On December 14, 2008, Burris suggested himself as a possible caretaker for the "United States Senate seat vacated by President-elect "Barack Obama, saying he would not run for reelection if appointed. Prior to this suggestion, Governor Blagojevich had been considering asking "Oprah Winfrey but feared she would not take his call. This suggestion came in the wake of an "FBI investigation regarding charges of corruption against the Governor for seeking bribes in a "pay-to-play scheme for the empty Senate seat and other offenses. Blagojevich says he appointed Burris because he believed Burris's ego made him the only person who would fight to be seated.
Burris filed an affidavit on January 5, in advance of his testimony before the Illinois impeachment committee, in which he wrote that "prior to the December 26, 2008, telephone call from Mr. Adams Jr., there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives regarding my appointment to the United States Senate". However, according to the FBI wiretap transcript recorded November 13, Burris told Rod Blagojevich, who was the chairman of the ex-governor's reelection campaign, that he understood that Blagojevich wanted money and that he was "trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment", and that he was willing to "personally do something", including offering to give the governor a personal check. He realized, however, that such an action might look like he was trying to buy the seat and wanted to find a way to avoid that perception.
On December 30, 2008, Governor Blagojevich announced that he was "naming Burris to the seat. "Illinois Secretary of State "Jesse White registered the appointment in the official records of Illinois on December 31, 2008. However, Secretary of State White declined to sign the Senate's certification form.
On January 5, 2009, "Secretary of the United States Senate "Nancy Erickson rejected Burris's certificate of appointment to the Senate as invalid. Erickson cited "Senate Rule 2 as the reason for the rejection. Because "Illinois Secretary of State "Jesse White had refused to sign the certificate, Erickson concluded in her findings that the certificate did not conform to Senate Rule 2. "Senate Majority Leader "Harry Reid and Illinois's senior Senator "Dick Durbin agreed with Erickson that a Senate rule required the secretary of state's signature.
Reid initially said that the Senate would not seat Burris, citing "Article I, Section 5 of the United States Constitution, which states that "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members". Reid and other senators had previously stated, before Burris was in contention, that they would use Article I authority against any appointment by Blagojevich. The Senate also could have referred the appointment to the "Senate Rules Committee, thus stalling it until Blagojevich's status was settled. Some Democrats, including the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, "Dianne Feinstein, and the "Congressional Black Caucus, spoke out in favor of Burris being seated.
Burris appeared in Washington at the January Congressional swearing-in ceremony (January 6) to claim his seat, but was denied entry into the Senate chambers. Burris and his lawyers insisted that Burris was "now the junior senator from the state of Illinois", although technically he was not a senator and could not be one until being administered the oath of office.
On January 9, 2009, the "Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the appointment only required the signature of the governor and the secretary of state's signature is not required to make the appointment valid. It also said Illinois is not obligated to use, and hence its Secretary of State is not required to sign, the Senate's "recommended" certification form. The State Supreme Court noted that a different form was available: White had already registered the appointment in Illinois's official records, and Illinois law requires the Secretary of State to provide a certified copy, with signature and seal, of any of the state's official records to anyone willing to pay the fee. It suggested that Burris simply obtain a certified copy of the appointment registration. In its Burris v. White ruling the State Supreme Court not only declared that the form of certificate contained in rule II of the Standing Rules of the United States Senate was, according to its own terms, only a recommended form but it further remarked that "no explanation has been given as to how any rule of the Senate, whether it be formal or merely a matter of tradition, could supersede the authority to fill vacancies conferred on the states by the federal constitution". Following the ruling, White provided Burris with a certified copy of the appointment's registration, and Burris delivered that copy, bearing the State Seal, to the "Secretary of the Senate. On January 12, 2009, after the Secretary of the Senate announced that she and the "Senate Parliamentarian deemed Burris's new credentials valid, Senate leaders decided to seat Burris. Burris was sworn in by Vice President "Dick Cheney on January 15, 2009.
Burris filed an affidavit with the Illinois House committee that oversaw Governor Blagojevich's impeachment, dated February 4, to supplement his earlier answer to a question posed by the committee. Burris acknowledged Rod Blagojevich requested "assistance in fund-raising" for the governor three times in the weeks and months before Blagojevich appointed Burris. Illinois House Republicans consider this to be at odds with Burris's testimony during the impeachment trial, and are considering pursuing a perjury investigation. Democratic officials, including "Illinois Attorney General "Lisa Madigan, supported an investigation. Burris stated that he told the governor's brother Rob Blagojevich that he could not donate to Gov. Blagojevich because "it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him regarding his decision to appoint a successor to President Obama", and that he "did not raise or donate any funds to Governor Blagojevich after the fundraiser on June 27, 2008".
On February 16, in comments to reporters, Burris told reporters that the governor's brother had asked him to raise ten- to fifteen-thousand dollars for the governor in October 2008. Burris said that after the phone call, he "talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fundraiser on", but that no one was willing to donate to the governor. Burris says he spoke again with the governor's brother around November 10 to tell him that his earlier efforts to raise money were unsuccessful, but that he might be able to talk other people into donating about a thousand dollars to the governor. Burris also said that around November 15 or 16, he told the governor's brother that he could not raise any money for the governor, nor would he donate to the governor himself.
On February 17, "Sangamon County State's Attorney's Office released a statement saying that it was investigating Burris for possible perjury charges connected to his testimony to the panel of the Illinois House of Representatives investigating the governor's impeachment. The "Senate Ethics Committee also reportedly was preparing a preliminary investigation into the matter.
On February 18, the "Chicago Tribune, the state's largest newspaper, called on Burris to resign. In the editorial, the board wrote, "His protests that he had nothing to hide just don't square with his obvious attempts to hide something." The editorial board of The "Washington Post also called for his resignation saying Burris's story has more twists than the "Chicago 'L' because Burris had offered five varying explanations, three of them under oath, of his contacts with associates of Blagojevich. Burris refused to resign his seat, despite calls to do so from new Illinois governor "Pat Quinn and statements from fellow Illinois Senator "Dick Durbin that Durbin would not support a Burris election bid.
On March 7, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that "Sangamon County "State's Attorney John Schmidt has asked the FBI for tapes of wiretapped phone calls between Burris and Rod Blagojevich, which he will use for his investigation of whether to charge Burris with perjury. On May 26, 2009, tapes were released from the wire taps. Roland Burris promised to "personally do something" for Blagojevich's campaign. During the conversation, Burris and Blagojevich discussed the possibility that Burris might raise campaign money on a larger scale, saying "I know I could give him a check myself."
The Associated Press reported a few days after the revelation: "When asked in a recent interview with The Associated Press how the scandal back home has affected him, Burris made a sweeping gesture with his hands and literally brushed the matter aside."
On May 28, 2009, Democratic Illinois Rep. "Jack Franks and Republican Rep. "Jim Durkin, the ranking Republican on the impeachment panel who had questioned Burris during his January 8 testimony, claimed that Burris committed perjury and called for him to be removed from office. In 2009, Senator Burris was named one of the 15 Most Corrupt Members of Congress by the watchdog group "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Sangamon County State's Attorney John Schmidt announced on June 19, 2009, that Burris would not face criminal perjury charges, stating that Burris's promise to "personally do something" for Governor Blagojevich was too vague to rise to the level of criminality, as it could be interpreted in too many different ways. Burris praised the announcement, saying, "The truth has prevailed"; meanwhile, Durkin criticized Schmidt's decision, saying, "They're all contradictions to his previously sworn statements. To me, it's a pretty strong case."
The "Senate Ethics Committee issued a letter on November 20, 2009, admonishing him saying that although no ethics charges would be pursued, "The Committee found that you should have known that you were providing incorrect, inconsistent, misleading, or incomplete information to the public, the Senate and those conducting legitimate inquiries into your appointment to the Senate."
In the 1980s as Illinois State Comptroller, Burris's office issued a license to the Illinois Funeral Directors Association (IFDA) to manage a pre-need funeral trust fund. A provision was also issued allowing trustees to take 25% of the fund's earnings as management fees.
The fund went into deficits beginning in 2001 leading to a revocation of the IFDA license in September 2007 and a $59 million deficit by October 2008. Burris acted as a lobbyist for the IFDA trust during early 2007 through 2008. Burris has refused comment on the scandal citing "it was 30 years ago". Consequently, a group of funeral directors (plaintiffs in a suit filed January 2009 against the IFDA alleging a "Ponzi scheme) have subpoenaed Burris to find out his involvement during his time as lobbyist. The lawsuit is currently ongoing.["citation needed]
Just as Obama had been the Senate's only African American member, Burris was the only black Senator during his term in office. Following his leaving office, it would be over two years until the next black Senator, "Tim Scott, took office in January 2013.
According to "Federal Election Commission records, on January 2, 2009, prior to the controversy regarding his conflicting explanations of his fundraising activity on behalf of "Blagojevich, Burris signed a statement of candidacy for the "2010 election. Durbin stated that "it would be extremely difficult for him to be successful", and on April 16, the Chicago Tribune reported that Burris had raised only $845 for his campaign. On July 9, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Senator Burris would not run for election to a full 6-year term in 2010, and Burris made an official announcement in Chicago on July 10 that he would retire when his replacement term ended. Burris' term ended on November 29, 2010, with the swearing-in of his elected successor, "Mark Kirk, who had won election to the unexpired term, not just to the full 6-year term. Burris cited the high cost of running a campaign as a major reason for not seeking election, saying he would rather continue to serve the people of Illinois than try to raise money for a campaign.
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Burris has held a number of different civic positions during his career, including Chairman of the Illinois Commission of African-American Males (1992–1994), the "National Association of Attorneys General Civil Rights Commission (1993–1995), and the Illinois State Justice Commission (1994–1996). Burris was Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Illinois Government, President of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (1981–1982), and a Trustee for both the "Financial Accounting Foundation (1991–1994) and the Government Finance Officers Association of U.S. and Canada (1987–1991). He was a Member of the Board of the "Better Business Bureau (2008), the "Auditorium Theater of Chicago (2001–2006), and the "National Center for Responsible Gaming (1996–2005).
Burris is also a member of the Howard University Law School Alumni Association, the Southern Illinois University Foundation, the Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago, the U.S. "Jaycees, Chicago Area Council of the "Boy Scouts of America, the "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Illinois Alumni Association, "Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Western Consistory of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite "Free Masons, and "Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Beta Boule.["citation needed]
He wanted to end his career with a statewide office", said friend, traveling companion and WVON radio host Cliff Kelley, who recalled Burris becoming upset when others were mentioned as potential Obama successors and he was not. "He really wanted this. He never thought he'd get it, but he was hoping for it.
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|"Comptroller of Illinois
"Dawn Clark Netsch
|"Attorney General of Illinois
|"United States Senate|
|"United States Senator (Class 3) from Illinois
Served alongside: "Dick Durbin