Roland Burris: I'm no Rod Blagojevich
No one is accusing Sen. Roland Burris of being in the same league as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich when it comes to ethical lapses.
Blago, as he's known to bloggers and cable news show hosts everywhere, is alleged to have used a pay-for-play scheme to determine who would make the best senator to replace Barack Obama. That's big-time corruption, big enough to prompt his impeachment -- after a lengthy oration that you can read here -- by the Illinois Senate and federal charges that could lead to jail time.
But Illinois Republicans are charging that Burris, appointed by Blagojevich and seated reluctantly by Democrats in the U.S. Senate, didn't exactly tell the whole truth when asked by legislators at Blago's impeachment trial whether he'd had any contact with the former governor's associates.
Asked on Jan. 8 about his contacts with the governor's allies, Burris mentioned conversations with former Blago chief of staff Lon Monk. Then over the weekend, he filed a new affidavit disclosing that Blagojevich's brother, Robert, had approached him three times about making a campaign contribution to the governor. And also that he'd expressed his interest in the Senate seat to three other Blagojevich allies: John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma. Burris said he did not disclose the conversations earlier because he was not asked directly about them.
"I've always conducted myself with honor and integrity," Burris said at an emotional Sunday news conference. "I did not donate one single dollar ... or promise any favors of any kind."
Illinois Republicans are weighing perjury charges. "I can't believe anything that's coming from Mr. Burris, at this point," state Rep. Jim Durkin said.
And depending on what happens in Illinois, politico.com reports this morning, Senate colleagues could launch an ethics committee probe to determine whether, only a month after being sworn in, Burris should be expelled. Jim Manley, senior communications director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said:
Clearly, it would have been better if Sen. Burris had provided this information when he first testified. Sen. Reid is reviewing the affidavit and will await any action by Illinois legislative leaders after they review the matter.
One thing is clear: the race to fill the seat in 2010 is now open for business.
-- Johanna Neuman
Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images