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The Burris beat

Friday, Mar 6, 2009 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Democrats are clearly hoping the heat dies down on the Roland Burris appointment…

Hopes for a U.S. Senate special election grew dimmer Thursday as Senate Democrats blocked a Republican-backed proposal to create an election for Roland Burris’ seat and future vacancies.

A Senate subcommittee on ethics voted 3-2 along party lines against Senate Bill 285. The measure calls for a special election within about six months after becoming law, opening Burris’ seat and possible future openings for election.

Republicans say the state should have a special election because of the clouded Burris appointment by now ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Democrats cited soaring costs in blocking the measure.

Both sides accused the other of playing political games.


While many legislators and state elected officials have called for a special election, this is the first plan to get any kind of vote at the Capitol. Last week Attorney General Lisa Madigan said lawmakers could legally replace Burris by ordering a special election.

But the estimated cost of a special election factored strongly in Chicago Democratic state Sen. Ira Silverstein’s decision to vote against the plan, Silverstein said. The three Democrats on the subcommittee voted to stop the plan while the two Republicans voted for it.

Republicans and Democrats went back and forth over the possible costs of a special election.

Murphy said a special election would cost $62 million and proposed using $15.4 million in unspent Senate funds to pay a quarter of the cost. Hendon countered with an estimate that the real cost of the special election would be between $71 million and $101 million. Murphy replied that cost shouldn’t be an overriding factor. […]

House Republicans have also introduced several special election plans but Democratic leader Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, has stopped them from being assigned to a committee, much to the chagrin of Republicans who fume daily about it.

* But a choice could be forced on them if this lawsuit prevails

Quinn is the defendant and Madigan is his lawyer in a suit brought by attorneys Tom Geoghegan, Marty Oberman and others based on the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It seeks to force the governor to call a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama and now held by Roland Burris in what the plaintiffs view as a temporary appointment. […]

The suit says an election is mandated by the amendment, which states: “When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

Ratified in 1913, the amendment ordered popular elections of U.S. senators, in order to end the corrupted process of state legislatures appointing them.

In sum, it says elections are absolutely required—as they are for congressional seats. It makes a gubernatorial appointment temporary, aimed only at filling the gap between the date of the vacancy and completion of a special election, rather than for years until the next general election.

* And the story isn’t going away yet

A Downstate prosecutor investigating whether Sen. Roland Burris perjured himself before a House impeachment panel has asked federal authorities for any recordings involving Burris for use in the probe, sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times. […]

The Republican prosecutor, Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt, has zeroed in on conversations between Burris and the governor’s brother Robert Blagojevich, who chaired the ex-governor’s campaign fund.

Those particular conversations have been a significant issue for Burris since the Sun-Times first reported last month that Burris failed to disclose, both under oath and in public statements, that Robert Blagojevich hit him up for money on the ex-governor’s behalf.

* The thing just festers

On the same December day then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Roland Burris to fill President Obama’s U.S. Senate vacancy, Burris’ right-hand political man, Fred Lebed, phoned an associate and told him, “We’ll have to do some things for the governor.”

That’s the recollection of the associate, a health-care and political consultant named John Ruff, who went on to become one of Burris’ co-plaintiffs on a January lawsuit that sought to help Burris claim his Senate seat. […]

Lebed has a phone record of his own, which he said demonstrates Ruff is “a very scary guy.” Lebed saved a profanity-laced voicemail from Ruff from Feb. 17 — the same day Sangamon County’s top prosecutor announced the perjury probe of Burris and the Senate launched its Burris ethics inquiry. […]

“He is lying through his teeth,” said Lebed, who has no formal role with Burris’ Senate office. “He’s playing you guys.”

* Meanwhile

Former Commerce Secretary William Daley is leaning toward running for the Senate seat President Obama once held, sources close to Daley tell The Hill. They characterize the decision as all but finalized. […]

Daley has already held discussions about the race with two top political professionals in advance of making a bid official. They include Larry Grisolano, who played a central role in 2008 as Obama’s director of paid media and opinion research during the campaign. In January, Grisolano signed up with AKPD Message and Media, the firm founded by Obama senior adviser David Axelrod and home of Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.

Veteran pollster John Anzalone, who has seen his profile rise in recent years after handling surveys for Democratic candidates around the country as well as for Obama’s campaign, will also join the Daley team, if and when a run becomes official.


Among those considering a Senate campaign in 2010 are former Commerce Secretary William Daley, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and the Chicago Urban League’s Cheryl Jackson, a one-time press secretary to Blagojevich.

* Related…

* Senate Democrats deal likely fatal blow to special election to replace Sen. Roland Burris

* Democrats end GOP’s hopes for special election to replace Burris

* Illinois Republicans appear to be losing special-election battle


  1. - Leave a light on George - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 9:42 am:

    I think the Sangamon County perjury investigation of Burris might be gaining a little momentum. Lebed quits, now Ruff saying they were going to do a little something, something for the Gov. Burris is not out of the woods yet.

  2. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 9:47 am:

    An old white banker named Daley? Yeah, that’s the winning ticket for 2010.

  3. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 9:49 am:

    How much does it cost to do the wrong thing, and reward Roland Burris and future Burris’? Keeping Burris in office is too expensive for Illinoians, at any cost. Using cost as an excuse not to do the right thing in this case is inexcusable.

    When the Illinois Democrats voted down an election they once favored, then changed their mind on, then favored again, on an appointee they said they would never seat, then changed their minds, then changed their minds again and question his honesty, then changed their minds again - who are they claiming is playing politics?

    The frustrations we’ve been dealing with regarding Roland Burris has been entirely based on the Democrats playing politics instead of doing the right thing.

    Every candidate has a freshness date. Bill Daley’s expired when his brother became the longest serving Chicago mayor in history, while he served in the Clinton White House. What exactly, is the kind of change a Daley would bring to Illinois, that a Daley hasn’t already? What? Have they been holding back?

    With Burris rotting in the US Senate, voters will be open to a new face. Bill Daley ain’t it. What he will do is just make it easier for the Democrats to nominate Roland Burris in 2010. Voters will not elect Burris, leaving the GOP with an opening a mile wide to regain Fitzgerald’s old seat.

  4. - Skeeter - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 9:55 am:

    Once again, I’m disappointed with Barbara Flynn Currie. She’s Part of the Problem.

    Right now, we need clean government but once again (like when she held onto the Burris affidavit) she’s standing in the way.

    The Democratic Party needs to clean house. She is one of the people that need to clean up or get out.

  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:00 am:

    There’s plenty of blame to go around among the Dems for the Burris fiasco, but I think the lion’s share has to go first with Harry Reid, then Dick Durbin.

    When Blago was arrested, all the state Dem powers-that-be, including Durbin, said they wanted a special election. But Reid balked at the possibility of losing a Dem seat, so he and Durbin came out talking tough about how no Blago appointee would ever be seated.

    That led local Dems to believe they could impeach Blago and let Quinn make the appointment. Well, we know how that went.

    But now, a special election is estimated to cost $62 million (GOP Murphy) to $101 million (Dem Hendon).

    Forget it. Too much, even in good times. Let’s hold our noses and ride it out until next year. It will be a great issue for the GOP; now they just need a candidate who can do something with it.

  6. - One of the 35 - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:00 am:

    Let’s play the “what if” game. What if Burris is found guilty of perjury? Does that mean he would be automatically removed from office? Or would the Senate have to vote to expell him?

  7. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:05 am:

    I am not sure when these pols are going to learn that the only way to deal with this situation is to deal with this situation. It will not go away.

    Look for more stories about Burris’s insider deals and ponzi schemes to keep coming out. There is no way he personally paid for his mausoleum. As the tapes come out, Burris will only become more ostracized. A little back bone will go a long way for those willing to take some heat from Burris’s wrong headed supporters.

  8. - North of I-80 - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:07 am:

    This makes the IL Dems look really good. Anyone think Burris will just fade away ?

  9. - dupage dan - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:23 am:

    While it is easy to blame those outside of the state (Reid) and those not directly involved in state politics (Durbin) the real fault lies w/Madigan for not pushing the special election prior to RBs appointment of Burris. When asked about that before RB was removed Madigan said 1)”we don’t have to change the law, RB promised me he wouldn’t appoint anyone”. Since when did Madigan ever believe anything that came out of RBs mouth? and, 2) I can’t trust that RB will sign the bill as opposed to vetoing it”. Now that’s more like it - Madigan saying he doesn’t believe RB. What drivel! Which one was true? That Madigan can believe/trust RB or not? Madigan was more likely worried that the bill would pass opening the way for a GOP senator to win the special election thereby causing problems in Washington, not to mention here in Illinois. Blame can also be laid at the feet of Emil Jones even if he was not presented with such legislation since he would likely not have allowed the bill to even come to a vote in the senate.

    I think a special election re the Senate seat is most likely dead issue. However, the problems democrats will have come the next election are only beginning. With new revelations re Burris and his perjury and ponzi scheme w/the IFDA coming out all the time he looks like a certain loser if he runs for the Senate. Since he is the likely candidate given the fear that the dems show re the race issue that will likely open the door to a GOP winner. Since the problems won’t go away any time soon w/RBs coming trial and the continued economic problems the state dems have a perfect storm brewing.

  10. - reformer - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:28 am:

    Both parties have partisan reasons for their positions on this issue. If “letting the people decide” were really a sacrosanct Republican principle, then Sen. Murphy and the state GOP leadership would support SB600 to “let the people decide” on the GOP state central committee, which is now appointed, just like Burris.

  11. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:43 am:

    ===GOP state central committee, which is now appointed, just like Burris. ===

    Um, no. Burris was appointed by just one guy. The GOP central committeepersons are elected by committeemen, precinct, township and ward.

  12. - Anon - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 10:59 am:

    Seriously, is there a bet going on how high they can make the projected cost of a special election? $5-20 million becomes $50 million, then $62 million, now $101 million?!?! Give it two weeks and it’ll be over a billion.

  13. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 11:05 am:

    –Seriously, is there a bet going on how high they can make the projected cost of a special election? $5-20 million becomes $50 million, then $62 million, now $101 million?!?! Give it two weeks and it’ll be over a billion.–

    I’m cashing out my 401k and investing in Special Election Futures.

  14. - Amy - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 11:07 am:

    the fred lebed part is very interesting. wonder if those bashing lebed would have toned it down if they knew lebed had a recording of his own. the lebed vs. cobb fight is bitter.

  15. - lincoln street - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 11:10 am:


    You got it. Do they need that much money to run the special election? No. Can they spend that much? Well of course they can.

  16. - Snidely Whiplash - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 11:14 am:

    >>Former Commerce Secretary William Daley is leaning toward running for the Senate seat President Obama once held, sources close to Daley tell The Hill. They characterize the decision as all but finalized. […]

  17. - JonShibleyFan - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 11:16 am:

    But wait, one commenter GUARANTEED a special election.

    “…there WILL BE a special election this summer. Count on it.” Noted this sage.

    So how is that there isn’t going to be a special election? I was counting on it.

  18. - fedup dem - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 11:44 am:

    Note to One of the 35: Were Sen. Burris to be charged, tried and convicted of perjury charges before the Senate term runs out on January 3, 2011, he would either have to resign his seat or have the Senate expell him (by a two-thirds vote) in order to oust him.

  19. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 12:23 pm:

    On the special election front, I happened to be strolling by when the board of election equipment was being delivered to my polling place. I am in no way exaggerating when I say that there were 6 movers and, I think, one board employee there to deliver this one metal box of equipment.

    I know this is a bad economy and maybe this is done as stimulus but it really was excessive.

  20. - Ghost - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 12:23 pm:

    === How much does it cost to do the wrong thing, and reward Roland Burris and future Burris’? Keeping Burris in office is too expensive for Illinoians, at any cost. Using cost as an excuse not to do the right thing in this case is inexcusable.===

    Seriously VM, no cost to remove Burris is to high? say it cost 2 trillion? o you would pay 2 trillion? Ifnot then cost is a factor.

    Lets see 9-15 billion in debt. ok so where do we get the money? arent we in debt because lago said cost didnt matter when it came to health care? So you are using a balgo argument that created part of the budget mess to support removing Burris!

    Cost to IL if Burris stayu in seat until the next rapidly approaching election $0.

    Benefit to the State of IL - we shave a few month then do the elction again. But urris nows we are not happy.

    Tell yah what VM, lets save the 71 mil for the elction and use it to pay health providers and prescirptuion bills for the sick, and you just send Burris a note letting him know you are unhappy with him. Then we can accomplish the same goal but without spending even more money we dont have,

    I just dont follow the republican message. Obama is bad for spending money we dont have, but it is good for IL to spend money we dont have for a special election.

    Also do we do the right thing regardless of cost? So then you are for funded health care for all, the right thing, no matter the cost. Glad to see you will be on board for doing the right thing with education and paying for all of that too regardless of cost.

  21. - Redbright - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 1:01 pm:

    Can Quinn solve the legal problem by calling for a special election that is parallel to the existing 2009 election dates? No where does it say how quickly the Senate replacement election has to be.

    The high cost of the 5th CD race should take some wind out of the “at any cost” sails.

  22. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 1:19 pm:

    SB 285 in it’s current form, would not result in a special election to replace Burris. It states “When a vacancy shall occur in the office of United States Senator from this state more than one year before the next general election, the Governor shall issue…”

    Right now, there is no vacancy.

    The lawsuit mentioned above regarding the 17th Amendment is attempting to call this into question, but, if it succeeds, it will trigger an election with SB285.

    As written, SB 285 only triggers an election the next time a Senator leaves office. So Burris would need to resign to trigger an election. He’s in, people. He’ll be out in two years. Start working for your favorite candidate.

    SB285 is a good idea, but I would like it expanded to State Reps and State Senators. It would also be nice to develop a better system to address what happens when someone wins the primary and then steps down before the election.

  23. - Shore - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 1:55 pm:

    I think the question of this U.S. Senate seat truly underscores the media bias against the Republican Party.

    Nowhere in the coverage over this seat has there been any discussion about the Republican Party and how or why it can’t contend for the seat. We get 40,000 stories about how the black community feels it’s owed this seat (because carol mosely braun was THAT GREAT) or how a state treasurer who probably couldn’t find Sudan on a map is viable because he plays basketball with the President, but zippo about why Mark Kirk can or can’t be a viable senator.

    If any of you who make a living are reading this, you might try being a little fair and balanced.

  24. - Team Sleep - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 3:02 pm:

    I blame Rush Limbaugh.

  25. - Not Another Daley - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 3:14 pm:

    Poor Bill is terribly mistaken if he thinks there’s anyway he can win. When you consider that Richie got elected with the support of less than 18% of the city’s registered voters, you’d think Billy would recognize that Daleys are out of favor. People fear the mayor, but no one trusts him (there isn’t anyone in the world outside his immediate family he won’t throw under a bus), and absolutely no one likes him but his campaign donors.

    They’re sure not going to concentrate MORE power into the Daley Family’s hands.

  26. - 47th Ward - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 3:23 pm:

    Bill Daley is our Jim Edgar. We drag him out whenever we need a place holder for a prominent future election. It’s easier to freeze the field and it fills column space.

    I’ll donate $100 to Rich’s favorite charity if Bill Daley is on the ballot for any statewide race in 2010.

  27. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 3:28 pm:

    Bill Daley won’t run. He floats his name out there every two years in hopes he’ll be anointed. Not going to happen.

  28. - boo hoo - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 4:21 pm:

    The Republicans screwed up another one.

    Some of the same GOP senators who were pushing the special election are some of the same ones trying to block SB600, and thereby blocking one-person, one-vote for their own Republican voters.

    No one listens to a shameless hyprocrite. Hard to blame the Dems for laughing at the Republicans on this issue.

    I think it’s pretty clear the GOP leadership in Springpatch isn’t smart enough to win anything big back.

  29. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Mar 6, 09 @ 5:00 pm:

    Well said 47th Ward! As I said above, aging white bankers named Daley are unlikely to play well in 2010.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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