Wednesday, February 18, 2009
WHEN THEN-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested in December for, among other things, allegedly trying to auction off the U.S. Senate seat left open by Barack Obama's election to the presidency, we feared that whomever Mr. Blagojevich eventually chose would be tainted by the association. Enter Roland W. Burris, a former Illinois state attorney general who swore up and down that there had been no quid pro quo involved in his selection. "There was certainly no pay-to-play involved," Mr. Burris assured last month, "because I don't have no money." And then this Associated Press bulletin hit yesterday afternoon: "Burris acknowledges trying to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich as he vied for Senate seat."
This blockbuster disclosure came after Mr. Burris released an affidavit over the weekend that he filed with the Illinois House impeachment committee this month that revealed he was asked by Mr. Blagojevich's brother to raise campaign money for the governor. In testimony before the committee in January, when asked about conversations with associates of the governor, Mr. Burris had acknowledged only one conversation with a former chief of staff for Mr. Blagojevich in which Mr. Burris expressed interest in the open Senate seat.
Mr. Burris's story has more twists than the Chicago El, and none of them good. Caught in a swirl of accusations of perjury and calls for his resignation from state Democrats and Republicans alike, Mr. Burris said yesterday, "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." When that opportunity arises, why should anyone believe him?
From the moment that Mr. Burris was selected, he strove to portray himself as a blameless public servant. The sad pictures of Mr. Burris being cast out into the rain by the Democratic leadership of the Senate, which initially refused to seat him, turned public opinion in his favor. Mr. Burris got his seat. But this latest revelation makes a mockery of his professions of no quid pro quo. It is a violation of the public trust. The people of Illinois have suffered enough. Mr. Burris should resign.
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