Burris: I have nothing to hide

Ill. lawmakers call for Burris to resign
February 18, 2009 9:45:59 PM PST
The senator is now the subject of two investigations into his conversations with aides to former Governor Rod Blagojevich.Senator Roland Burris now says he's not taking any more questions from the media. And it appears he won't have to answer any more questions from the House Impeachment Committee about his conversations with top aides to Former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

That does not mean the controversy is going away.

Senator Burris will likely still have to answer questions from the Senate ethics panel and from the Sangamon County states attorney. He says he is willing to do so.

And the White House has now joined the fray. A spokesman says Illinois residents deserve to know how Burris came to be appointed to the Senate.

The pack of media following Senator Roland Burris these days is becoming reminiscent of the reporters who followed the man who appointed him to the office, Former Governor Rod Blagojevich before his removal from office. And like Blagojevich, a number of the state's political leaders are now calling on him to resign.

A number of lawmakers want to recall Burris before the House panel to fully answer all the questions they believe he failed to answer last month. House Speaker Michael Madigan has rejected that idea though, leaving the perjury investigation to the Sangamon County state's attorney.

Burris addresses lunch crowd at City Club

If there is an impression that Senator Roland Burris left on Wednesday afternoon, it is that he has no intent whatsoever to resign. A resignation has been demanded by many of his critics, but after three decades plus in Illinois politics, Burris appears not to be leaving his latest public office any time soon.

"I have nothing to hide and I will continue to be transparent," Sen. Roland Burris, (D) Illinois told an audience at the City Club of Chicago on Wednesdsay.

At times it sounded as though Senator Burris was having an out-of-body experience, referring to himself in the third person as he offered an impassioned defense of his own virtue.

"Illinois, after 30 years together, you know, you know the real Roland Burris," said Burris.

Burris was welcomed politely by the 900 or so City Club lunchers who rose slowly but steadily to give the state's newly appointed junior senator a standing ovation as he took the podium.

Since his testimony before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee last month, Burris has changed or updated his version of events to say that he was solicited and did try to raise money for ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich. Some in the audience said nothing Burris could say here would change their demand that he resign.

"It makes us all in the state of Illinois look like a bunch of doofusses. Here we sit, between his story and Blagojevich's story, I mean how much more is the state going to have to take," said Judy Baar Topinka, (R) Former Illinois Treasurer.

With the Sangamon County state's attorney looking into a possible perjury charge as well as a U.S. Senate Ethics Committee inquiry underway, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said in Greece on Wednesday morning that what Burris testified to the impeachment committee was "unsatisfactory" and "incomplete".

InDigo magazine publisher Hermene Hartman said Burris' speech on Wednesday did score him points.

"He has been in the state of Illinois for 30 years as an elected official. We know Roland Burris, we know the real Roland," said Hartman.

Despite saying he would cooperate fully with state's attorneys and U.S. Senate investigators, Burris proclaimed he would not answer future news media questions about his appointment. And he put the new policy into effect when a reporter included himself in the City Club question and answer session.

"As I said in my statement, we will not make any responses to those type of questions," said Burris.

A spokesman for President Obama, Robert Gibbs, said the people of Illinois deserve to know the extent of involvement by Burris with associates of Rod Blagojevich.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Burris announced that he is canceling an appearance on Thursday in Rockford that was planned as part of his northern Illinois 'listening tour.' His office says he'll resume the tour Friday in North Chicago.

Burris told ABC7 last month that about now, late February/early March, he would make an announcement on whether he would run for a full term in 2010. The appointment controversy and the investigations have disrupted that plan.

Ill. House Republicans call for Burris to resign

Several Illinois House Republicans are calling for Roland Burris to resign. In addition, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post called for his resignation on Wednesday.

Some are also demanding answers about when the senator asked Democrats to amend his testimony about what led up to his senate appointment.

"Take a deep breath. Close your mouth, take a deep breath through your nose. Ladies and gentlemen, the smell of reform is in the air," said State Rep. Bill Black, (R) Danville.

With a mix of sarcasm and anger, House Republicans lit into the Democrats on Wednesday.

"You covered up whole host of things in the interest of protecting senator burris.," said Rep. Tom Cross, (R) House Minority Leader.

Republicans say the first time they knew about Roland Burris' revised story was when they read about it in the Sun-Times. And they're accusing the Democratic chair of the House Impeachment Committee of purposely sitting on the Burris affidavit for over a week.

"Any suggestion I engaged in a deliberate cover-up, that I purposely delayed the distribution of the information is totally false," said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, (D) Chicago.

Barbara Flynn Currie said that she thought the Burris affidavit was a routine response to committee questions. She didn't immediately read it, and then a staff miscommunication meant it didn't get distributed prior to a holiday weekend.

Many Republicans aren't buying the explanation, and as for Burris, their crescendo is "he's gotta go" and there should be a special election to replace him.

"I call upon the United States Senate to have an ethics investigation about this man and do what is right. If he won't resign, throw him out," said Rep. Jim Sacia, (R) Freeport.

"This is so tainted, this is so dirty that the only disinfectant that will work is the will of the people," said Rep. Roger Eddy, (R) Hutsonville.

Democrats say they are distressed, disappointed with the Burris revelations, but most are stopping short of calling for his resignation though veteran state rep Lou Lang is. The issue, he says is no longer whether Burris perjured himself, but whether he can effectively govern.

"He these resign for the good of himself and for the good of Illinois and since he's in the United States Senate, for the good of the country," said Rep. Lou Lang, (D) Skokie.

Late Wednesday afternoon, two other Democrats, Franks of Woodstock and Mendoza of Chicago, called on Senator Burris to resign and both additionally endorsed the concept of a special election that won't happen since democratic leadership is opposed to it.