Roland's Record

It's not about him, but maybe it should be

Throughout the Roland Burris saga, pundits have assured us that it's not about him, it's about the process - namely, that a governor out on bail has made about the 38th best choice because it was the only one available to him politically, given that he is accused of trying to sell the appointment.

But maybe it ought to be about Burris. And not just his flakiness or track record with guns. Because his record as an elected official isn't nearly as squeaky clean as everyone seems to feel compelled to acknowledge.

For example, the Daily Herald's political blog, Animal Farm, dug up this story from its archives:

"Illinois Comptroller Roland Burris urged a federal judge last month to place a Chicago pharmacist, who contributed to Burris' campaigns, on probation after the man was convicted of defrauding Medicaid out of hundreds of thousands of dollars . . . A spokesman for Burris said that the letter, dated Feb. 22, was written 'not in an official capacity as a comptroller, but as a friend.' The spokesman acknowledged that the letterhead listed Burris as comptroller for the State of Illinois but said that the stationery was printed at Burris' expense, which was noted at the bottom of the page."

In a round-up of stories about Burris' "not-so-great past," Rich Milleradvises on his Capitol Fax Blog to "chew on this Illinois Issues post:

"During Roland Burris’ first full fiscal year as Illinois attorney general, more than half of the money his office awarded for outside legal work went to campaign contributors, according to a book published by Illinois Issues magazine and the Springfield State Journal-Register.

"In FY 1992, Burris’ office issued roughly $4 million in outside legal contracts to individuals and law firms, according to the book, Illinois For Sale, which was published in 1997. More than $2.25 million of that amount went to contributors to Burris’ campaign or to the main Democratic fundraising committee."

Miller also notes this Huffington Post item about Bruce Dumont asking on his Beyond the Beltway radio show a few days ago if Burris's business partner, Fred Lebed, played a role in the Chicago Christian Industrial League's hiring of Patti Blagojevich. Lebed is on the CCIL's board of directors, and also served on Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s transition team.

The most damning official act on Burris's thin record, though, is the one recounted in a Politico piece called "Burris Sought Death For Innocent Man."

Deputy attorney general Mary Brigid Kenney famously resigned during that case, writing in her resignation letter that Burris had "seen fit to ignore the evidence in this case."

And now he is about to become the junior senator from Illinois.

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