A Senate ethics committee issued a mild reprimand to Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill) on Friday after an investigation into his appointment to the U.S. Senate revealed he had been less than candid and, at times, misleading about his appointment to the seat.
On Friday, the Select Committee on Ethics issued a Public Letter of Qualified Admonition to Burris after months of investigating the circumstances of his appointment by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Their verdict is more a shaming than a punishment of the Illinois Democrat. The committee found that Burris's sworn affidavit and testimony before the Illinois House of Representatives as to how he was appointed "were inconsistent, incomplete and misleading."
"The Committee found that you should have known that you were providing incorrect, inconsistent, misleading, or incomplete information to the public, the Senate, and those conducting legitimate inquiries into your appointment to the Senate," the letter reads. "The Committee also found that your November 13, 2008 phone call with Robert Blagojevich was inappropriate. Although some of these events happened before you were sworn in as a U.S. Senator, they were inextricably linked to your appointment and therefore fall within the jurisdiction of this Committee."
Pointing to specific elements of Burris's testimony, the signatories conclude that he "gave multiple and at times contradictory explanations for failing to disclose all your contacts with the Governor's associates, which individually and collectively gave the appearance that you were being less than candid..."
"Your November 13, 2008 phone call with Robert Blagojevich, while not rising to the level of an explicit quid pro quo was inappropriate," the statement reads later.
In explaining the circumstances of his appointment many months ago, Burris clearly left out contacts that he and close associates had with Blacojevich and his staff. At the time, there were serious legal debates as to whether the revelations would be enough to allow Senate leadership to actually remove him from office. But the Illinois Democrat persevered even as the Select Committee on Ethics agreed to look into the issue.
The committee's final verdict is, in many respects, an affirmation of what the evidence clearly suggested. Beyond that, it is not much more than a slap on the wrist. The senator is not running for election in 2010 so it seems likely that he will end up serving out the term with limited punishment for the misleading testimony he gave upon taking the seat.