GAGE PARK — Ald. Edward Burke (14th) accepted money from a charter-school group shortly after signing a letter of support for a new Noble high school on the Southwest Side, but — after he disclosed the donation to elections officials — the campaign contribution never made it to the bank.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) signed a letter dated Aug. 20 expressing support for the new Noble Network of Charter Schools campus set to go at 47th Street and California Avenue. The letter was addressed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Board of Education President Frank Clark and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool.
On Sept. 8, Burke reported on state-mandated campaign disclosure forms that his campaign fund Friends of Edward M. Burke had received a $1,000 contribution from INCS Action PAC, the political action committee for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.
David Weinberg, founder and president of the network, has contributed more than $80,000 to its PAC just in the last two years and sits on the Noble Network board of directors.
That might raise eyebrows, but is legal, according to Michael Graham, assistant legislative inspector general for the city. Asked about the situation without naming Burke, Graham said someone doing city business and contributing more than $1,500 in an election cycle to a candidate would violate ethics laws, as would "pay to play" politics, but that would require proof of a quid pro quo.
On Oct. 14, though, as the contribution was undergoing scrutiny from charter opponents and being mentioned as part of the debate, Friends of Edward M. Burke amended its state disclosure with a letter to the Board of Elections saying the charter group's check had never been deposited. According to the letter: "The messenger delivering the bank deposit misplaced the deposit. As a result, checks were not deposited into said account."
The filing cited a handful of misplaced contributions worth more than $10,000 along with the $1,000 INCS PAC contribution.
INCS Action PAC spokesman Adam Rogalski said its mission "is to elect and support public officials who support giving parents increased access to a high-quality public education, particularly in areas of Illinois without consistent access to high-quality schools."
He said the group "makes individual decisions to support candidates and elected officials based on a series of factors, including support for high-quality charter public schools."
Rogalski emphasized, "We make all our endorsement and support decisions based on our overall strategy and not in response to any individual decisions. As such, there is absolutely no connection between any campaign contribution from our PAC and any particular action or inaction."
Burke did not respond to requests for comment on whether the check was ever deposited or if he would accept another in its stead.
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