Ill. Secretary Of State Opposes Blagojevich Move
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Well, as we've heard, Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White, is a very important player in all of this, and he joins us now by telephone. Secretary of State White, do I have it right that you will not certify the nomination of Roland Burris?
Secretary JESSE WHITE (Secretary of State, Illinois): Well, that is correct. Roland Burris and I have been the best of friends for over 25 years. I have the greatest admiration for the gentleman. When he was the comptroller for the state of Illinois, for a period of about 12 years, I served as (unintelligible) for the lawmakers. And I also served in the same body when he became U.S. Attorney - I mean, I'm sorry...
SIEGEL: State attorney general.
Secretary WHITE: Attorney general. So we became the best of friends, and the governor, of course, you know, of Illinois is under a cloud of controversy, and I indicated in a press conference that I wanted the governor to either step aside or resign from the office of governor. And I also indicated, too, that I would not certify any of his appointments.
SIEGEL: Well, I'd like you to hear what former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson said to us a little bit earlier today, after saying that he regards you as a close friend, as well. Here's what he said.
Former Governor JIM THOMPSON (Republican, Illinois): The duty of the secretary of state to certify the appointment by the governor to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate is a ministerial duty. He does not have any discretion so long as the appointment comes from a man who is governor at this moment and so long as the appointment is proper according to the form of it.
SIEGEL: So Governor Thompson is saying, you really don't have any discretion in the matter. Your job as secretary of state is to sign off on that nomination, on that appointment, actually.
Secretary WHITE: That is exactly right. Jim Thompson and I have been the best of friends for many years, and he served as our governor, and he is correct. My duty would be ceremonial. When the governor makes his appointment, and, of course, he will sign the document that, of course, he would like for me to sign on, giving support or giving credence to his actions. And based on what I've said in the past, I still hold true to it, that I will not sign on in support of his appointment of Roland Burris. And I like Roland Burris...
SIEGEL: But do I understand you're saying that you're act of withholding your signature, as you understand it, would be no impediment to Roland Burris becoming a United States senator?
Secretary WHITE: Yes, that is correct. See, the governor can send his documents on to the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. Senate will make the ultimate decision as to whether to seat the gentleman or accept the documentation.
SIEGEL: So as far as you're concerned, whether you may disagree of agree with Governor Blagojevich doing this, your act does not, in any way, lessen the legality, maybe not the propriety, but the legality of the Burris appointment.
Secretary WHITE: That's right. It also lets the people know that I question and will not support the actions of the governor.
SIEGEL: Well, Secretary of State Jesse White, thanks a lot for talking with us today.
Secretary WHITE: Thank you, Mr. Siegel.
SIEGEL: And, as we heard, Secretary of State Jesse White of Illinois won't sign off on - certify the appointment of Roland Burris to fill the term of Barack Obama. But as he understands it, that would be a mere formality and the appointment would go ahead just the same.