Federal grand jurors have sought records of legislative scholarships handed out by Democratic state Rep. Dan Burke of Chicago, a sign that authorities kept up a probe of the tuition waiver program even as legislators were moving to end it this spring.
On Wednesday, the House released a copy of the subpoena for Burke's scholarship records, making him the third known lawmaker whose records have been requested. Burke, the brother of powerful 14th Ward Ald. Edward Burke, did not respond to messages left for comment.
Earlier this month, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a ban on the legislative scholarship program beginning Sept. 1. The move followed decades of unflattering news reports of lawmakers giving their highly valued perk to friends, families, political donors and cronies.
The records of former Rep. Robert Molaro, D-Chicago, were subpoenaed last year following a Tribune investigation that showed he had given $94,000 worth of scholarships to the family of a longtime friend and donor.
As Quinn prepared to sign the ban, word broke that a federal subpoena had been sent last month seeking the scholarship records of Sen. Annazette Collins, D-Chicago. Collins lost her primary re-election bid as one-time ally Secretary of State Jesse White stepped up criticism that she had distributed her scholarships to university students living outside her district. State law requires that a student live in the district of a legislator who hands out the scholarship.
The House voted to ban the program March 21, the day after Collins lost. The subpoena seeking Burke's records was dated the same day, and called for the records to be available for a grand jury hearing on April 3.
The Burke subpoena asked for "all documents identifying the recipients of the scholarship and their associated residence." It also asked for any records of any funds or gift received in connection with scholarship awards.
The Better Government Association and the Sun-Times reported on a scholarship that Burke had given to the daughter of his former Springfield-based secretary between 2003 and 2008. The woman collected nearly $70,000 worth of tuition waivers to attend Southern Illinois University, but the BGA and the paper raised questions about her residency.