Burris cleared by ethics committee

November 20, 2009 4:00:50 PM PST
The U.S. Senate ethics committee admonished Ill. Sen. Roland Burris Friday for the statements he made about the circumstances surrounding his appointment to the Senate seat once held by President Obama. The admonishment means Burris did nothing illegal, and nothing to cause himself to be ousted or even censured by Senate. However, it was not a clean bill of health for the senator, and it might have been considered politically damaging if Burris had chosen to run next year for a full term.

The Senate's Public Letter of Admonition (PDF) arrived in the Washington office of Senator Burris Friday morning.

It focused on Burris' testimony last January before the Illinois House committee that would eventually recommend the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who 11 days earlier, had appointed Burris to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. During the hearing, appointee Burris was asked about contacts he'd had with Blagojevich administration representatives prior to the Senate appointment.

The committee said Burris' affidavit and sworn testimony, "were inconsistent, incomplete and misleading."

On Burris's later affidavit to explain his testimony, the committee said, "Your sworn statements appear less than candid."

And about the November 13, 2008, pre-appointment phone conversation with Blagojevich's brother Robert, the ethics committee ruled it "was inappropriate."

State Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs, who led the Republican interrogation of Burris, said the senator owes Illinois citizens an apology.

"This is a man who knows the machine and lied to get into United States Senate, and he's comfortable where he's at," Durkin told ABC7 Chicago during a phone interview. "[He] has been able to dance between the rain drops and with law enforcement and the ethics committee, but he is not going to leave the Senate with honor."

In a statement e-mailed from Washington Friday afternoon, Burris wrote: "I am pleased that after numerous investigations, this matter has finally come to a close...and now look forward to continuing the important work ahead on behalf of the people of Illinois."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who dropped his call for Burris to resign and for a special election to choose Barack Obama's replacement earlier this year, now looks forward to Burris serving the state until January 2011.

"You know he's in the Senate, and I intend to work with him through the end of his term, and I think that's a good way to go for Illinois," Quinn said.

The state's senior U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, issued a statement saying the letter of admonition "speaks for itself."

Voter should not expect to hear any Senate Democrats bad-mouthing Roland Burris about this. They desperately need his vote on the pending health care bill.


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