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Blagojevich Has History With Senate Choice

POSTED: 03:03 PM ET, 12/30/2008 by Derek Kravitz

Back in 2002, Roland W. Burris was a three-time losing candidate for governor who bluntly declared that his political career was over. He wondered aloud whether he had reached a "concrete ceiling" for blacks in Illinois state government and declared that the run would be his "last political outing."


Roland W. Burris

Now he could wind up being appointed to the U.S. Senate, if Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has his way.

Blagojevich, who has been charged with allegedly trying to sell that very Senate seat, is embroiled in one of the biggest political scandals in recent memory. He has rebuffed calls to step down. Senate Democrats have said that they won't seat any candidate appointed by the embattled governor.

Blagojevich has a years-long political relationship with Burris. He was the candidate who defeated Burris in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Shortly thereafter, he acknowledged that Burris's race was a factor at the polls and promised that if elected in November he would reach out to Burris for his knowledge and experience.

"By my acknowledgement the color of his skin was something that hurt him and he didn't have a fair shake like I did," Blagojevich said, according to the Chicago Defender. The governor-elect later appointed Burris to be vice-chairman of his transition team.

In the early years of the governor's term, Burris came under scrutiny after he lobbied the governor for a $10 billion state bond sale. His consulting firm received a $5,000-a-month retainer for six months with the company that ended up brokering those bonds.


Gov. Rod Blagojevich

At the time, Burris said he simply arranged meetings with the governor's staff so the bond brokers could make their case directly to people with power, according to The Associated Press. "We did not do anything other than what any lobbyist would do," Burris said. "We make sure they have access to the decision-makers in government and they have to sell themselves."

Questions also surfaced in 2004 about Burris's consulting firm, when it was awarded a $150,000 state contract to advise disadvantaged businesses on how to improve their operations and ultimately win state contracts. Burris said politics played no role in his firm obtaining the contract.

"There's definitely no connection," Burris told Copley News Service. "It's all straight up. We bid on it."

In 2006 and 2008, Burris was invited to pricey fundraisers for the governor and told the Chicago Tribune that he had maintained a "friendship" with Blagojevich. He later became the interim chairman of the governor's commission on state pensions and Burris and his consulting firm donated at least $20,000 to Blagojevich for his last re-election bid.

By Derek Kravitz |  December 30, 2008; 3:03 PM ET
Previous: Bush Insiders Call Katrina 'Nail in the Coffin' | Next: The Downfall of AIG's 'Beautiful Machine'

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



The question is why Blagojevich chose Burris. It is obvious to everybody that Blagojevich made this choice for his own self interest. Any illusion that he is working for the public benefit has been shattered. Any quid pro quo will be uncovered with the scrutiny Blagojevich is under, so this choice is most likely one to garner sympathy. It is no accident that his choice is an African American to replace Obama. Blagojevich is playing the race card to try to stiffen his political and legal defense.

Posted by: sangjmoon | December 30, 2008 4:15 PM

Well, there is no real reason Burris should not serve as Senator. The governor has the right to appoint, and he (finally, and legally) did so. This appointment is done to calm things down and provide a Democratic junior Senator from Illinois to the US Senate. Burris is happy; the Dems will be too, soon enough. Harry Reid and etc. are just posturing.

Posted by: eatinglowonthefoodchain | December 30, 2008 4:24 PM

Blagojevich's selection of Burris for Obama's Senate seat appears to be his way of taking the pressure off himself and putting it onto the Senate. His selection of an African American is very timely and seems to "dare" the Senate not to accept it. Playing the "race" card at this time shows how this man operates and puts Burris in an uncomfortable position. Perhaps Burris operates in the same manner as Blagojevich and enjoys the spot light.

Posted by: choomuff | December 30, 2008 4:34 PM

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