Senator Roland Burris
(February 2009)

Could anyone be surprised?

After now impeached and removed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had been taped discussing how he was going to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat for personal gain, it was presumed that no respectable politician would accept the appointment at all, as long as it was coming from the slimy “Blaggo.” Then lifetime Chicago political figure (“hack,’ if you are incline to be unkind) Roland Burris did accept the appointment, immediately calling his own integrity into question. Not his ambition, however: Burris had been trying unsuccessfully to achieve high state office for a couple of decades.

Senate Democrats, unhappy about being outmaneuvered by the governor, insisted that Burris demonstrate that there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Blagojevich and his staff. So he submitted a sworn affidavit saying "there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives" about the Senate seat before he was offered the job. A few days later, he testified under oath that he did talk about the job previously with "some friends about his desire to be appointed." He was asked specifically about discussions with Blagojevich aides and associates Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf, Lon Monk, John Wyma and John Harris. Burris says he only spoke with Monk, a state lobbyist with ties to Blagojevich, again about his interest in the job. That candor did the trick. Burris was accepted into the U.S. Senate.

Now that he is safely seated, Burris’s memory has improved. He has submitted a new affidavit stating that while at a fundraiser for Blagojevich in June, he told two of the governor's aides that he would be interested in the Senate job. He talked to Blagojevich's brother about the post too, three times in October and November. Burris, in the same conversation, discussed raising money for Blagojevich. And there’s more! In October, he called Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, seeking a state job for his nephew, and again asked about the Senate appointment. The affidavit asserts that Burris also called Ed Smith, a supporter of Blagojevich, to ask if he had any chance of getting the Senate job.

According to the same affidavit, Burris claims that he neglected to mention any of this during the Senate testimony because he was "asked another question," and did not have a chance to more fully explain himself.

Right. A review of the transcript reveals that there was no such interruption. Even if there had been, Burris knew that the information he withheld was exactly what his testimony was supposed to explore, on the exact question at issue in his appointment by the corrupt governor. He had an obligation to disclose all of his meetings, even if the hearing had been disrupted by a rogue marching band and army ants.

Let’s look at that statement in Burris’s original affidavit, sworn under oath, one more time:

"…there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives…"

Can this statement possibly be squared with his new revelations?

No.

Did Sen. Burris intentionally hide the truth in order to secure his tainted appointment?

Yes.

Was everyone correct that no public servant of character and integrity would accept a Senate appointment from a governor who has announced his intent to sell the seat?

Absolutely.

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