MICHELE NORRIS, host:
New information about how Roland Burris became a U.S. Senator from Illinois has at least one state lawmaker calling for his resignation and others calling for a perjury trial. Chicago Public Radio's Tony Arnold reports that the new information came from Burris himself.
TONY ARNOLD: Senator Burris' public perception problems began at the end of 2008. That's when then still Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, despite criminal charges against the governor that he tried to sell that seat. At the time, Blagojevich urged the public to give Burris a fair shake.
Mr. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Former Illinois Governor): Don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man.
ARNOLD: But that taint is still an issue. Over the weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times uncovered a new affidavit Burris submitted to the impeachment committee investigating Blagojevich, dated February 5th. Burris had testified at the impeachment hearing that his appointment was clean, that he had not taken part in any pay-to-play deal with the governor for the seat. But now Burris says his answers at that hearing weren't complete.
He says he had three conversations with Blagojevich's brother, Rob, in October and November about helping raise money for the governor. At a press conference yesterday, an emotional Burris said he refused to raise funds and there's no inconsistency between his testimony in January and this new affidavit.
Senator ROLAND BURRIS (Democrat, Illinois): None, whatsoever. Those are factual. That's the truth. And God knows we shouldn't even be here.
ARNOLD: But some Illinois Republicans want to pursue criminal perjury charges, claiming Burris has not been consistent, and that he may have lied under oath during the impeachment hearing. Tom Cross is the Illinois House Republican leader. He says the timing of this new affidavit is suspect. And he wonders if Burris has been caught on the wiretaps federal agents have of Blagojevich.
Representative TOM CROSS (Republican, Illinois): So what he does, he says, I better clean this up. I'll do a new affidavit. I'll submit it to the Democrats. Impeachment's over. The odds are no one's going to find this thing. And then I can say in a year from now, or a year-and-a-half when there's a trial, I cleared the air.
ARNOLD: Meantime, some Illinois politicians, like the new Democratic governor, have been open about making ethics legislation a new priority. Cindy Canary, an Illinois government watchdog, says for every step forward the state takes, there's another step back.
Ms. CINDY CANARY (Illinois Government Watchdog): It really kind of begs the question of what is it they don't understand? You know, after an impeachment, why are we still struggling to get public information on the table, straight answers?
ARNOLD: For his part, today, Burris launched what he's calling a listening tour around the state, as he tries to shake off that possible taint that Blagojevich spoke of.
For NPR News, I'm Tony Arnold in Chicago.
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