Illinoisans who thought they had put one big mess behind them with
the ouster of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich are getting that queasy,
here-we-go-again feeling from Sen. Roland Burris, who has given
shifting accounts of how he came to be appointed to the Senate.
think he should resign," Jan Treptow, 58, a registered nurse in
Chicago said Wednesday. "He seems to have lied. We've got enough
A preliminary U.S. Senate Ethics Committee inquiry is under way.
Illinois lawmakers have asked local prosecutors to look into perjury
charges. And the chorus of calls for his resignation grows, even
from his own party.
"Our state and its citizens deserve the whole truth, not bits and
pieces only when it is convenient," Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., said
Wednesday in calling on Burris to step down.
Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on charges he plotted to sell
President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat for campaign cash or a
plum job for himself. Before he could be impeached and removed from
office, he defied lawmakers by appointing Burris to the Senate.
Now Burris is accused of lying to an Illinois House committee
back in January when he testified that he hadn't had contact with
key Blagojevich staffers or offered anything in return for the seat.
Last weekend, Burris released an affidavit saying he had spoken
to several Blagojevich advisers, including Robert Blagojevich, the
former governor's brother and finance chairman, who Burris said
called three times last fall asking for fundraising help. This week,
Burris admitted trying, unsuccessfully, to raise money for
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the U.S. Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said
Wednesday that Burris' statements "need to be looked at very
"His sworn testimony in Springfield did not satisfy our
requirement in that it was not complete, and we need to have the
complete story before the final conclusion that we reach," Durbin
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he's not calling
for Burris to resign, even though the account of how he was
appointed "seems to be changing day by day."
"It's not for me to say that he lied," Reid said Wednesday. "I
don't know if he lied or didn't. Right now, he's a member of the
At a City Club of Chicago luncheon Wednesday, a fiery Burris
asked guests to stop the rush to judgment.
"If I had done the things I've been accused of, I would be too
embarrassed to stand up here in front of you, because you all are my
friends," Burris said, adding that during his decades of public
service there was "never a hint of a scandal."
Burris then said he would no longer speak with the media. His
office announced that Thursday events on his weeklong "listening
tour" in northern Illinois were postponed "in order to hold private
The Senate Ethics Committee could recommend disciplinary action
up to and including expulsion, though the final decision would rest
with the Senate as a whole.
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That may be the only way, short of resignation, to remove Burris,
whose seat would be up at the next regular election in November
There has been some talk of holding a special election sooner to
fill the seat, but the constitutionality of that is questionable.
And a special election would give the GOP a chance to snatch the
That leaves Democrats with no good options, said Kent Redfield, a
political science professor at the University of Illinois in
"Blagojevich really hung them out to dry," Redfield said. "So the
Democrats are going to make the best of a bad situation, and
Republicans are going to milk it for all it's worth."
In an editorial Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune called resignation
the only honorable action left for Burris. And in Washington, White
House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Burris needs to explain the
circumstances surrounding his appointment.
Some Illinoisans said Burris should be allowed to serve until the
"If you don't like him, throw him out at the election," said
77-year-old retiree John Fussell, as he waited for a burger at the
Korner Kafe in the St. Louis suburb of Cahokia. "I think everyone
should just shut the hell up and let it run. How much damage can he
do in less than two years?"
Fussell figured Burris "wasn't as straight as he could be" when
he testified before the state panel. But he said he is willing to
give the 71-year-old Burris a pass, since "his memory may not be
what it should be."
But Gail Doherty, manager of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago,
said: "He's a liar, him and Blagojevich. I think they were in
cahoots. He should resign."
Chris Mooney, a political science professor at the University of
Illinois at Springfield, said Burris won't do that.
"Burris has shown he has no shame and, like Blagojevich, will
just stay there till he gets forced out," Mooney said. "He wanted
this so badly, was willing to degrade himself politically and will
not step down willingly."
By DEANNA BELLANDI]
Associated Press writers John
O'Connor and Andrea Zelinski in Springfield, Jim Suhr in Cahokia,
Caryn Rousseau and Tammy Webber in Chicago, David Mercer in
Champaign, Larry Margasak in Washington and Nicholas Paphitis in
Athens, Greece contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
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