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Is it time for Burris to go?

Calls grow for him to resign as a perjury probe proceeds.

By Staff writer / February 22, 2009

At Illinois capitol: Last week, state Rep. Jack Franks (D) asked the US Senate to open an ethics review of Senator Burris.

Seth Perlman/AP

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Chicago

The drumbeat is getting louder for Sen. Roland Burris (D) of Illinois to resign.

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On Friday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) added his voice to those who say too many questions have been raised about the circumstances that led to Senator Burris’s appointment for him to remain in office. Even the White House sent a warning, with press secretary Robert Gibbs saying Burris should “take some time over the weekend” to better explain himself and “think of what lays in his future.”

So far, Burris, whom prosecutors in Illinois are investigating for perjury, has held firm, repeating that he has done nothing wrong and refusing to take questions from reporters.

But the ballooning scandal, and the senator’s often-contradictory remarks as he has sought to explain his appointment and the contacts he had with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) before Mr. Blagojevich appointed him, has darkened the cloud hanging over Illinois. It has also extended what Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois called in a Sun-Times interview the “Blagojevich burlesque.”

“I would ask my good friend, Sen. Roland Burris, to put the interests of the people of Illinois first and foremost, ahead of his own, and step aside,” Governor Quinn said in a news conference Friday, in the strongest call yet for Burris to resign. He also called on the Illinois legislature to pass a law setting the terms for a special election allowing voters to select a senator.

In another sign of fading support for Burris, his chief of staff – detailed to him by Senate majority leader Harry Reid – resigned on Friday, returning to his former post as a senior adviser in Senator Reid’s office.

The current scandal stems from unfolding revelations that Burris had more contact with Blagojevich’s staff about the appointment than he had previously acknowledged in his sworn testimony to Illinois lawmakers.

Blagojevich, who was removed from office last month, has been charged with corruption, including allegations that he sought to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. He stunned Illinois voters by appointing Burris after his arrest, but Burris assured the Illinois legislature and others that he had done nothing to curry favor in return for the appointment and had had only one conversation with a Blagojevich official about the Senate seat.

Over the past week, however, new revelations and an affidavit from Burris have shown that, in fact, Burris had spoken with others in the governor’s office, including Blagojevich’s brother, who called him three times to ask for help with fundraising. Burris later acknowledged that he attempted to raise money, though he was unsuccessful.

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