Burris Reasserts His Innocence as Hare Calls for Resignation

Posted February 18, 2009 at 1:37pm

Updated 5:32 p.m.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) reiterated his innocence Wednesday even as allegations continue to swirl that he may have been involved in a pay-to-play scheme to secure his appointment to the Senate.

“If I had done the things I’ve been accused of, I’d be too embarrassed to stand up here,” Burris said in a previously scheduled speech at the City Club of Chicago.

In recent days, Burris has acknowledged that he attempted to raise campaign funds for then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) while simultaneously attempting to get Blagojevich to appoint him to President Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Those revelations came as Burris was trying to explain why he did not reveal under repeated questioning by an Illinois state House committee pursuing Blagojevich’s impeachment that he had spoken with several relatives and associates of Blagojevich in the runup to Burris’ Senate appointment. Blagojevich was arrested in December for, among other things, attempting to sell his appointment to fill Obama’s seat for political favors.

An Illinois state attorney is looking into whether to file perjury charges against Burris for his faulty testimony in January, and the Senate Ethics Committee has opened a preliminary investigation.

“Stop the rush to judgment. You know the real Roland. I have done nothing wrong and I have absolutely nothing to hide,” Burris said.

He also said he would essentially stop giving media interviews on the subject.

“What I will no longer do … is engage the media and have facts drip out in select soundbites,” Burris said. He added that he wants to “get the focus back on the people of this state, where it belongs.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Phil Hare (D) on Wednesday became the first member of the Illinois Congressional delegation to call on Burris to resign.

A “deeply disappointed” Hare said Burris’ shifting accounts of his talks with the Blagojevich camp before his appointment indicates “he is not being entirely straight with the people of Illinois.”

After the embarrassment of Blagojevich’s impeachment, Hare said the drip-drip of news about Burris’ dealings with the former governor “is like a recurring nightmare.”

“Given this latest revelation, I believe it is in the best interest of all Illinoisans that Senator Burris resigns,” Hare said in his statement. “Our state and its citizens deserve the whole truth, not bits and pieces only when it is convenient.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) later added her name to the call for Burris’ ouster. The Chicago-area lawmaker, thought to be eyeing a 2010 Senate run, noted that Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and the state legislature could call for a special election to determine who would serve out the remaining 22 months of the term.

“Whether or not Senator Burris resigns, the best way to put credibility back into the process is through a special election,” Schakowsky said in a statement.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also made his first public comments about the scandal from Greece, where he was traveling this week to discuss international security issues.

“The public statements made by Mr. Burris to this point have raised questions which need to be looked at very carefully,” Durbin said, according to the Associated Press. “His sworn testimony in Springfield did not satisfy our requirement in that it was not complete and we need to have the complete story before the final conclusion that we reach.”

The AP noted that Durbin said the Ethics Committee investigation that began this week is appropriate and that he would wait for the conclusion of the inquiry.