The Hole Gets Deeper for the Tainted Sen. Roland Burris

Monday, June 8, 2009

WE DON'T know where to begin with the latest mess that has ensnared Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.). No, "ensnared" isn't the right word. That would imply that he's blameless for his troubles, which isn't the case. Phone conversations taped by federal prosecutors that were released May 26 between Mr. Burris and the brother of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich belie the senator's repeated assertions that there was no quid pro quo for his appointment to the seat vacated by President Obama.

Robert Blagojevich called Mr. Burris on Nov. 13 to talk about raising money for the governor. But it was Mr. Burris who started the conversation by saying, "I, I know you're calling telling me that you're gonna make me king of the world . . . ." Throughout the conversation, Mr. Burris was very concerned about the appearance of his raising money for Mr. Blagojevich's reelection while seeking to be considered for the Senate seat. Yet, that didn't stop him from trying to figure out ways to get around it.

Mr. Burris suggested hiding behind his lawyer: "I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright." He suggested obscuring his involvement by linking into one of 18 upcoming events. "Maybe I can join in on one of those events, too," he said. "What, what, do you have any going with the people that I know?" At the end of the call, Mr. Burris reassured Mr. Blagojevich: "I will personally do something, okay."

He never followed through. Then again, he didn't have to. The governor was arrested Dec. 9 in part because of his apparent efforts to auction the Senate appointment to the highest bidder.

Mr. Burris was tapped by Mr. Blagojevich on Dec. 30. Ever since, Mr. Burris's entanglements with the disgraced ex-governor have been revealed in a political striptease that continues to embarrass the people of Illinois. In January, Mr. Burris said, "There was certainly no pay-to-play involved because I don't have no money." In February, he admitted that he did try to raise money for Mr. Blagojevich. Now we have the audiotapes of him trying to pay to play without looking like it.

We warned that anyone who accepted the appointment from Mr. Blagojevich to fill Mr. Obama's Senate seat would be suspect. With each passing month, Mr. Burris proves us right. He proves why the power to fill Senate vacancies should rest with voters at the ballot box in a special election. And he proves why he should resign.

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