Monday, 9AM, Roland Burris Is Still Senator

I’ve lost my touch.

It used to be I’d go away for a week and Karl Rove or Alberto Gonzales would resign. Here we are, Monday morning after I’ve been gone a week (thanks to bmaz for really superb work last week!), and Roland Burris is still Senator.

Maybe if I do a recap of Burris’ week, though, and point out the looming holes in his story, then it’ll hasten his departure.

Fitz Joins the Fun

Remember how, in his press conference trying to explain how he forgot to mention his talks with RobBlago and John Harris, Burris couldn’t decide whether he had or had not been contacted by Fitz’ people regarding his negotiations on buying a Senate seat?

That question has now been solved, as Burris spent some time with federal investigators on Saturday.

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris was interviewed by federal authorities for several hours Saturday as part of the ongoing corruption investigation into charges that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich tried to sell a Senate seat for personal or political profit, sources familiar with the talks said.

Burris’ interview, which had been delayed for weeks, took place at his attorney’s offices in downtown Chicago. He has been informed he is not a target of the probe, the sources said.

Several details of this are interesting: what was responsible for the "weeks" delay in Burris’ testimony? Did he have to straighten out his story to the legislature first (though he did not do that with the State Supreme Court), so as to attempt to prevent perjury charges? Or did Fitz just want to make sure they had a complete catalog of the times Burris spoke to Blago’s people–including the multiple phone calls to John Harris that Burris still hasn’t ‘fessed to? Perhaps, too, Fitz wanted to wait until after the FBI started collecting information on Patti Blago’s tenure at the Chicago Christian Industrial League, since that was one way (through Burris’ partner Fred Lebed, who is on the board of the charity) that Burris could have influenced Blago in ways other than fundraising directly. Or, maybe, Burris was negotiating the terms on which he would be very forthcoming to Fitz?

Note that Burris’ secret sources (otherwise known as his attorney, I’m guessing) have gone to the Robert Luskin school of prosecutor-talk. Burris "has been informed he is not a target" of the probe. But did anyone mention anything about him being a subject?

Reporting on Burris’ Saturday chat with the Feds make it clear that the conversation pertained to the Senate seat sale, not to Burris’ new alleged perjury. I’m guessing Fitz and the FBI asked some much more precise questions, including whether anyone gave money on behalf of Burris, what Sam Adam Jr. said to Burris when he offered him the seat, and whether RobBlago and Burris were brainstorming ways to raise money for Blago while covering their tracks after the election.

Burris’ Lobbying Business

It was utterly predictable that Burris’ lobbying disclosure–which he submitted with his tardy February 5 affidavitwould also reveal some surprises. After all, if it didn’t include such surprises, why wait until after getting sworn in to release it?

In a Feb. 5 submission to the committee, Burris listed 26 clients dating to 2003.

But the filing contains discrepancies with documents filed with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office and with the Chicago Board of Ethics. A number of clients are listed only in either the legislative filing or in the agency records.

For example, records with the secretary of state show Burris representing the Council of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers of America from 2003 to 2005 and the Illinois Association of Mortgage Brokers in 2007. But those clients don’t appear in his filing with the Impeachment Committee.

This is something I intend to look at more closely, because I suspect it is just as damning as the belated admission of discussions with Blago’s people. One company that appears in Burris’ affidavit but not the IL or Federal lobbyist databases, for example, is ACS Healthcare, a company that does healthcare IT outsourcing. Burris says he Burris & Lebed worked for ACS from 2005 to the present. Now, it may be that Burris was lobbying in other states (the company is HQed in MI and has an office in TX). But healthcare outsourcing is precisely the kind of thing that might be eligible for state-level kickbacks. So what did Burris do for the company, and did he do it in IL?

Is Reid Leveraging Burris Out?

On Friday, Darrell Thompson–whom Harry Reid had lent to Burris as Chief of Staff to help him get up to speed in the Senate–stepped down, effective immediately. It may be that Thompson just got tired of the Burris drama. But I suspect that Thompson’s resignation reflects an early attempt on Harry Reid’s part (in addition to the Senate ethics investigation) to leverage Burris out. By removing Burris’ ability to work with any effectiveness in DC, Reid ensures that Burris remains expendable in the Senate.

I’m really waiting on Committee assignments, though. In the past, the Senate has often waited until a Senator was indicted, as Stevens was, before pulling key Committee assignments. But Reid can take away one big incentive of Burris’ simply by taking away his Committee assignments, and there is a great deal of precedent for doing so when there is a question of corruption.

Calls for Burris to Resign

A stampede of public officials have now called for Burris to resign:

IL Governor Pat Quinn

Obama’s Spokesperson, Robert Gibbs

Dick Durbin

Some anonymous African American ministers from Chicago

Daley’s Silence on Burris

But not Richard Daley.

Also Saturday, Mayor Richard Daley declined to call for Burris to step down and sought to minimize the impact of the political controversy.

"Let’s put everything in perspective and give him an opportunity to explain himself," Daley told reporters. "Automatically, every time something happens, people want everybody to resign. Is it becoming very common now to tell people to resign after he was appointed?"

Asked if he thought voters who wanted more transparency in government were disappointed with the controversy over Burris’ appointment, Daley said he thought people would eventually "move on with their lives."

"Three people got killed [last night]. Do you think the people who killed them care who is their U.S. senator?" Daley said. "Life goes on."

Just weeks ago, Daley was willing to call Blago "cuckoo," but now he just wants everyone to move on with their life and their corrupt Senator.

Perhaps that’s because some of Daley’s own actions are getting more and more scrutiny.

Federal authorities are investigating five construction companies that collectively have gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in construction work at O’Hare Airport under Mayor Daley, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

One question being looked at, sources said, is how the companies landed those city deals.

News of the probe comes two days after Daley lobbied Congress to pass President Obama’s multibillion-dollar stimulus bill — a package the mayor wants to include money for his O’Hare Modernization Program, which could cost as much as $15 billion.

There’s more news to come with Roland Burris, mark my words. But ultimately, neither Burris nor Blagojevich are the biggest corrupt targets in IL. And as this thing continues to blow up, it may get even more interesting.

33 replies
  1. BooRadley says:

    It used to be I’d go away for a week and Karl Rove or Alberto Gonzales would resign.

    If you would not have gone on vacation, Scooter never would have had the guts to write his Aspens letter to Judy, Judy, Judy.

    I remain convinced that we’ll soon discover that something really big happened while you were on vacation.

  2. prostratedragon says:

    neither Burris nor Blagojevich are the biggest corrupt targets in IL

    Not even close—several layers away. That we’ve heard at all from He Who Is tells you the level of insulation that guy’s become accustomed to. “The Mayor and the Pea.”

  3. nextstopchicago says:

    I just want to mention that for those of us who believe in Democratic values, the Democrats who piss away money are among the worst enemies. It’s good to see these investigations advance.

    Thanks, EW.

  4. Mary says:

    OT – so when is the IL legislature going to get its act together and offer up legislation so that there will be a vote for the replacement when Burris is gone? Or is Quin going to keep a deathgrip on the ability to try to put a DSCC vetted “strong candidate” in?

    OT – I notice that they managed to yank Binyam Mohamed out of Gitmo just in time for Holder not to have to actually ever lay eyes on him during his trip to GITMO.

    Also, the Pentagon has finished its thorough review of GITMO that Obama ordered up (see how fast these things can be done when someone actually wants them done) and surprise surprise – everything is fine there. Who coulda guessed? Nice to seem Obama made sure that there was a full, fair and thorough investigation and not just an opportunity for him to blow kisses.

    • bmaz says:

      OT – I notice that they managed to yank Binyam Mohamed out of Gitmo just in time for Holder not to have to actually ever lay eyes on him during his trip to GITMO.

      Yeah that was conveniently sweet timing, eh?

  5. FrankProbst says:

    “Let’s put everything in perspective and give him an opportunity to explain himself,” Daley told reporters.

    I never understand this talking point. The problem here isn’t that he hasn’t had “an opportunity to explain himself”. The problem is that he has had multiple opportunities to explain himself, and he’s botched them all. Blago has been using the same wait-until-the-truth-comes-out tripe, and the only person in the media that I’ve seen call him on it was, of all people, David Letterman: “The more you talked, and the more you repeated your innocence, the more I said to myself, ‘Oh, this guy is guilty.’”

    • nextstopchicago says:


      Based on what you’ve writeen, you DO understand the talking point — that talking point is intended to bamboozle voters and keep anyone from pointing fingers for a little while longer. Anyone (Daley, congressional candidate Fritchey) speaking along those lines is just trying to muddy the waters.

  6. scribe says:

    Daley’s just going to stand back and let the rotten, dead tree that is Burris fall of its/his own weight. Those are the ones you should stay away from, lest they fall on you. They’re called “widowmakers” for a reason.

    As to Burris, this guy can’t get out of his own way long enough to avoid tripping on his own shoelaces. And he wears loafers (rimshot). Let’s hope he gets no committee assignments and the message sinks in. Somehow, though, I think he’s entirely too dense for that to happen.

  7. BoxTurtle says:

    Burris has shown that he really doesn’t care what happens to his reputation, he wants the senate seat. Using the Sen Stevens case as an example, indictment just causes loss of committee seats, not expulsion. So even if indicted, I bet Burris hangs on to his seat. Being a sitting senator gives him some tactical advantages in court.

    I still hold that if Fitz really had anything on Burris, he would have somehow made sure that the Senate knew this before seating him.

    It takes 75 seantors to expel. Absent more than I’ve seen, those votes aren’t there. Some of the Senators won’t like Burris being expelled before conviction as Stevens wasn’t. Some Senators would rather have an enfeebled dem in that seat for two years, as opposed to an effective one.

    Boxturtle (I say we submit indictment papers to The Hague on Bushco, then send Marcy out of town)

    • emptywheel says:

      The difference between Toobz and Burris is that Burris has no influence to peddle, post 2 years in the Senate. Toobz has plenty to spare.

      The key for Burris to getting that influence is to be a playah. Meaning, serve on committees. If he loses those committee seats, he loses the biggest thing he’d have to sell as a lobbyist, come 2010. Which may make it more palatable to leave early, if there are other good reasons to go.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Burris never struck me as looking for a lobbying position, more like he was looking for another line to his monument. From the moment he accepted, he was persona non grata to all the senators he would be lobbying. They seated him because they pretty much had to, not because they wanted to.

        He does has some leverage if he’s willing to leave. At a minimum, he’d get senate benefits as if he’d served the full two years (Reid would offer more, I think) and some favors.

        If he decides to stick it out, somehow the Dems in gteneral and Ill dems in particular are going to realize that it’s tougher to make things happen with only one Senator able to function. They’ll give him what they need to in order to advance their agendas.

        Boxturtle (Reid may be setting himself up for ANOTHER poke in the eye with a sharp stick)

  8. Mary says:

    7 – yep, and you can’t help but contrast that Pentagon report Obama ordered up on what a cozy, comfy place GITMO is with the British press reports about Mohamed’s condition and evidence of fairly recent beatings:…..d-injuries

    Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantánamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.

    … During medical examinations last week, doctors discovered injuries and ailments resulting from apparently brutal treatment in detention.
    Mohamed was found to be suffering from bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which have been exacerbated by the refusal of Guantánamo’s guards to give him counselling.
    Mohamed’s British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten “dozens” of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks.

    emph added

    And in the “you can’t make this stuff up” category, Mukasey’s new law partner, ex-AG for Britain, Lord Goldsmith makes an appearance to tsk – then tsk tsk.

    “If there are credible accounts of mistreatment then they need to be pursued,” said Goldsmith.

    Umm, maybe his law partner still has some juice to get that ball rolling, huh? Kind of a LOL moment if it weren’t real.

    Let’s compare and contrast what is going to happen with Mohamed v. the treatment of Padilla and al-Marri here.

    Upon his return to England after more than four years inside Guantánamo, Mohamed will be taken to a secure, secret location in order for him to be fully rehabilitated by a team of volunteer doctors and psychiatrists. Mohamed will be kept under a “voluntary security arrangement” which involves reporting to the authorities, but he will not be subject to an anti-terror control order.
    … Mohamed will not be debriefed upon his arrival by the British authorities or face any interview from the British security agencies.

    • skdadl says:

      I sit to be corrected, but it’s my understanding that Walsh’s whitewash is only one part of the general review of GTMO, predictable if disgusting, but there is already so much that it can’t possibly stand up against, including Senator Levin’s committee’s report.

      Force-feeding isn’t torture … now, there’s another topic that needs addressing, one that by rights should lead us one day to another doctors’/medics’ trial. Simple question to put to Admiral Walsh one day: Can you imagine any circumstances under which your own physician would force treatment that you (or your PA) had refused? And then ask a few real doctors to speak to the topic.

  9. eCAHNomics says:

    Does Reid need Burris’ vote? I thought he did as almost all legislation needs 60 senate votes. So if Burris goes, what then? Another appointee, by the Lt Gov, now gov? Seems like a completely cockamamie thing.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        Well, Reid certainly doesn’t raise the probability of Burris’ voting D by treating him badly. But can you, in the farthest stretch of your imagination, think that Burris would vote against D legislation? Seems highly improbably to me, but I don’t know Burris.

  10. sentinel says:

    This thing is being exaggerated way out of proportion. Burris is a reliable vote. Period. He has no hope of winning this seat. My guess is that he is taking his two year stint to polish his “resume”. When guys like Vitter (standing ovation in Republican Senate Caucus), Craig ( welcome back at Senate Rep meetings) and Stevens (standing ovations in the Senate after conviction – no wait he was appealing: so hold on) the idea of “expelling” Burris seems far fetched. Even if charged Burris can do a Stevens. And wait: he has other games he can play. Most of the indignation comes from Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Tribune because he stopped giving this lady, who feels entitled, interviews. And he refuses to answer HER questions. We really have more impostant issues at hand.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Righto, almost any embarrassing warm body that votes the right way is fine for now. After the 2010 election, when Ds have more than 60 in the senate (fingers crossed), that’s another story.

    • emptywheel says:


      Shorter sentinel:

      “Republicans are corrupt as hell and Lynn Sweet is cranky so let’s keep Burris in spite of the fact that–unlike Stevens, Vitter, or Craig–he got appointed through corrupt means.”

      Because that way, the next time someone gets appointed through corrupt means (like, say, Shrub) we won’t have to get all worked up about it.

  11. eCAHNomics says:

    Why is the lead off speaker on Obama’s “fiscal responsibility” summit John McCain’s economic advisor?

  12. dosido says:

    A wise person once said,

    It’s easier to stay out than to get out.

    I would revise it for Hapless Harry…

    It’s easier to keep out than to push out…

  13. eCAHNomics says:

    And what’s the point of the fiscal responsibility baloney anyhow? Is it to prove that Obama can walk & chew gum at the same time? If so, I’d prefer he concentrate on walking at the moment, since there are hot coals under his feet.

    Or, is it the stalking horse for cutting ss and med benefits?

  14. tanbark says:

    Hounding this brilliant, integrity-coming-out-of-his-pores-statesman from office.

    Shame on all of you.

    “We really have more important issues at hand.”

    Absolutely! There’s always room for another political hooker in the Senate. What’s one more, even if he is a democrat whom the repubs can use to keep the minds of the cottagers from thinking about any real solutions to our problems.

  15. hawkseye36 says:

    Burris has set up his ironing board and is busy pressing the wrinkles out of his story. It’s a big job and every time he speaks up, he causes more wrinkles to form on a sheet as large as Illinois.

  16. tanbark says:

    And Marcy makes a good point about the numbers.

    (I hope Franken’s health is OK. It could be a while…I’m just wondering what happens if this gets to the Supremes.)

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