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Barely a month after being sworn in as a U.S. Senator, Roland Burris is being called on to resign by the Chicago Tribune and some of his fellow Democrats.
After claiming, under oath, that there was no quid pro quo with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Burris admitted Tuesday that he had tried to raise money for Blagojevich before the now-impeached governor appointed him to fill President Obama's vacant Senate seat. This revelation followed others, in an affidavit made public over the weekend, about Burris' contact with Blagojevich that cast doubts on the veracity of his testimony before the Illinois House impeachment panel and have opened him up to potential expulsion from the Senate.
The benefit of the doubt had already been stretched thin and taut by the time Roland Burris offered his third version of the events leading to his appointment to the U.S. Senate. It finally snapped like a rubber band, popping him on that long Pinocchio nose of his, when he came out with version four.
Enough. Roland Burris must resign.
Some local politicians joined the Tribune's call. Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, one of the Democratic candidates vying to replace Rahm Emanuel in Congress, issued a statement urging Burris to "resign immediately":
Roland Burris' failure to be honest and upfront with the people of
Illinois should disqualify him from service in the United States
He should resign immediately.
The Illinois legislature should work with Governor
Quinn to pass legislation quickly setting up a special election
empowering the people of Illinois to have a voice in this matter and
allowing us all to finally turn the page on this sad chapter in Illinois
Cook County Clerk David Orr released a letter he sent to Burris asking his "colleague" and "friend" to step down:
An open letter to Sen. Roland Burris from Cook County Clerk David Orr
February 17, 2009
Senator Roland Burris
Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60604
It saddens me to call for your resignation, but the time has come for
you to step aside. Recent revelations about your contact with our
former governor's brother and associates have made it questionable for
you to represent Illinois in the United State Senate.
Your "defense" of not revealing the troubling contents of your
conversations with former Governor Blagojevich's confidants is that you
would have told more if properly asked.
You are disingenuously ignoring the context of your hearing. Our former
governor was arrested and charged with selling President Obama's Senate
seat. At that time, all Democrats demanded that no one take that seat
at Blagojevich's behest. Yet, you accepted his appointment under a
cloud of suspicion. It was your duty to prove yourself untouched by
scandal. You know that the state of Illinois and the nation opposed any
Senate appointee who was tainted by dealings with the Blagojevich
Yet, you've glossed over your numerous conversations with those very
people. You failed to disclose repeated contacts to the Senate
Impeachment Committee. It matters not whether questions were properly
posed. You are an attorney, and know better than that.
To serve as a U.S. Senator--especially in President Obama's former seat--
you should have appeared before the Committee eager to disclose
everything pertinent without being asked. Anything less is beneath you
and far beneath our state's expectations for you.
Naturally, any nominee can play word games, a verbal hide-and-seek with
the truth. But your silence in this matter is subterfuge, not
gamesmanship. No Americans or Illinois voters nor your colleagues in
elective office should have to suffer through more episodes in this
unseemly drama. We deserve a clean break with the embarrassing
Blagojevich era. This is not merely a legal issue; it is a moral issue.
I have supported you in the past as a colleague and as a friend. But
today I ask you to step down and let the people of Illinois move
forward into a new era of good governance.
Cook County Clerk
NOTE: This letter was also faxed to Sen. Burris.
State Rep. Susana Mendoza also urged Burris to resign during an appearance on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" Tuesday:
(via, Progress Illinois)
The calls for Burris' resignation are not limited to Illinois. The Washington Post called on Burris to step down in an editorial headlined "Buy-Buy, Mr. Burris" published in Wednesday's paper:
Mr. Burris's story has more twists than the Chicago El, and none of them good. Caught in a swirl of accusations of perjury and calls for his resignation from state Democrats and Republicans alike, Mr. Burris said yesterday, "I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigative bodies, including those referred by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Senate ethics committee to answer any questions they have." When that opportunity arises, why should anyone believe him?
This latest revelation makes a mockery of his professions of no quid pro quo. It is a violation of the public trust. The people of Illinois have suffered enough. Mr. Burris should resign.
U.S. Rep. Phil Hare added his voice to the resignation chorus Wednesday, saying in a statement that it's in the "best interest of all Illinoisans that Senator Burris resigns."
"I am deeply disappointed that Senator Burris hid the fact that he attempted to raise money for former Governor Blagojevich at the same time he was lobbying for an appointment to the U.S. Senate.
"Senator Burris' story has now evolved several times since he testified before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee in December. The only logical conclusion is that he is not being entirely straight with the people of Illinois.
"A cloud of corruption has hung over our state and its leaders for too long. The impeachment and removal of former Governor Blagojevich was a step in the right direction. But just as it looked like a new era in Illinois politics was possible, we suffer yet another setback. It is like a recurring nightmare.
"Given this latest revelation, I believe it is in the best interest of all Illinoisans that Senator Burris resigns. Our state and its citizens deserve the whole truth, not bits and pieces only when it is convenient."
Hare's House colleague, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, is calling for Burris to be replaced in a special election.
Two candidates vying to succeed Rahm Emanuel in Congress also called for Burris' resignation, a day after rival candidate Mike Quigley.
From a statement issued by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz:
Three months ago I called for a special election to fill President Obama's seat because I believed voters should have had the right to choose their Senator, not politicians in Springfield. This appointment has been under a dark cloud since the day this seat became vacant. And look where it got us. These disappointing disclosures on the part of Senator Burris mean only one thing: he must resign. It's time that we hand this decision over to the voters and have a clean break. Let them decide.
And Tom Geoghegan, who called for a special election Tuesday, demanded Wednesday that Burris resign and return the money he has earned from his short stint in office:
"Regardless of whether Burris committed perjury, he appears to have made false or misleading statements to the General Assembly and others to facilitate his appointment to the U.S. Senate," said Geoghegan. "Under one fair reading of the law, that could make him liable to taxpayers for three times the amount of the salary he now receives in the Senate.
"I call on U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald to investigate this matter."
Section 3729 of Title 31 of the Federal False Claims Act states that any person who "knowingly makes, uses or caused to be made or used a false record or statement to get a false or fraudulent claim paid or approved by the government... is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not less than $5,000... plus three times the amount of damages the Government sustains because of the act of that person."
United States senators earn $169,300 per year.
"Roland Burris should resign immediately and return every cent he has earned as a senator," said Geoghegan. "The seat should then be filled by special election, not by appointment."
State Rep. Lou Lang and Republican State Sen. Bill Brady have also called on Burris to resign.
The Sun-Times joined the rival Tribune in calling for Burris' resignation in an editorial published Thursday:
A month into the job, Burris has squandered any chance of being an effective senator.
He must go.
In addition to the two major Chicago dailies, The State Journal-Register in Springfield and the Peoria Journal Star also have called for Burris to resign.
And Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes on Thursday became the first statewide constitutional officer to call on Burris to step down:
"Sadly, I believe it is in the best interests of Illinois that Roland Burris resign from his seat in the U.S. Senate," says Hynes' letter, sent to The State Journal-Register by the comptroller's press office on Thursday afternoon.
"As a government leader and civil rights trailblazer, Sen. Burris has served the state of Illinois and the nation honorably for many decades. He should do so again."
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias called on Burris to resign Friday, the same day as Gov. Pat Quinn urged Burris to step aside for the good of Illinois.
From the AP, on Giannoulias' statement:
In a Friday news release, Giannoulias says Burris' statements before the Illinois House committee considering the impeachment of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich were misleading and that he "violated the public's trust."
His statement comes the same day Gov. Pat Quinn said Burris should step down.
Burris has come under fire amid revelations that he had more contact with Blagojevich's advisers before he was selected than he disclosed in his testimony.
Giannoulias has had a close association with President Barack Obama, and his name had been mentioned as a possible successor to Obama in the Senate for months, even before Obama's election.