, Burke built far greater clout than any alderman and a long list of private law clients who do business with City Hall. But his historic tenure now comes to the same place where so many of his colleagues have found themselves: in Chicago’s federal courthouse, with authorities alleging he abused his power to enrich himself. And like so many other aldermen with far less clout, Burke apparently got caught on a wiretap saying something he would not dare utter in public.

Burke’s spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. Nor did Anton Valukas and Charles Sklarsky, the two prominent defense lawyers who have represented Burke since the initial federal raids at his offices on Nov. 29.

On that day, the windows of Burke’s offices were covered in brown butcher paper as investigators spent hours executing search warrants. And the feds raided the Finance Committee offices, on the third floor of City Hall, again on Dec. 13, indicating the urgency of the probe.

The criminal case hits as Burke is seeking to extend his record tenure in the City Council, running for another term in the February election in the 14th Ward, which he has represented for half a century.

The investigation of Burke began at the office of City’s Hall independent inspector general, Joe Ferguson. Burke and many other aldermen long had resisted allowing the I.G. to have oversight of the Council, but Ferguson finally won authority to investigate aldermen in 2016.

Burke, 75, has been an alderman since 1969, when he succeeded his father in the council during the tenure of Mayor Richard J. Daley.

In his time as alderman, Burke has watched as more than 30 fellow aldermen who served alongside him were convicted of corruption. And the charges against Burke come as yet another alderman, Willie Cochran (20th Ward), continues to fight a two-year-old federal corruption case. But Burke is clearly the most powerful alderman the feds have targeted since Thomas Keane -- another Finance Committee chairman -- was convicted in 1974.

With his finely tailored pinstripe suits and emerald-green ties, Burke long has been the personification of the South Side Irish Democratic Machine that ruled City Hall for generations.

While he presided over the Finance Committee, Burke frequently had to recuse himself from voting on hundreds of pieces of legislation that benefited the dozens of corporate clients of his law firm.

An investigation published last month by WBEZ and the Better Government Association found that Burke recused himself from voting on City Council measures 464 times in the last eight years. That’s four times as many “abstentions” for Burke as for the the rest of the aldermen combined. But even in some cases where Burke did not vote, WBEZ and the BGA found that the veteran alderman had exercised his clout to make sure his clients got what they wanted from City Hall.

At times, Burke has guided legislation through the council process, writing letters to city bureaucrats or even chairing meetings on the ordinances and motioning for his colleagues to vote them through -- only to recuse himself at the last moment due to his conflicts of interest.

In the case of a multi-billion-dollar bond deal at O’Hare Airport a year ago, no less than three banks that are Burke clients stand to benefit from the transaction.

The Burke firm’s work focused mostly on winning property tax appeals for its clients from Cook County authorities who determine the valuations of downtown high rises and other real estate.

His most prominent client in recent years was Trump Tower Chicago, for which Burke reportedly won millions of dollars in tax breaks. Earlier this year, Burke stopped representing the building amid criticism for doing the bidding of President Trump who is deeply unpopular in Chicago, especially among Latinos who are often the target of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

With election challenges looming for the first time in many years, Burke even began criticizing Trump recently.

While his private law practice made his very wealthy, Burke is probably best known for his role in the turbulent “Council Wars” period in the 1980s, when he and fellow South Side Ald. Ed Vrdolyak spread-headed the mostly white block of aldermen that frequently thwarted Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. Due to his notoriety from that era, Chicago politicos have long believed that Burke could never get elected mayor. But Burke has enjoyed his greatest power since then as a loyal and crucial Council ally of the last two mayors, Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley.

When both Emanuel and Daley took office, they had been at odds with Burke. Still, both mayors decided to make deals with Burke, rather than confront him.

Under Emanuel, Burke has maintained his chairmanship of the Council’s most powerful committee and continues to enjoy the most visible and expensive perk of his clout: a police bodyguard detail that costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

In return, Emanuel appears to have gotten Burke’s loyalty. The alderman voted with Emanuel’s agenda on 100 percent of divided roll-call votes at the Council, according to a recent study by political scientists at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Burke had endorsed Gery Chico, his former aide and ex-president of Chicago’s school board, to succeed the retiring Emanuel in the upcoming Feb. 26 election.

The alderman himself faces four challengers. All of them are Latinos, reflecting the changing demographics of the Southwest Side’s working-class neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia threw his backing to 28-year-old Burke challenger Tanya Patino, deriding the incumbent as “a walking conflict of interest for decades.”

As Mexican immigrants and their families have become the largest ethnic group in his ward, Burke has sought to adjust for the changing times, recruiting Latino precinct captains for his powerful ward organization and even speaking a bit of heavily accented Spanish. Talking to one constituent recently, he joked in Spanish that his command of the language was not that bad for “an older gentleman.”

Yet, the alderman’s once-absolute power had weakened in recent years. In the March primary election, his brother, Dan Burke, lost his seat in the Illinois House to a young Hispanic challenger.

Burke owns a fortress-like, three-story home that looms over his constituents’ bungalows and ranches in the Gage Park neighborhood, next to the elevated tracks of the CTA’s Orange Line. The home is surrounded by wrought-iron fencing.

His influence was so great that city crews strayed far from their normal routes during blizzards to plow the side street in front of the Burke home, even before more heavily trafficked roads got cleared. And Burke’s clout extended far beyond the Southwest Side.

Burke also long has enjoyed the central role in the Democratic Party’s process for placing judges on the Cook County bench. And his wife, Anne Burke, has a spot on the Illinois Supreme Court.

He has more than $12 million in campaign accounts that he controls. That’s a sum that far exceeds the political cash of all of his 49 Council colleagues combined.

In the weeks since the initial FBI raids at Burke’s offices, it was unclear what exactly the feds suspected.

Burke said he did not know what the agents were investigating. But he said he would cooperate fully and was confident that the probe would end as so many other investigations he has faced – with no charges against him.

Thanks to Dan Mihalopoulis.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Chicago Way Ideas Week Tour

There's this thrill running up my leg — and I haven't had it too often — but it sure has been tingling like mad ever since I heard about Chicago Ideas Week.

According to the website, "Chicago Ideas Week will bring the world's top speakers, together with Chicago's best thinkers, to create an ecosystem of innovation, exploration and intellectual recreation."

Excellent. Bring a bunch of politicians to Chicago, have them mix with Chicago politicians, feed them, and then encourage them to make speeches about how smart they are, and if that's not an ecosystem, I don't know what is.

"Meet the Press" is in town to help kick off the week on Sunday. Former President Bill Clinton will be hanging around, so you'll probably see him prowling the Viagra Triangle. But the highlight will be Monday's fantastic tour (only 15 bucks) by former Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago's fabulous Millennium Park, though I prefer to call it Billennium Park, since it cost about $50 million an acre. Sadly, Daley's tour is not open to the media.

Daley is expected to explain how he created the park, and how great it is. The prospect got me so tingly, I wanted to contribute to this "ecosystem" of ideas. And eureka, I think I've found it:

The Chicago Way Ideas Week Tour.

Daley could begin by opening it up to the media, particularly the "Meet the Press" crowd and other foreign correspondents. They'd rather hear Daley/Obama mouthpiece David Axelrod entertain them with songs of hope and change, but it's time the national media understood the Chicago Way.

The tour would begin at the park's Clout Cafe — Park Grill — where Daley's political adviser Tim Degnan somehow became an investor. Another investor was Daley's friend and fashionista, trucking boss Fred Bruno Barbara, who once, according to federal testimony, served as driver to Chicago mob boss Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra.

Once we fill up on those bland Clout Cafe chicken sandwiches, we could set off on our tour. First thing would be to stand before that gigantic $40 million silver bean, and look deep inside of it, to see all the wonders:

Like Chicago's budget drowning in $600 million or more of red ink, and all those contracts to cronies over the decades that sopped up the cash, all those hungry parking meters, and all those kids who drop out of school each year.

Stare further into the bean and you'd see businesses that received city development bucks and kicked into former first lady Maggie Daley's After School Matters charity, and all those cops who still aren't on the street because all the money is gone.

Daley could point out the city sewers that were inspected by President Barack Obama's political godfather, former state Senate President Emil Jones, who is now chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Jones spent decades as a political double dipper, crafting legislation and also inspecting city sewers. But legend has it that during all those years of sewer inspecting, Jones never smudged his camel-hair coat. Not even once.

We'd then drive down to Kenwood, to the president's home, the one that convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko helped him with, and then back across the city, to the federal criminal courts, where Rezko's confidant, Republican boss Big Bill Cellini, is standing trial on corruption charges.

After that stop, we'd need some sunshine and a happy place, and you know where we could find it? Stearns Quarry Park.

The quarry was in Bridgeport, at 29th and Halsted streets, a few blocks from the mayor's home, and it was where, decade after decade, city trucking bosses would dump their construction debris.

There was nothing illegal per se about the dumping. What was illegal was all the bribery and other crimes committed by city officials and trucking bosses in the city's infamous Hired Truck program. So City Hall covered up the quarry, to erase our political memory. And it worked.

"Today," proclaims the Park District website, "visitors to Stearns Quarry Park can go fishing in a pond that retains old quarry walls; stroll along a wetland area that drains into the pond; watch for birds and other wildlife attracted by the site's vast range of native plants; fly kites in an open meadow; or take in the views of the cityscape."

Ponds. Kite flying. Meadows. Nice.

Later, Daley might want to take the "Meet the Press" panel to Division Street. There in 2004, a slight, 5-foot-3-inch, 125-pound David Koschman, age 21, was reportedly slugged by Daley's muscular nephew, Richard J. Vanecko, 6-3, 230 pounds.

Koschman died, there were no charges, and according to the Sun-Times, the files went missing, the Rush Street police detail didn't see anything, and nobody knows nothing.

Official Chicago doesn't have any idea what happened, even during Ideas Week.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Chicago's Mayor Daley Campaigns with Reputed Mobster - Flashback

Flashback March 28, 1989. Richard M. Daley is leaving his stint at Cook County States Attorney to run for Mayor of Chicago. Chicago Sun-Times reporters Alf Siewers and Leon Pitt report in their article DALEY WARNS BACKERS AGAINST COMPLACENCY on March 28, 1989 (sorry no link):

While mayoral hopeful Timothy C. Evans called out "the movement," front-runner Richard M. Daley raked in the bucks, warning against complacency at what was billed as the last major fund-raiser of Daley's campaign.

"Regardless of what the polls say, regardless of what the editorials say, I need your help for the next seven days. . . . This election cannot be taken for granted," Daley told a crowd jamming the Hyatt Regency's Grand Ballroom.

Campaign staff estimated that more than 2,500 showed up for the $100-or-more-a-head buffet reception.

Across town at the University of Illinois Pavilion, thousands of Evans supporters joined in a rally reminiscent of the days when former Mayor Harold Washington exhorted members of his movement.

While the rally was in progress, Daley was being ushered around Chinatown by Ald. Fred Roti (1st) and a dancing dragon. He dismissed as "a lot of political statements" renewed charges by Evans that Daley is tied to special interests.

Could Richard Daley possibly not know that Alderman Roti was a Chicago Mob figure? U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas warned Daley that the FBI had a major Chicago Mob investigation going on in the late 1980's with Alderman Roti as a key subject, see page 220 of the book When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down. That fact that Richard Daley would be seen campaigning in public with a " high ranking made member" of the Chicago Mob says volumes. Is the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission concerned that people like Richard Daley associate with Chicago Mob members? As far back as 1983, Alderman Roti's name came up in a U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime. Here's a quote from a July 15, 1989 Washington Post column written by Bill Peterson entitled SURVEILLANCE AT LUNCH LEAVES ALDERMAN UNFAZED (sorry no link):

In 1983, William Roemer, a former FBI agent, told the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations that "informants continue to advise through the years {that} D'Arco and Roti were the front men for Marcy and for the mob."


Richard Daley knew all about that hearing.Here's a quote from FBI agent William Roemer in his book, Accardo: The Genuine Godfather, on page 323:

Jeffrey Kent, chief of the Cook County State's Attorney's office( headed then by Richard M. Daley, who became Mayor of Chicago) was the prime witness before the committee in its investigation of mobbed-up unions.

Mayor Richard M. Daley and Alderman Fred Roti : Chicago Democrats working together. Mayor Richard M. Daley is also "friends" with Alderman Roti's nephew Fred Bruno Barbara, who's name came up at the infamous Family Secrets trial.

Thanks to Steve Bartin

Sunday, July 12, 2009

City of Chicago Squeezes Widow of Man Squeezed by The Chicago Outfit

Whether the name of Richie Urso ever makes it into the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich next June is anybody's guess.

You've probably never heard of Richie Urso. But the FBI sure has heard of him.

His is a classic Chicago story, about a beefy yet charming guy born on Grand Avenue, who got in trouble with the law as a kid, only to make political friends and become extremely wealthy.

He was arrested once for jewelry theft in the '60s by the Outfit's top Chicago police detective, William Hanhardt. Urso's alleged partner in the theft was the mob enforcer Frankie Cullotta, who later became the technical adviser for the movie "Casino." The charges against Urso went away. Like I said, it's a Chicago story.

Richie went from the trucking business into real estate, dropping thousands of dollars in contributions to politicians like Mayor Richard Daley and former Gov. Dead Meat. He hung around with bankers, real estate players, insiders at the Cook County Board of (Tax) Review, at Mart Anthony's Restaurant on Randolph Street.

He was worth millions in real estate. He was also the victim of an Outfit shakedown that figured in the FBI's landmark Family Secrets case against top mob bosses.

Now the FBI is going through his business, interested in his associates, including former Mutual Bank of Harvey boss Amrish Mahajan, who has dropped off the political map. Though not charged, Uncle Amrish is under investigation as a top Blagojevich fundraiser. "My husband was excited because he was supposed to go with Amrish and Daley on a trip to India," said Richie's wife, Joanne Urso, recalling what she told federal investigators. "They were all going to go together. But then he died."

Daley and his wife, Maggie, made the trip with a Chicago business delegation.

Amrish Mahajan was a political connection for Daley, Blagojevich and other politicians to the Indian community. His wife, Anita, said, "He did not go on the trip with the mayor."

Anita -- charged with bilking the state out of millions of dollars in phony drug tests -- said her husband was in India, and unreachable.

After Richie's death in 2003, lenders called in their notes. Lawyers demanded big fees. The will that he told Joanne was stashed in a Mutual Bank safe deposit box was never found. And Daley's City Hall, which had never given Richie much trouble, suddenly slapped Joanne with a series of citations on their properties.

City Hall is also demanding she sell Richie's prized 24-acre site just west of the Cook County Jail for millions less than she says it's worth. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) is demanding the site for a park. "I'm getting ripped off by everybody. By everybody," Joanne Urso said.

She told me Richie died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor of a girlfriend's home, on April 15, 2003. "You should call her," she said.

So we did. The woman is Mary Ann Dinovo, who works in human resources for the county tax review board, which handles tax appeals for every parcel of real estate in the county.

"He said, 'What do you got to eat?' " recalled Dinovo. "I'd just made a big tuna salad. He said, 'Can I have some?' The TV was on in the kitchen. The fork dropped out of his hand. He said he felt sick and went to the bathroom."

Minutes later, Richie Urso, his mouth full of tuna salad, was dead at age 61.

"It was karma that we met," Dinovo said. "We loved to do things together, go to shows, go to Navy Pier. ... He'd always play like he was poor. 'I'm just a poor truck driver,' he'd say. Sometimes we'd drive by a piece of property and he'd ask me who owned it."

Did you help him find out who owned it? "Absolutely not," said Dinovo, who said she has not been contacted by federal authorities. "I never knew what the hell he had. I didn't ask. But how do you think I felt when after he died, his friends told me that he was worth, like, $50 million? I said, 'What?' "

In late November of last year, Blagojevich hadn't yet been arrested. But the noose was tightening.

About a week before the FBI knocked on the governor's door, they knocked on Joanne Urso's door. FBI agents and a lawyer from the U.S. attorney's office wanted to chat.

"They asked about everything that was going on with the banks, the lawyers, our properties," Joanne Urso said. "... They asked about Amrish Mahajan and the governor. Oh, and [state Sen.] Jimmy DeLeo, they asked about him."

Only Blagojevich has been charged with a crime, and it's not illegal to know a guy like Richie Urso.

The FBI didn't have to ask about Richie and the Outfit. Without Richie, there may not have been a Family Secrets case that sent three mob bosses to prison.

That's because in 1986, just three months after gangsters Tony and Michael Spilotro were murdered, Richie Urso was the victim of an Outfit shakedown.

It all came out in testimony by mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, and chronicled in the book "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" by my colleague Jeff Coen.

Nick's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and fellow mobster John Fecarotta were competing to squeeze Urso for payments on a juice loan from the 1960s. It wasn't even Urso who borrowed the money. The father of an Urso partner owed the juice.

Urso was growing wealthy by the 1980s, and the mob wanted a piece. Fecarotta demanded that Urso make Fecarotta's house payments. Frank Calabrese Sr. held a knife to Urso's crotch, also demanding cash, according to trial testimony.

By then, Fecarotta had botched the burial of the Spilotro bodies, leaving them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, allowing them to be found. Fecarotta's shakedown of Richie Urso gave Frank Sr. another reason to lobby Outfit bosses for a Fecarotta solution. "And that sort of put the nail in the coffin," Nick Calabrese testified.

Nick and Frank helped kill Fecarotta on Belmont Avenue, but Nick lost a bloody glove at the scene. Years later, the FBI used DNA from that glove to turn Nick Calabrese into a star government witness.

The Outfit usually doesn't shake down legitimate squares, but targets people who can't run to the government.

"My husband helped all of them," Joanne Urso said. "When people borrowed money, he paid for that. He was paying and paying all his life."

At the time of his death Richie Urso controlled a string of properties, including a South Loop building housing the Pink Monkey strip club, a Cicero property housing the adult bookstore Bare Assets and a Chicago Chinatown neighborhood shopping complex. But the crown jewel was the land near the jail complex.

Now City Hall has moved to take the property. According to public records, Joanne Urso owes Mutual Bank more than $9 million on that property and another huge lot at 6501 W. 51st St.

The city has offered her $7.1 million for the Little Village parcel. Her appraisers say it's worth $13 million. It would be worth much more if Cook County expands the jail.

"They [City Hall] thought I would sell it right away," she said. "But I wasn't going to just give it away. Now it feels they've decided to try and just take it."

Joanne Urso is a woman alone. Her clout died six years ago, on another woman's kitchen floor, with tuna salad in his mouth.

Once, Richie Urso was squeezed by the Outfit. Now his widow is getting squeezed by City Hall. It's a classic Chicago story.

The central theme is that there's nothing deader than dead clout. And now Joanne Urso has to pay for it.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Who is The Real Mayor of Chicago?

Most Americans living outside the Chicago area identify the city with Oprah, Obama, or Michael Jordan. When the subject of who really runs Chicago comes up, most people would say Mayor Daley. Chicago's lack of term limits and persistent political machine have kept Mayor Daley in office for over 20 years.

Those who know Chicago politics know there's one man who's more powerful than Mayor Daley, Alderman Ed Burke. Mayor Daley may be the identifiable public face of Chicago's political system and act as a lightning rod for criticism, but the lower profile Alderman Burke wields the real power.

Chicago's City Council recently celebrated Alderman Burke's record-breaking 40 years in office. No Chicago Alderman has served so long or accumulated so much power. No man represents Chicago's political system better and all that is wrong with it. Only in a city that is hostile to checks and balances could a politician achieve what Alderman Burke has done. Since joining City Council in 1969, Alderman Burke has amassed a portfolio of positions to be the Machine's top boss. Alderman Burke not only represents the 14th Ward but also serves as Chairman of the Finance Committee. The city of Chicago’s own website is quite honest about exactly who's in charge:

As Chairman of the City Council’s powerful Committee on Finance, Alderman Burke holds the city’s purse strings and is responsible for all legislative matters pertaining to the city’s finances, including municipal bonds, taxes and revenue matters. Alderman Burke became Chairman for the second time in 1989. He previously served from 1983 to 1987. He also serves as a member of the Chicago Plan Commission.


One of the Finance Committee's responsibilities is dealing with workers compensation claims. A few years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times explained Chicago's system: "When city workers get hurt on the job, they usually turn to a handful of lawyers tied to City Hall. And the city often fights back by hiring lawyers with ties to Ald. Edward M. Burke, chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, which has sole authority to settle workers compensation claims against the city."

But, Alderman Burke's control of Chicago's financial purse strings isn't his only lever of power. Cook County has the largest unified court system in America. In heavily Democratic Cook County, 100% of all of the judges are Democrats. The Chairman of the Democratic Party Judicial Slating Committee is none other than Alderman Burke.The Chicago Reader astutely observed Burke's "Seat on the Democratic Party judicial slate-making committee ensures that Cook County judges owe him their jobs." Alderman Burke's influence goes beyond the Cook County level: his wife Anne is a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Along with all of Alderman Burke's power to control Chicago's tax code and Cook County's judicial system comes campaign contributions. Alderman Burke doesn't represent a wealthy ward, nor has he ever faced a serious political opponent, but he still has amassed an eye popping campaign fund. The Chicago Tribune explains:

But the state’s richest political family was Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. Together, their political committees held $8.3 million in cash. The Tribune reported Monday that Anne Burke’s campaign was returning a large portion of her cash to donors because she is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, who traditionally ceases fundraising after elections, raised just $43,000 in the last six months, but had $3.1 million in cash on hand.


In terms of cash at the very least, Burke is already more potent not only than Daley but has more in his coffers than Daley and all 49 Aldermen combined. But, the ever active Alderman Burke is also a businessman, not surprisingly a rather successful one.

The state of Illinois has rather lax ethics laws, and since being an Alderman is a "part time” job, Alderman Burke has outside employment. Burke runs a successful property tax appeals business. Burke's latest ethics form filed with the city of Chicago shows his impressive list of clients. Such big corporations as AT&T, American Airlines, Bank of America, Northern Trust, Harris Bank, T Mobile and many others have done at least $5000 in legal business with Alderman Burke's law firm in the last year. They also – I am sure readers will be shocked – do business with the city of Chicago. WBBM, the local CBS affiliate, even has Alderman Burke handle some of its legal business.

Occasionally, Alderman Burke's conflicts get reported on. When Obama ally and Blagojevich influence peddler Tony Rezko was looking to get his taxes cut on a big land deal the Chicago Sun-Times explained:

Why did Ald. Edward M. Burke vote to approve Tony Rezko’s plans to develop the South Loop’s biggest piece of vacant land even as he was working for Rezko on that same deal?

Burke says: I forgot to abstain.


When Rod Blagojevich first decided to run for Governor in 2001, he got important backing from Burke. Blago's father in law, by the way, is Alderman Dick Mell, a colleague of Alderman Burke's who got the ball rolling.The Daily Herald unearthed this revealing statement from Alderman Burke in 2001 concerning Blago:

"I am with Rod 100% because he has what it takes to win – money, message and an army of supporters,” said Burke, referring to a rousing announcement speech given by Blagojevich to a reported throng of 10,000 people on August 12. Burke also mentioned filings with election officials that show Blagojevich with over $3 million in his campaign fund, double the amount of cash on hand of all of his potential Democratic opponents combined.


In the coming years, as Chicago style politics seeps into America's mainstream, remember Alderman Burke. Thirty of Burke's colleagues on Chicago's City Council went on to become convicted felons since 1970. But Alderman Burke is still standing, and still dominating in the shadows, atop much of what happens in the Windy City.

Thanks to Steve Bartin

Steve Bartin is a resident of Cook County and native who blogs regularly about urban affairs at http://nalert.blogspot.com. He works in Internet sales.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Defining "The Chicago Way"

The Chicago Way.

What is it? Is it easily abused? Is it dangerous in the wrong hands?

This is critical, as the nation's eyes turn toward Chicago's federal building, where Barack Obama's personal real estate fairy, Tony Rezko, stands trial on federal corruption charges.

The phrase must be put in context, something the national media fails to do when they portray Obama as the boy king drawing the sword from the stone, ready to change America's politics of influence and lobbyists, ignoring the fact that Chicago ain't Camelot.

With opening statements expected Thursday, the court will be packed with journalists foreign to our idiom. In the past, a few reporters have applied "The Chicago Way" to our pizza, theater and opera, thereby embarrassing themselves beyond redemption.

To prevent such outrage, I've enlisted the help of George Washington, father of our country, crooner Dean Martin and aged action star Sean Connery in a cutting-edge video premiering now at chicagotribune.com/kass.

You know the movie "The Untouchables" in which Connery played the only Chicago cop in city history with a Scottish accent? "He [ Al Capone] puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue..." says Connery's cop. "That's the Chicago Way."

Perhaps.

Chicago's mob -- we call it the Outfit -- was slapped last summer by federal prosecutors in the Operation Family Secrets trial that convicted Outfit bosses, and cops and put political figures in with them. We've had our chief of detectives (William Hanhardt) sent to prison for running the Outfit's jewelry-heist ring. And we've had white guys with Outfit connections get $100 million in affirmative action contracts from their drinking buddy, Mayor Richard Daley, who must have seen them pink and white and male at some point.

That's the Chicago Way.

"This country was built on taxes," said a Democratic machine hack, Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, as she and other Democrats prepared to slap Chicago with the highest sales tax of any major city in the country.

Her belief, that America was built on taxes, is one of the unique features of our own city's history, which reportedly began in 1776, when the Daleys boldly declared our independence from the English king.

"There's not that many political hacks in Cook County," Sims insisted after the tax hike.

Not that many hacks? The only one reporters need to bother about is also involved at the same federal building: the mayor's own Duke of Patronage, Robert Sorich.

Sorich has been found guilty by a jury, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals above the Rezko courtroom is still deciding whether to redeem the jury or redeem the mayor, who'd much rather have Sorich happy than Obama in the White House.

Sorich was convicted two years ago of running the mayor's massive and illegal patronage operation, and he's still not in prison. Thugs, morons, idiots, and convicts were put on the city payroll to work the precincts so that Daley could keep getting elected. Obama's spokesman, David Axelrod, defended Daley patronage in a Tribune op-ed piece.

The Daley family's parish priest in Bridgeport, Rev. Dan Brandt, lovingly compared Sorich to Jesus Christ as both had troubles with the law.

"People often say, what would Jesus do?" he said, loyal not only to his faith but to the 11th Ward's place at the head of Chicago Way. "I put a twist on it and say, 'What would I do for Jesus?' With whom Robert has a lot in common as far as legal problems ... [The Lord] was a convicted felon. And Robert was convicted, and so he may have a lot in common with Jesus."

When the parish priest does right by the patronage boss to protect the mayor who gets endorsed by that great reformer Sir Barack of O'bama, that's the Chicago Way.

Naturally, there are some squares who don't think taxpayers should pave the Chicago Way to make it easy for Rezko to help purchase the senator's dream house in a kinky deal exposed by the Tribune and still not fully explained.

"It's really the Old Chicago Way," said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. "In the old days they would pretty much admit it up front, and now they deny it. It's essentially about power, access to government jobs, government contracts and taking care of your own."

One secret DaVinci Code-type sign for the Chicago Way is in the back room of the Chicago City Council chambers at City Hall, where a portrait of George Washington looks down at the crookedness below, and extends his own hand, palm up, itchy, needing that special grease. But some strangers to our lands have used the Chicago Way with perfect pitch. Rezko's buddy, former Iraqi electricity minister, Aiham Alsammarae, escaped an Iraqi prison where he was being investigated for corruption.

A reporter asked -- How did you escape?

"The Chicago Way," he said.

Amazing Discounts and Deals for J&R Computer/Music World

Friday, December 14, 2007

Would the Mob Control a City of Chicago Casino?

Cities across the country have looked to casinos as a way to generate money, but Chicago is going a step further. There's a movement in Illinois to allow Chicago to actually go into the casino business. Under the deal, Chicago would own and operate a casino, making it the first municipality in the country to do so. Given Chicago's history with the mob, gambling and corruption, the plan is raising more than a few eyebrows.

Ben Calhoun's audio report provides more details and includes comments from Mayor Daley, Chicago Crime Commission President Jim Wagner and author Richard Wagner, who has written several books about Chicago.

Once you listen to the report, you can vote in a Chicago Crime Commission poll on the topic.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Chumbolone Casino

So as I took last week off -- with some readers fearing I'd been chained in a City Hall dungeon for writing the words "Mayor Chucky" -- an amazing thing happened. (I took the week off after Kass did, which is why you are going to get a slew of articles today.)

Mayor Richard Daley agreed he'd like City Hall to own a gigantic casino, with all the contracts to be overseen by a special city gaming board hand-picked by the mayor himself. Please don't call it the City Hall Casino or the Daley Casino. That's rude. Call it the Chumbolone Casino.

A casino with all the contracts and jobs and deals hidden from public view should be named for all of us chumbolones who believe taxes will decrease if the casino is built.

So I'm calling on you, the readers of this column, to help the mayor by coming up with recommendations for the posts of Chumbolone Casino boss and on the Chumbolone Casino board.

The mayor has been under great stress, and nobody wants him to get angry and transform into the Mayor Chucky persona, which would terrify the Olympic selection committee. Let's help the mayor instead.

Send your Chumbolone Casino recommendations to me, and we'll present them to the mayor in a special ceremony to be held either at the Polish sausage stand on 31st Street, or at Tavern on Rush, whichever he prefers.

"Who'll handle the patronage at the mayor's casino?" asked a loyal reader who calls himself Leprechaun. "There will be jobs there, right?"

Robert Sorich. Who else?

Sorich, the mayor's former patronage boss, was convicted in federal court as part of a scheme that rigged city job applications to illegally build massive patronage armies for the mayor, in direct violation of a federal court order. Sorich is appealing his conviction on mail fraud, not racketeering, as I'd reported recently.

But who'll run the gambling? I've got just the guy behind the guy:

Rayjo.

Rayjo -- known formally as Raymond John Tominello -- comes from the mayor's neighborhood. Nobody calls him Raymond, or Ray. They call him Rayjo.

I have a suspicion that the mayor may know Rayjo, but I've been waiting for those tough TV reporters who like spanking the Urkel out of the hapless Todd Stroger to ask Daley if he knows Rayjo, or not.

Rayjo is eminently qualified. Consider his background.

Rayjo tutored under the famous Don "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini and Dominic Cortina, the Chicago Outfit's top bookies back in the 1980s, and he pleaded guilty to being one of their top lieutenants and went to prison for his crimes.

Before and after his release, Rayjo was in the real estate business with the mayor's second favorite developer, Thomas DiPiazza, on several deals in Bridgeport, and the sale of land to the Chicago Board of Education for almost a million dollars.

See? Rayjo and Tommy D. care about the school children.

And a few months ago, Rayjo was also mentioned in federal testimony in the Family Secrets trial. Chicago Outfit hit man-turned-government witness Nick Calabrese testified about a meeting to establish the pecking order in a Bridgeport gambling operation.

Calabrese said he met with several tough guys, including Outfit loan shark and former Chicago Police Officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle. Twan was convicted in Family Secrets for passing key information on an Outfit murder to Calabrese's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., while the FBI was recording their conversations.

(Ironically, Twan invented the term "chumbolone," which he insisted means stupid idiot.)

At that meeting were Frank Sr., the late Outfit enforcer Ronnie Jarrett and Outfit figure Mario Dispensia. Oh, and one other guy.

Rayjo.

How's that for qualifications?

Like his buddy Tommy D., Rayjo also worked for the city, so he has a public service background too.

So Rayjo it is, for chief operating officer of the Chumbolone Casino.

Yet there are other important casino jobs, from scooping up the quarters in the slot machines, to running the VIP bottle service for high-rollers, even building the casino itself, and securing City Hall occupancy permits. And don't forget the Chumbolone Casino board. I'm sure you'll find responsible people. But don't ask Jim Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission. He argues that, given City Hall's habit of playing footsie with the Outfit for the last century, a casino won't save taxpayers money.

"You'll end up having to pay a tax for all the corruption that will be brought into play, with the contracts, with the sweetheart deals, with the ghost employees and, history has shown, with the corruption of government and law enforcement," Wagner said.

Wagner spent decades with the FBI, hunting the Chicago Outfit. So, naturally, City Hall sniffs at his concerns.

So who will we put on the board? And who'll scoop up the quarters?

Please help the mayor help you.

Your baby needs a new pair of shoes.

Thanks to John Kass

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Will Daley Bring Back Fugitive From Mexico to Testify?

As chairman of the new Chumbolone Museum of Grant Park, I have an important announcement regarding my top underling and museum co-chair, Mayor Richard Daley.

We at the Chumbolone Museum have ordered the mayor to lead an expedition into Mexico to find Chicago's missing link: Marco Morales, the notorious corrupt fugitive and bribe-paying city contractor.

The Chumbolone Museum doesn't care how Daley brings him back, as long as he brings him back. Alive.

What we don't need is Marco in pieces, wrapped in butcher paper. Sure, we'll stuff Marco, if that's what the mayor wants, but only after Marco testifies in federal cases about bribes at City Hall.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," said a real top Daley administration official when I explained the extradition expedition. "I don't think he'll want to go."

Not even to bring Marco back? Alive? "No, not even for Marco," the official said.

Well, too bad. He's going, whether he likes it or not. Daley has already traveled to France and demanded the French extradite a suspected murderer for trial in Chicago. How can my own Chumbolone Museum vice chairman not apply his rigorous extradition standards to Mexico?

As loyal readers know, the mayor and I are co-founders of the Chumbolone Museum, so he won't have to support that other museum nobody wants in Grant Park. Chumbolone is Chinatown slang for fool, and as election results prove, there are millions of us in the Chicago area. We need a museum more than rich kids need a museum.

So if you don't see the mayor, don't worry, he'll be in Mexico, on the Marco hunt, with a hand-picked team of experts. They'll wear pith helmets and cute khaki shorts, and carry big nets on long poles over their shoulders, as befitting a proper museum expedition. Except for the mayor.

He'll have his own net, but he won't wear a pith helmet. A pith helmet would smash his hair and make his head perspire. Instead, he'll wear his famous Indiana Jones hat.

On Thursday, Tribune reporters Ray Gibson, Dan Mihalopoulos and Oscar Avila broke the news on the Tribune's Web site that Mexican federal police had seized Morales.

Morales had a deal with federal prosecutors here in Chicago years ago that he'd testify about bribes he paid to Daley administration officials in exchange for lucrative city contracts. But he changed his mind, ran to Mexico instead, and his son began receiving $40 million in Daley administration contracts. Naturally, the mayor knew nothing about hush money.

Mexican authorities arrested Morales in 2004, but denied extradition on corruption charges. Recently, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Morales on drug charges, making extradition easier. It also makes City Hall nauseous.

"I miss Chicago so much," Marco Morales told me in a phone interview last September. "I miss everything about Chicago."

But not enough to come back? "No," he said then. "I've got issues up there."

The main issue was the Chicago Outfit promising to blow his brains out if he continued talking about bribes he allegedly paid to Tony Pucillo, Daley's former Department of Transportation boss. And about his relationship with Daley insider and trucking boss Michael Tadin.

Pucillo's brother and Tadin were involved in a company that paved the city's streets, in a contract overseen by Tony and supported by Daley.

Back in the day, at Department of Transportation golf outings, Tony, Mike and the mayor would ride in the same golf cart, saying hello to laborers and vendors in the asphalt business. It was Daley's way of advertising that his boys had his blessing. Only a chumbolone wouldn't get it.

So we at the Chumbolone Museum called Pucillo and Tadin on Thursday, telling them to report for duty with the mayor. They'll ride a golf cart around and around the walls of the prison in Mexico City. The mayor will yell from the back seat.

"Marco! Marco! Where are you? Marco?"

Every great expedition requires bait to lure exotic creatures into the open, so explorers can catch them in their nets. And I've got just the thing.

"There's no Polish sausage around here. No Italian sausage," Marco told me in our interview. "You know that place the Carusos have in Bridgeport? Well, I'd die for one of those Polish sausages."

He meant the Maxwell Street Polish stand on 31st Street, and brothers Frank "Toots" Caruso and Bruno Caruso. The FBI considers them to be the experts on the Outfit's Chinatown crew.

"I just remember what a Polish tastes like and I miss it, you know, like I miss Chicago," Morales told me.

Don't worry Marco. The Chumbolone Museum will pay Toots to bring a hot sack of sangwiches for you. You're coming home, buddy.

Mayor Daley is on his way. But before he persuades me to stuff and mount you in the Chinatown Asphalt wing at our Chumbolone Museum, you'll have to talk to other experts.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI. But they're no chumbolones.

Thanks to John Kass

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chicago's Mayor Friendly with Alledged Mob Associate?

Friends of ours: Nicholas Calabrese, Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, Frank Calabrese Sr., John Fecarotta, Anthony Doyle
Friends of mine: Fred Barbara

Will Chicago reporters ask Mayor Richard Daley about the Fred Barbara issue Wednesday? It came up Tuesday during the Chicago Outfit trial of reputed mobsters in the Family Secrets case.

Barbara, successful trucking boss, waste hauler, and mayoral fashionista, has made fortunes on city deals under Daley and is currently a consultant on the city's blue bag program. He's a friend of the mayor, and of the mayor's political brain, Tim Degnan, who, like the mayor, is a son of Bridgeport.

Tuesday's testimony of key Outfit witness Nicholas Calabrese also put Barbara with another son of Bridgeport: Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, the late boss of the Outfit's Chinatown crew. A key Outfit killer turned government informant said that LaPietra and Barbara were present at the arson bombing of Horwath's Restaurant in Elmwood Park in the early 1980s.

It is important to note that Barbara has not been charged with any crime recently. We tried contacting Barbara on Tuesday to ask about Calabrese's testimony, only to be told that he wasn't available for an interview with me. And federal prosecutors and defense lawyers couldn't comment because of a gag order.

So, let's clear this thing up. Is the guy with "The Hook" at Horwath's the mayor's Fred Barbara or some cunning impostor? Who best to resolve this issue than Daley?

Surely, reporters will ask him Wednesday, if he doesn't bolt town for another fact-finding mission, not to Rio, but perhaps to trace the last steps of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, while the Outfit crew from his neighborhood turns under federal heat back home.

Barbara is a political donor who sold his South Side garbage-transfer station and landfill for $58 million. He knows his way around politics and business. But what's new today is that Nick Calabrese mentioned Barbara from the witness stand. Calabrese put him at the scene at one of the Outfit bombings of west suburban restaurants in the early 1980s, as the Outfit pressured businesses and sent unmistakable messages to them.

Some of the establishments Calabrese mentioned during questioning from assistant U.S. Atty. Mitchell Mars included the following: The bombings of the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Tom's Steakhouse in Melrose Park, Marina Cartage (the Chicago trucking company owned by another mayoral buddy recently turned Barbara rival, Mike Tadin) and Horwath's on Harlem Avenue.

Calabrese testified that Fred Barbara was with LaPietra and that the two men bombed Horwath's together. Nick testified that he and brother Frank Calabrese Sr., who is one of the Outfit bosses on trial in this case, bombed Tom's Steakhouse. All four and others met at mobster John Fecarotta's hot-dog stand in Melrose Park before the bombings, and afterward, to compare notes, Nick Calabrese said.

"It was me, my brother, and Johnny Fecarotta at Tom's," Nick Calabrese testified. "At Horwath's, there was Fred Barbara and Angelo LaPietra."

These two sentences will most likely be buried in news accounts of the larger Outfit case, because Nick also described four brutal murders in which he held people down while his brother strangled them with a rope. And Nick also testified about the severed heads of dogs thrown onto front lawns, and dead chickens, and a bizarre Outfit assignment:

To kill several pet shop mice, put tiny nooses around their tiny necks, and dangle them from the windshield of an extortion victim. But the sentences about Barbara are important sentences, if Calabrese was telling the truth, if "The Hook" took Barbara on the Horwath's bombing. The act of arson would bind a businessman to the Chinatown crew, as insurance of sorts against any future testimony.

After they met at the hot-dog stand, Calabrese said the groups went their ways. Fecarotta was known to his friends and "family" as "Big Stoop."

Fecarotta later lived up to the nickname when he botched the burial of the Spilotro brothers, forcing the Outfit to kill him on Belmont Avenue. In that killing, Nick got wounded and left a bloody glove at the scene. It was held in the police evidence room where alleged Chinatown juice collector and Chicago cop Anthony Doyle (also of Bridgeport) worked. The FBI asked about the glove. Doyle allegedly told the Outfit. And the historic case began.

I'll write about the Calabrese murders in other columns, I have the right to delay that, since you're getting that news anyway and because, well, I broke the story about Calabrese disappearing from prison and into the witness protection program, which caused a panic among the Outfit.

For now, let's remember what the mayor's friend, Fred Barbara, told the Sun-Times in 2004 about the federal juice loan charge of which he was acquitted in 1983.

"Show me my connection to organized crime," he said. "Did I turn the corner? You show me anything in the last 24 years that reflects to that nature."

I'd bet Nick Calabrese hasn't talked to the feds just about the Outfit in Bridgeport. I'd bet he's talked to them about politics too.

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, February 20, 2006

Chicago Water Department Worker Charged With Lying To Feds

A Chicago city worker fired for being AWOL from his water department job was charged Tuesday with lying to federal agents in the government's two-year investigation of Chicago's corruption-plagued Hired Truck Program. Frank Cannatello, 30, of Chicago became the forty-third person charged in the investigation that recently has branched out to include alleged city hiring fraud by Mayor Richard M. Daley's former patronage chief and other political operatives.

The Hired Truck Program, which cost taxpayers $38 million at its peak two years ago, was designed to save money by allowing the city to outsource its hauling work to private truckers. Prosecutors say the program has been awash in payoff money and fraud. Some of the companies that got sizable payouts through the program are tied to the mob.

Cannatello was charged with one count of lying to federal agents Dec. 14 when he said he had nothing to do with FRC Trucking Co., which made $187,000 in Hired Truck payments in three years. Ownership of the now dissolved company was listed to a female relative. Prosecutors said Cannatello helped to organize and operate the company. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday at the office of Cannatello's lawyer, Richard Jalovec.

Among other things, prosecutors said Cannatello asked another city worker, Randy Aderman, to help FRC get city hauling work and Aderman did so through the water department. Aderman already has been charged in the investigation along with former city Clerk James Laski. Aderman appeared for arraignment before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle Sr. on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. Norgle set a status hearing in the case for March 13.

Cannatello's cousin, John Canatello, 60, of suburban Palos Park and Marco Island, Fla., was sentenced Jan. 19 to 27 months in federal prison, fined $14,000 and ordered to forfeit $100,000 for taking part in a payoff scheme to get Hired Truck business for another trucking company.

Frank Cannatello was among nine employees fired by the city water department on orders from Daley last June after it was discovered that they had been electronically logged in at their jobs at the city's Jardine Filtration Plant when in fact they were elsewhere. Officials said a two-month review of security tapes showed the employees had used each other's identification cards to make it appear that they were working when they were not.

Another former water department employee fired last June and now indicted along with Laski and Aderman is John Briatta, who is the brother-in-law of Cook County Commissioner John Daley -- the mayor's brother. Briatta, who is to be arraigned before Norgle on Thursday, is charged with accepting payoffs from Aderman in exchange for Hired Truck Program assignments.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

From Al Capone, to a Mayor Richard Daley special:

The other big city with questionable alliances between the underworld, and the men who officially run things, is of course Chicago.

When I think of the Chicago mob, I think of Al Capone, as would anyone. As far as big hitters are concerned, he was definitely right up there at the top of the mafia tree, along with his old New York pal, Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano.

Post-Capone, there is the legacy of The Big Tuna himself, Tony Accardo, aka Joe Batters - allegedly handed the moniker by Capone after he bludgeoned a man to death with a baseball bat upon his boss's order.

From streetwise young hoodlum to boss of arguably one of the most powerful La Cosa Nostra families in the United States, the Chicago 'Outfit', Accardo, up until his death in the early nineties, controlled organized crime in 'The Windy City' for the best part of four decades. He was a man adversely disposed towards publicity. Certainly no John Gotti, he. Accardo preferred the shadows, and is considered one of the most astute, and organized of all mafia chieftans. A legend in mobdom, the Carlo Gambino of the midwest.

Accardo, with his top lieutenants, saw to it that Las Vegas, a gambling mecca launched by New York mobster, Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel, in the fifties, would over the next several decades, become almost exclusively controlled by Chicago, with other mafia families like Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Kansas City, operating under Chicago's solid umbrella.

Though capable of ordering the most vicious of murders - I recall a bunch of thieves whom had made the mistake of robbing the Accardo home in plush Forest Hills, Illinois, and who were later found horrifically murdered all across the city, stabbed, and beaten, shot and strangled (all mercillesly tortured, naturally) - Accardo, having worked his way up in the organization as a proficient hitman himself, often allowed those close to him to assume the ultimate mantle of boss, at least superficially, but it was always Accardo as the man behind the scenes, running the show, the real power.

When the brash, and high-profile Sam Giancana rose to the top spot in the late 50‘s, and his much-publicized exploits with Marilyn Monroe and JFK (many believe that Sam put Kennedy in the Whitehouse, by securing votes in Chicago) elevated his status, particularly with the federal government, exponentially, came and went with several bullets in his head, he was replaced with a succession of other bosses, from Joe Ferriola - believed to be the man whom sanctioned the hit on Tony Spilotro, one-time Vegas enforcer for the mob - to Joey 'The Clown' Lombardo, whom despite a recent arrest on murder and racketeering charges (what else) is suspected today of occupying the top spot.

Only in the city of Chicago has organized crime enjoyed such strong relationships with law enforcement and upper echelon politicians, for so many years. It is a city that has long been associated with unprecedented corruption, stemming back to before even Al Capone, when Big Jim Colossimo ran the scene, with more crooked politicians in his back pocket than he knew what to do with.

SoBoss Richard J Daley of Chicago, moving away from these more overtly unsavoury characters, and onto City Hall, we come to the mayor of that fair city, Richard Daley, whom was questioned last week by none other than the U.S attorney's office. The two hour grilling session revolved around various scandals, alleged to have taken place in Daley's offices. Daley is likely to have been the first Chicago mayor to face this kind of questioning. Going back over the last half a century, to when Daley’s father was mayor, none have come under such scrutiny by the FBI. Now, they have.

Daley was questioned on Friday by the U.S. Attorney's office in a two-hour session about the alleged scandals that surround him. Talking sparingly with the predicted throng of reporters outside his offices, Daley commented that he would be avoiding specifics pertaining to the matter, though he did concede to answering his questioners in a frank, and honest fashion. Would we expect anything less, one is bound to ask?

Describing questions posed to him as: "very serious," Mayor Daley reinforced that his current predicament would not impact upon his responsibilities in running his city. And contrary to recent speculation that he might not run for re-election, Daley remained more than optimistic about continuing in his role as mayor, all this despite the fact that two city officials have been charged last month with allegedly rigging the city's hiring system to flout a court order that bars City Hall from considering politics when filling most city jobs. The ensuing federal investigation encompasses bribery also.

Well, at least ostensibly, the mayor of Chicago's empire is a respectable, and of course, law-abiding one.

Excerpted with thanks to Steven Morris at New Criminologist

Friday, May 06, 2005

Casino hearing expected to call reputed mobster

Reputed Chicago Outfit boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo and his brother, Peter DiFronzo, will be among those called to testify at a state hearing on whether to revoke the state gambling license once destined for Rosemont, Illinois Gaming Board sources said Thursday.

Robert CooleyWhen Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down--the corrupt lawyer turned government informant who testified in mob cases involving the nexus between the Outfit and politicians--is also expected to be called as a witness. Cooley is the author of the book "When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down."

The new head of the Gaming Board said he's looking forward to the hearing but isn't talking about who will testify. "I'd rather not comment on that, because I think it's up to the lawyers to conduct the case as they see it," Chairman Aaron Jaffe told me in a telephone interview. "But I will promise you this. It will be very interesting."

What he didn't say is important here. He didn't say they weren't going to subpoena the tough guys. He didn't say that the DiFronzos and others would not be called. He could have. But he didn't.

Gov. Rod "The Unreformer" Blagojevich appointed Jaffe with the understanding that the Gaming Board was to become independent again. That's nice, since Blagojevich tried to gut the board by denying it a full set of independent investigators.

Jaffe said that to make the board truly independent, though, the governor and the legislature must allow gambling officials to hire more investigators to be led by chief investigator Jim Wagner, the retired chief of the FBI's Organized Crime task force in Chicago. Wagner helped train several current FBI agents who brought the Operation Family Secrets case, with 18 previously unsolved mob murders, to indictment last week.

The Rosemont casino license has been a political Gordian knot. Republican powerhouses have pushed it as a favor to Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens and his ally, the indicted former Gov. George "Safe Roads" Ryan.

Last year, past board chairman Elzie Higginbottom, a longtime ally of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, led a controversial pro-Rosemont ruling. He and other board members dismissed the concerns of Gaming Board staff that Rosemont was mobbed up and approved a plan to steer a license to a new casino in Stephens' town.

One of those pro-Rosemont board members appointed by Blagojevich was Bill Fanning. After the Rosemont vote, Fanning privately told his colleagues he had neglected to inform them that he had once been related by a past marriage to reputed Outfit boss Joe "The Builder" Andriacchi. Then Fanning resigned. There was little official comment about the development. Fanning did tell colleagues, though, that he had rarely spoken to Andriacchi and hadn't seen him in years.

What surprised me was that Blagojevich hadn't asked Fanning--before appointing him--whether he knew any tough guys. But now Blagojevich says independent is a good thing. Good luck, Mr. Jaffe.

Rosemont was once the headquarters of Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana. According to Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan and other law enforcement authorities, Rosemont has been mobbed up.

Mayor Stephens, who will also be called to testify, vigorously disputes this characterization and has released the findings of an investigation he commissioned that said he's never been "connected to or associated with" the Chicago Outfit.

So I mentioned to Jaffe that he might consider calling another witness--Antoinette Giancana, daughter of the murdered Sam Giancana.

Several years ago, as Stephens was railing that his was not an Outfit town, I had breakfast with the gracious Antoinette and she remembered the days when Stephens eagerly hung out with her father at the Thunderbolt motel in the 1960s. Stephens disputes this. Obviously, a hearing would be quite interesting. "We were very friendly and casual and we all had a good time at the pool," she said. "My father's friends were there too. They had their board meetings in the banquet room. And Don was at the motel too, of course."

I asked her if it was true that the daughters of Outfit bosses teased the young and anxious Stephens by ordering him to fetch them towels at poolside. Did you ever say: Hey Don, get me a towel!? "Wait a minute!" Antoinette Giancana said. "I'd never shout, `Don, go get me a towel!' That would be rude. I was ladylike. You would say, `Don? Would you please get me a towel?'"

Recently, Jaffe appointed the distinguished jurist and former congressman Abner Mikva to preside over the hearing on the Rosemont license revocation. Jaffe said he expects Mikva to set a date for the hearing sometime next week. And Mikva has said he doesn't expect the hearing to drag on forever.

With all that's going on--Operation Family Secrets, City Hall corruption cases and Unreformer Blagojevich's problems--it'd be nice to spend time near a pool. Don, would you please bring me a towel?

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, September 26, 2003

Daley anti-crime message doesn't apply to Duffs

A few hours after his good pals, the Duffs, were indicted by a federal grand jury for defrauding city taxpayers out of more than $100 million--Mayor Richard Daley made like a comedian. He asked Chicago to stand with him to fight crime. Then he said the Duffs were hard-working guys. Excuse me for not laughing, but a joke that involved a $100 million contract--even as your property taxes skyrocket--isn't all that funny, is it?

Daley was on the Northwest Side, asking Latinos, African-Americans and others to bravely face down street thugs. All that was missing was a caped-crusader costume or a tiny and sarcastic court jester at his side. When the mayor talked about criminals, he wasn't talking about the Duff clan. They're pink and suburban and close to him, part of his clique, and some Duffs are friends of Chicago Outfit bosses.

"That's why you're here holding your child on your shoulders!" Daley shouted to the crowd Thursday night, which was ready to commence with an anti-crime march. "We're here to protect all the children! That's why [criminals] are enemies!"

It was an amazing display. At least it proves what he thinks of taxpayers. They're the suckers who get squeezed to fill the public troughs from which his friends eat.

Daley wouldn't hang out with drug dealers, obviously. But he'd show up at the Duff Christmas parties at the Como Inn, legendary affairs, glad-handing and back-slapping, letting political Chicago know the Duffs were his guys.

The parties were Daley declarations, that the Duffs were Daley's, so watch it. And everybody who's anybody got the message. But out in the neighborhood Thursday, he wasn't referring to the alleged Duff criminal masterminds. Instead, he was referring to neighborhood lowlifes, guys who take your money with a gun, not a deal.

What was also amazing was that the crowd at the anti-crime rally was largely minority.

Only a few hours before, the Duffs were indicted for ripping off minorities and women, by running phony minority businesses that got $100 million in city contracts, though the Duff men are not blacks or Latinos or women.

They're pinkish tough guys, with Daley clout, from a family that brags about ties to the Outfit bosses, including the late Anthony Accardo, and the imprisoned (but still vigorous behind bars) Rocco Infelice.

"I know a lot of people," Daley told reporters. "And they have to be on their merits. And that's what it is."

He was asked: Is it disconcerting to you that your friends and political supporters were indicted? "It happens, unfortunately, it does," he said.

The mayor did brag, though, once the Duff scandal became public--he forgot to mention that Tribune investigative reporters and editors made it public--that his administration denied minority contract certification to 880 companies.

A Tribune reporter asked: How many of those denied were political contributors?

"Geez, I don't know."

How many were your friends?

"Gee, I don't know. I don't really know. Doesn't matter if they're friends or not."

Geez.

Daley made news, although some might miss it, by admitting Thursday that he knows the Duffs. When the Tribune first broke the Duff investigation in 1999, he didn't know them. "Oh, I know them. Sure," he said Thursday. "You know that. They're hard-working people. This is an unfortunate incident."

What about their ties to organized crime? "Geez. I don't know about that," said the crime-fighting mayor of Chicago.

Earlier, City Corporation Counsel Mara Georges said she was not surprised by the indictments, which is natural, since there were federal subpoenas issued first. And she had trouble explaining why the Daley administration couldn't find the fraud--she actually defended Daley's "investigation" of the Duffs--which found that, geez, pink guys got minority contracts.

"We took aggressive and affirmative action against them," said Georges, perhaps unaware of the pun.

She also explained why her investigation of the Duffs didn't find any fraud. "We do not have subpoena powers," she said.

Geez, Mara.

Tribune investigative reporters Andrew Martin, Laurie Cohen and Ray Gibson don't have subpoena powers. The editors don't have subpoena powers. But they figured out that the Duffs aren't minorities.

Now, finally, a federal grand jury has figured it out. And it only cost you $100 million to make Daley's friends happy.

That's funny. Like a clown.

Thanks to John Kass

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