The ethics watchdog group "Democracy 21" is calling on the Senate ethics committee to hold public hearings on the circumstances surrounding the appointment of U.S. Sen. Roland Burris.
Burris has been under fire since the Chicago Sun-Times revealed in February that Burris had discussions about fund-raising with Blagojevich that he did not disclose during testimony before an Illinois House impeachment panel. When the Sun-Times raised questions with Burris, he provided supplemental testimony that had not been made public.
The Sun-Times then first disclosed last week that Burris was on tape promising to send Rod Blagojevich a check by mid-December. Burris did not disclose this promise of money in the Feb. 4 supplemental testimony he submitted to state House leaders.
Here's the group's release.
"Democracy 21" Calls on Senate Ethics Committee to Conduct Prompt Public Hearings on Senator Burris Affair
In a letter sent today to Senate Ethics Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Republican Member Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer called on the Ethics Committee "to hold prompt public hearings on Senator Roland Burris and matters related to his appointment to the Senate."
The letter stated that Democracy 21 had previously sent a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee on February 24, 2009 calling for public hearings "in which Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) is called to testify on his contradictory and conflicting statements, made under oath, regarding the circumstances surrounding his appointment to the Senate."
The February 24 letter noted that published reports had indicated that Senator Burris "may have misrepresented his contacts and conversations with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his associates" and "may have attempted to raise campaign contributions for the former Governor, in contradiction to his sworn testimony and public statements."
According to today's letter, "Recent published reports strongly confirm the need for the Committee to clear the air on this matter in a public setting. Citizens are entitled to a public accounting under oath by Senator Burris before the Senate Ethics Committee about what transpired regarding his appointment to the Senate. "Senate Ethics Committee rules provide that the Committee "may hold a public or executive hearing in any preliminary inquiry, adjudicatory review or other proceedings."
Senate Ethics Committee Rule 5(a). Thus, according to the February 24 and June 2 letters, "the Ethics Committee has explicit authority to hold an immediate public hearing on the Burris matter."
The June 2 letter states that "New reports published last week indicate that the concerns about whether Senator Burris was sworn in as a Senator under false pretenses may be well founded."