Senate Ethics Panel Admonishes Burris Over Blago Dealings, Moves On

November 20, 2009 7:01 a.m.

In a letter of qualified admonishment released today, the Senate ethics panel criticizes Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) for his “inconsistent, incomplete and misleading” testimony surrounding discussions with Gov. Rod Blagoveich’s brother and associates before Burris’ appointment last year.

The full letter, which the Washington Post observes is the mildest form of rebuke in the panel’s quiver, is here.At the heart of the matter are a pair of sworn statements Burris made in January claiming not to have had contact with Blagojevich or his associates about a possible appointment to fill Barack Obama’s senate seat. Burris later admitted that he had, in fact, spoken to Blagojevich’s brother about gathering donations and seeking the appointment.

The letter also notes Burris’ shifting and “at times contradictory” explanations for the discrepancy:

You gave multiple and at times contradictory explanations for failing to disclose all your contacts with the Governor’s associates, which individually and collectively gave the appearance that you were being less than candid. For example, you said you believed the affidavit referred only to your appointment after it was made and not to conversations about seeking it. You then said that certain questioners during the hearing did not give you enough time to give full answers about those contacts, despite the fact that you were asked the question multiple times and the pauses before and after your answers gave ample time for elaboration. Later, you said that when you answered that you had talked to friends it was your intention to include many of the people specifically mentioned in the question. Most recently, however, you told this Committee that at the time of the hearing, you did not recall speaking to anyone besides Lon Monk.

Late Update: Burris releases a statement hailing the ethics panel’s lack of action. The five-paragraph statement also contains this bit at the end, which seems designed to remind other senators that Burris has influence as a member of the caucus:

In recent months, Senator Burris has emerged as a key member of the Democratic caucus as they seek to piece together the critical 60 votes needed to pass President Obama’s health care legislation through the United States Senate. He has become a strong voice for the inclusion of a strong public option, and his vote is seen as vital for final passage.

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