Ethics Opens Inquiry Into Burris; Reid Supports Move

Posted February 17, 2009 at 5:16pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested late Tuesday that he supports a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that Sen. Roland Burris (D) lied to an Illinois legislative committee pursuing impeachment proceedings against then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who appointed him. Blagojevich has since been impeached and removed from office by the Illinois Legislature. “Senator Reid supports Senator Burris’ decision to cooperate with all appropriate officials who may review this matter, including state agencies and the Senate Ethics Committee,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in a prepared, one-sentence statement. A spokeswoman for Senate Ethics Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) confirmed that a “preliminary inquiry” into the matter has been opened. “Whenever allegations of improper conduct are brought to the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee, we open a preliminary inquiry,” Boxer Communications Director Natalie Ravitz said Tuesday. Burris said Tuesday that he is open to an ethics inquiry. “I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigative bodies, including those referred by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Senate Ethics Committee to answer any questions they have,” Burris told reporters in Peoria, Ill. Burris indicated that he would be sitting down with federal authorities to discuss the issues and that he has reached out to the Illinois prosecutor looking into whether to file perjury charges against him. “I will answer any and all questions to get that point across to keep my faith with the citizens of Illinois. We are working on a concise document that will be provided to the public later this week,” Burris said. The Senate Republican Conference and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, hoping to use the Blagojevich scandal to position the GOP for an unlikely pickup in Illinois in 2010, will probably stay out of the fray. Burris’ seat, formerly held by President Barack Obama, is up next year, and Rep. Mark Kirk (R) is strongly considering a bid. Kirk won a convincing re-election victory last year in a Democratic-leaning district despite the fact that Obama won his district handily. Illinois in recent years has been solid Democratic territory in statewide elections, and Burris could also be vulnerable to a strong Democratic primary challenge. He has yet to say whether he plans to seek a full term next year.