Burris vs. Daley

Quarter-million dollar accusation

Seeing Roland Burris beaming before a city council meeting on Tuesday with Mayor Richard M. Daley presiding brought to mind a particularly weird aspect of Burris's extremely weird campaign against Daley in 1995. Let me briefly take you back.

"A spokesman for Roland Burris charged Tuesday that late last year an intermediary for Mayor Daley offered Burris a job that would take the challenger out of mayoral politics," the Sun-Times reported on March 8, 1995.

"Shortly after Burris announced on Dec. 10 that he would run for mayor if Daley won the February primary, a call came from someone who knew both Burris and Daley said Don Rashid, Burris' press secretary, Tuesday night.

"Burris himself made the charges during an interview on a WFLD-Channel 32 Fox news broadcast. He could not be reached for comment later, but Rashid gave the Chicago Sun-Times the following account:

"Calling the unidentified person a 'mutual friend,' somebody close to Daley, Rashid said the person 'made an offer of a job, international in scope, dealing with international trade. It is my understanding that he would have been paid from two sources. The package would have totaled $250,000 a year."

The Sun-Times followed up with a story the next day that said: "Burris repeatedly refused to bolster his charges by identifying the alleged participants. He said the intermediaries would just deny it and that the contributors were 'innocent' people who could be hurt.

"'It's true,' Burris told reporters at Army & Lou's Restaurant, 422 E. 75th St. 'It happened. And it does not need to be embellished'."

That day, the late columnist Raymond Coffey wrote that "The job offer he's talking about is now described by him as a two-job package - one a private sector position in Chicago at $150,000 and the other a public-sector spot in Washington priced at $100,000.

"But he's not letting slip any hints on whom to call or how to go about getting to the head of the line.

"Daley and his aides deny and dismiss the Burris charge, for which Burris has so far offered nothing in the way of substantiation, as desperate political fiction."

Then U.S. Attorney Jim Burns invited Burris to tell the tale to federal agents, but Burris demurred.

At a press conference, Burris said "You cannot prove this stuff. Everybody can deny it down the line . . . you will not be able to prove it."

In his Tribune column, Mike Royko lamented never running for mayor given the reward for getting out of the race.

Finally, Sun-Times reporter Scott Fornek told the Reader that "I was questioning him on the [alleged $250,000 job offer] again a couple of weeks ago on John Madigan's show, and I was saying, 'Why don't you name this person who you say offered you this job, because if you really want to root out this kind of corruption shouldn't you name names? Are you shielding this guy? He kind of cut me off on my question and said, 'Are you saying I'm lying? Are you calling me a liar?' . . . But this'll give you some insight.The first words he says after it's over, he looks at me and he laughs and he points and he says, 'Scott, I really got you there, huh?' And we walked out, and he's slapping me on the back, we're kidding as we walk out."

On Tuesday, Burris was back-slapping again, basking in the praise alderman after alderman offered up - as Daley presided in council chambers. On Thursday, Burris will be sworn in as a United States Senator.

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