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Burris: I Did Not Tell a Lie

The Chicago Crusader, News Analysis, J. Coyden Palmer Posted: Feb 24, 2009

As an ethics investigation began in D.C., Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan referred several documents associated with U.S. Senator Roland Burris and his testimony last month before the Illinois House Special Investigative Committee to Sangamon County States Attorney John Schmidt.

The concurrent investigations began after it was discovered that Burris gave incomplete statements about his communication with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his staff regarding the then vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Its been determined that Burris, 71, had conversations with Blagojevichs brother Rob and other staff members about the possibility of fundraising. During his testimony, Burris said he hadnt been in contact with anyone from the Blagojevich camp about the Senate seat. But on Feb. 4th he submitted an affidavit to lawmakers saying this wasnt exactly the case. In October and November, he had three phone conversations with Robert Blagojevich, who was the head of his brothers campaign fund. Some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called, Burris began on Feb. 17th when talking with reporters. Id talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fundraiser on. Nobody wasthey said we arent giving money to the governor. And I said, OK, you know, I cant tell them what to do with their money.

So when the [governors] brother called me back, I said, Well, look Rob ... I cant raise any money from my friends. I said, maybe my partner and I, you can talk this over and see, could we go to some other people that we might be able to talk to that would help us out if we givebecause we give a fundraiser in the law office, nobody going to show up. Well probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect.

State Democrats see the Burris controversy as a liability and Republicans see it as an opportunity, thus creating a major problem for Burris. Already people from both parties have called for his resignation in addition to an editorial published by the Chicago Tribune. His colleague in the Senate Dick Durbin said the Senate investigation is the right thing to do given the new information that has come forward.

I find Mr. Burris testimony to be unsatisfactory and it is now raising serious questions about his appointment, which many of my colleagues were questioning from the start, the senior senator said.

State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) had asked Burris during his testimony specifically about his contact with people from Blagojevichs camp. Flowers asked Burris if he did any political or personal favors.

There was no conversation, none to that effectno quick pro quo? Flowers asked. Absolutely, positively not, was Burris response.

Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) asked Burris during his testimony if he bundled any money, by giving fundraisers or directed anyone to make contributions to the former Governor at any time during the last six months. Burris responded by saying no.

Even Burris neighbors are upset by the recent revelations. Burris portrayed himself as an honest person and now people in his Chatham community are questioning the veracity of his statements.

Id always seen him as an honorable man; in fact one of the more honorable politicians if there is such a thing, said Joyce Allen, a lifelong Chatham resident. Now it seems as if he has selective memory. I mean you cant testify that you never had any contact with anyone of Blagojevichs people and then a month later miraculously remember having several phone conversations. It makes him look like either he is senile or lying.

Another Chatham resident, Darryl Sykes, said he never believed Burris to begin with. He said from the start he figured Burris was only trying to get the Senate seat because he had some sort of axe to grind with Illinois voters who never voted him governor or mayor.

I had a problem with Burris from the start because when Blagojevich was arrested he was one of the first people calling for him to resign, Sykes said. Then a few weeks later he was standing next to the same man grinning in his face and trying to rationalize why it was ok to accept an appointment from the same person a few weeks earlier he was calling a disgrace. I think Burris is full of ambition and just wanted to put one more feather in his cap, but now he is at risk of tarnishing his legacy forever.

Related Articles:

Illinois Black Residents Support Burris; Slumdog Is Top Dog at the Globes

Burris is Seated as Rep. Meek Plans Fla. Senate Race

Senate Democrats Thumb Nose at Blacks

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