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WASHINGTON--Former Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) dropped out of the Chicago mayoral race on Friday. Burris, who left the Senate on Nov. 29, had filed petitions to run in the Feb. 22 primary. In leaving the contest, he did not make an endorsement.

Burris said in a statement, "I want to thank all of those who backed me for the office of mayor and those who signed the petition, but I will not be offering myself as a candidate for mayor of Chicago.

"In the last 30 years, the people of Chicago have not had many opportunities to elect a new mayor--specifically, for an open seat. This election is very important, because it will determine whether Chicago remains the attractive, competitive, creative, effective, and productive city we all know it to be.

"I wish all of those who are in the race well. As a voter, I look forward to a spirited contest."

WASHINGTON--There will be no blacks in the U.S. Senate when he leaves office at the end of the month, a fact outgoing Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) called "unacceptable" and "troubling" in his farewell speech Thursday.

Burris, the only African American in the Senate, will be replaced on Nov. 29 by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who won election earlier this month to a six-year term starting next year and also for the several weeks remaining of Barack Obama¹s original Senate term.

In Burris' remarks, delivered at noon to a nearly empty Senate chamber--at the most there were four senators plus Burris and Senate staffers, including an old friend from Illinois, Terrance Gainer, the former director of the Illinois State Police, who is the Senate Sergeant at Arms.

Burris did not mention the controversy surrounding his appointment by the impeached and now convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And while he thanked Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and senate staff down to the waiters, Burris made no mention of Illinois' senior Senator, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Because of the uproar surrounding his appointment from the tainted Blagojevich, Durbin and Burris never became close.

Durbin was not present for the speech.

When Burris was done, two senators came up to hug him--New Mexico Democrats Sen. Tom Udall, like Burris a former state Attorney General and Sen. Jeff Bingaman--plus Gainer and Nancy Erickson, the secretary of the Senate.

Burris wore a red tie and red handkerchief for his last Senate speech after
22 months and a few weeks in office, sworn in on Jan. 15, 2009.

"Throughout 220 years of Senate history and 111 Congresses, only six black
Americans have been able to serve," Burris said. "This is troubling in its own right."

Of the six, three are from Illinois and all are Chicago Democrats: former
Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Obama and Burris.

"When the one hundred and twelfth Congress is sworn in this coming January, there will not be a single black American who takes the oath of office in this chamber," Burris said.

"This is simply unacceptable. We can - and we will-- and we must do better.

"In this regard, and in any other, our political progress has proven less accessible - and less representative - than it ought to be, and although I have never allowed my race to define me, in a sense, it has meant that my constituency as a United States Senator has stretched far beyond the boundaries of Illinois," he said

"Letters, emails, telephone calls have poured into my office from black Americans from all across the country. And at times, as I have tried to bring their voices into this chamber, I have acutely felt the absence of any other black person to represent them," Burris said.

Burris also took aim at the partisanship that has gridlocked the Senate.

"Our government hardly resembles the diverse country it was elected to
represent. Partisan bickering has driven moderates out of both parties, and
made principle compromise more difficult for those who remain.

"Too often, our politics seems to have become a zero-sum game.

"It's easy for people to feel that the best argument, or the plainest truth,
won't necessarily win the day any more. And such a destructive political
environment, people are often left wondering who will speak up for them," he said.

Burris also urged passage of the controversial, "Don¹t Ask, Don¹t Tell¹¹
(DADT) legislation to allow gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the

Burris, who can vote until he leaves the Senate at the end of the month,
said he very much wanted to support DADT as one of his last votes. Burris
quipped that he was so in favor of the measure to let soldiers serve no
matter their sexual orientation, he just might come back.

Joked Burris, "Don¹t be surprised if I don't come back, because I'm from Chicago, and I'll vote twice."

Sen. Roland Burris ends his Senate career at the end of the month, and despite controversy surrounding his tenure, he told me in a farewell interview last week he has had a great time since he was sworn in Jan. 15, 2009.

Burris, it turns out -- and this is the first complete list -- saw a lot of the world in less than two years on the job: In 2009, he was part of official congressional delegations visiting London between Sept. 1 and 6 and Iraq Nov. 19-25, where he met with members of the Illinois National Guard. In 2010, Burris traveled to China, Jan. 12-14, and Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti between April 4 and 10. The government of Taiwan paid for a Burris trip Aug. 16-20.

A member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, Burris, on official business, inspected the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, flew to Fort Hood, Texas, for a memorial service after the 2009 murders there, and checked out military installations in Colorado and Nebraska.

"I mean it is a great group, Lynn. I found it just so, something that I really wanted to do and really had a chance to do, and I am so thankful to God I had a chance to do it, spend time in the United States Senate," Burris told me.

Sun-Times Political Reporter

CHICAGO--In his first public appearance in Chicago in months, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris said he's having "a blast" in the Senate, and if any court orders a "special election" to cut short his term by a month or two, Burris will find a way to be a candidate.

"I'll tell you one thing: If there is a special election, I'm announcing my candidacy right now, I'm going to run!" Burris said.

Actually, under the scenario envisioned by lawyers fighting for a special election, party leaders would chose the candidates for the special election, more likely Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk than Burris.

After he was criticized for allegedly changing his story about how he won appointment to the Senate by former Gov. Blagojevich, Burris retreated to the political bunker and has not made public appearances in the Chicago area the way Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin does.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), the longest serving senator, died early Monday; Patricia Murphy at Politics Daily has an obit that looks at the sweep of his career.

Below, statements from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)....

"Senator Byrd carried a copy of our Constitution close to his heart every day. It was a constant reminder of his life's mission to honor the values which gave us this great nation.

No one in the history of the Senate could match Byrd's thunderous oratory; his sense of history; his determination to teach every President the limits of his power and his lifelong passion to fight for West Virginia.

Daniel Webster, set another chair at Heaven's table, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia has arrived."

Burris Statement on the Passing of Senator Robert C. Byrd

"Early this morning, our nation lost an icon and a national treasure. I was deeply saddened to hear of Senator Robert C. Byrd's passing, and offer my heartfelt condolences to his friends and loved ones in this difficult time. For decades, Sen. Byrd faithfully served the people of West Virginia. He became a legend in his own time, and in many ways came to embody the institution of the United States Senate. As a leader, and as guardian of this chamber's procedure and tradition, Sen. Byrd was without equal. His legacy of public service, and his remarkable journey from West Virginia coal country into the annals of history, should serve as an inspiration to us all."


WASHINGTON--The Senate voted to confirm Ben S. Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on a 70-30 vote.

Ten Democrats broke from the Obama administration and voted against Bernanke, making it a true bi-partisan vote--rare these days. Illinois Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris voted for confirmation.

Click below for text

WASHINGTON--A day after the Senate ethics committee handed him a stinging rebuke, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) on Saturday voted to advance the Democratic health care bill to the Senate floor and then departed for an official visit to Iraq.

Burris--on his first official overseas trip as senator--is traveling with Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon,Michael Bennett of Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

Burris "is seeking a firsthand look at security and political developments in the region," according to a release his office sent Sunday. The senators plan to meet with soldiers, "foreign leaders" and security officials. The trip is short; Burris is expected to return by Thanksgiving Day.

Burris, who has not sought much press in recent months--what with ethics investigations hanging over him--will host a conference call Monday from the U.S. Embassy in Baghad. His office is going to try to keep ethics questions off the table. The Burris release said--and the capital letters are from them--"All interested reporters wishing to discuss THIS TOPIC are welcome to call in to hear Senator Burris discuss his findings and to ask related questions."

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Roland Burris was reprimanded Friday by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for his "inconsistent, incomplete and misleading" testimony before Springfield lawmakers about his appointment by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the seat once held by President Obama.

The Senate panel issued a "public letter of qualified admonition," a stinging rebuke of Burris' shifting explanations about his appointment.

Senate ethics panel admonishes Burris, but no charges coming


WASHINGTON-- Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) was admonished today by the U.S. Senate ethics committee over his testimony in Springfield concerning how he got appointed to Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

But his actions following his appointment by then Gov.-Rod Blagojevich did not rise to level of pursuing ethics charges against Burris, the committee ruled.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Roland Burris is critical of the compromise health plan Senate leaders crafted to allow states to opt out of a government-sponsored "public option" insurance plan. With Burris' vote potentially crucial, I've learned that the Obama White House will be paying attention to him for the first time today, dispatching the health "czar" to his Senate office.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) has said he will not vote for a health care bill that does not include a public option. The Senate leaders are melding one bill from two advanced by different committees and while it is likely to have a public option, it's not a foregone conclusio. Burris' vote could be needed by the White House and he is somewhat immune from pressure since he will not be running to keep the Senate seat he was appointed to by the tainted Gov. Blagojevich.

Appearing on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Wednesday, Burris said he will "not be some type of obstructionist."

WASHINGTON--Over at Politics Daily, Patricia Murphy is reporting that "Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) took on the director of the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday at a hearing over his decision to cut the bureau's ties with the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) without a formal review or inquiry."

Census chief Robert Groves, cut ties with ACORN after ACORN personnel were secretly taped giving advice to folks posing as a pimp and prostitute about how to scam the government.

Murphy reports: "Burris asked if news reports of "the so-called Fox sting, which ACORN now is suing over," had contributed to Groves' decision to cut ties with the group. Groves said the scandal was part of it, but added the negative feedback from his regional offices was his primary concern."

"Burris argued that Groves' move stemmed from "unfair assessments based on agendas that have nothing to do with service to the community." The senator said he knows of ACORN's work in Chicago and said the organization could have been a valuable partner in getting a full census count in African American and poor communities."

Note: Burris was wrong when he said Fox had something to do with the sting. Despite what Burris said, Fox had nothing to do with making the video. Fox was the first to televise the sting video, and has televised the video many times.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)--who had billed himself as the crucial 60th vote the Democrats needed in the Senate--is breaking from the pack, saying Wednesday he will oppose any health care bill that does not have a public insurance option.

"I firmly believe in a public option and will oppose any bill that does not include one. Illinoisans have seen their insurance premiums skyrocket, while more and more families lose their coverage every day," Burris said in a statement.

Burris could be the one senator immune from pressure from any precinct. Appointed in a controversial move by the tainted now former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is facing criminal charges, Burris is not running to keep the seat in the 2010 election. He had little choice in deciding not to run; the Democratic establishment lined up against Burris believing he was too politically weak to retain the seat once held by President Obama.

Since White House and Senate power brokers David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and Dick Durbin tried to recruit someone else to run for the Senate seat Burris now holds--Burris--who has known them from years--owes them nothing.

Could be interesting. Burris is the one senator with nothing to lose and with limited opportunity to make some kind of mark in the chamber before he has to leave.

WASHINGTON--The debate over ACORN continues on cable shows, after the Monday Senate vote to ban federal money to fund programs run by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The Senate vote was overwhelming--83 yes, 7 no and 9 not voting. Illinois Democrats Dick Durbin and Roland Burris both voted no.

Critics of Barack Obama during the presidential campaign tried to attack Obama by attacking ACORN, a community organizing group over how they handled voter registration and Census work. The Senate action came after ACORN got caught up in an undercover video sting--where ACORN employees were seen offering advice to folks posing as a prostitute and a pimp.

The actual legislation:
Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 2355 to H.R. 3288 (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010)
Statement of Purpose: Prohibiting use of funds to fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

CHICAGO--Having tried and failed to raise any significant campaign cash, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) said Friday he won't run in 2010 and will devote the remainder of his term to his senate work.

Burris announced his decision before a room full of supporters and took no questions afterwards. He read a brief statement at the Chicago South Loop Hotel, 2600 S. State St..

Said Burris:

The reality of being in the United States Senate today requires not only a significant time commitment to performing the job, but an almost equal commitment to raising funds to run competitively for the office. Political races have become far too expensive in this country.

And I'm making this -- as I am making this decision, I was called to choose between spending my time raising funds or spending my time raising issues for my state. I believe that the business of the people of the state of Illinois should always come first. The business of our state should come first. And so, today, I return to the place where my political journey began back in 1978 -- back to the South Side of Chicago, back to my community and my constituency -- to announce, my friends, that I will not be a candidate in the 2010 election, and that I will not run for the United States Senate seat.

Sen. Roland Burris will not be charged with perjury, a Sangamon County prosecutor said Friday. What Burris did not say spoke volumes politically, but it was not a crime.


Roland Burris will not be charged with perjury, Downstate prosecutor says

Sangamon County State's Attorney John Schmidt declined to press perjury charges against U.S. Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) stemming from allegations he misled a legislative panel about the circumstances behind his appointment.

Schmidt said that while Burris' answers to the House committee probing former Gov. Blagojevich's impeachment were "incomplete," and vague, that did not rise to the level of a crime. "Based upon our review of the facts and the applicable law, there is insufficient evidence to charge Senator Roland Burris with perjury," Schmidt wrote in a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), whose office encouraged the probe.

Burris said in a statement that he was "very pleased" by the decision. He still has a Senate Ethics Committee probe hanging over him.

Said Burris, "I am obviously very pleased with today's decision by State's Attorney John Schmidt. His investigation was both thorough and fair, and I am glad that the truth has prevailed.

"This matter has now been fully investigated; I cooperated at every phase of the process, and as I have said from the beginning, I have never engaged in any pay-to-play, never perjured myself, and came to this seat in an honest and legal way. Today's announcement confirms all that.

"I am glad I can now put this matter behind me and get on with my work in the United States Senate serving the people of Illinois."

excerpt from Schmidt letter to Madigan:

The Illinois Supreme Court has consistently held the burden is on the questioner to pin the witness down as to the specific object of the questioner's inquiry.

excerpt from Schmidt press release:

The Sangamon County State's Attorney's Office announced today there is insufficient evidence to charge Senator Roland Burris with perjury for his testimony before the Illinois House Special Investigative Committee. In a letter (copy attached) to Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, the state's attorney's office explained the reasons why there is insufficient evidence.

Under Illinois law an individual commits perjury when under oath he knowingly makes a false statement. A review of the evidence, consisting of numerous interviews and documents, indicates there is insufficient evidence to prove Senator Burris made a statement he knew to be false. Some of his statements were vague, but vague statements cannot support a perjury charge.

click below for Schmidt letter to Madigan, press release...

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Ethics Committee probe of Sen. Roland Burris is moving to its next phase, seeking information from Burris himself, after having interviewed Sen. Dick Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and asking for the release of federal wiretaps.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) has brushed off waves of calls for him to resign--from newspapers and elected officials. The recent release of wiretaps of conversations between him and the brother of tainted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich prompted yet another round of stories pounding nails on his poltiical coffin.

On Monday, the Washington Post weighed in as if Burris would budge just because an out-of-state paper barked at him. The summary last graf of the Washington Post editorial:

We warned that anyone who accepted the appointment from Mr. Blagojevich to fill Mr. Obama's Senate seat would be suspect. With each passing month, Mr. Burris proves us right. He proves why the power to fill Senate vacancies should rest with voters at the ballot box in a special election. And he proves why he should resign.

President Obama tapped Chicagoan and major Obama fund-raiser Lou Sussman to be ambassador to Great Britain on Wednesday. The appointment had been long expected. Sussman also chaired Sen. John Kerry's fund-raising operation when he ran for president in 2004.

Updated 4:11 p.m. eastern time

My Chicago Sun-Times colleague Natasha Korecki is reporting Tuesday morning that Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) was wiretaped while talking to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother Robert, who ran his campaign fund-raising operation.

A judge is allowing the tapes to be released to the Senate ethics committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Sun-Times exclusive: Burris promised Blago campaign a check by mid-December

BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter

In a November conversation caught on an FBI wiretap, Roland Burris promised Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother that he'd write the governor a campaign check by mid-December, Burris' lawyer said today.

That was about a month before Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to the U.S. Senate.

But lawyer Timothy Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times today that his client never sent the check because he believed it wasn't a good idea given Burris' interest in the U.S. Senate seat appointment. Wright said Burris' decision not to send the check had nothing to do with Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest.

WASHINGTON -- As I am sitting down with Sen. Roland Burris to discuss his Senate career to date and his future election plans, Burris gestures toward the front of his office to point out that he is using Paul Simon's desk and Barack Obama's chair.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers were on a Chicago-bound plane Friday morning forced to make an emergency landing in Pittsburgh because of an on-board equipment misfunctioned .

The three were on United flight 615.

Jim O'Connor, a Burris spokesman, said Burris told him that he heard a loud bang at take-off, sometime near 11:30 a.m. One the plane was in the air, the noises became deafening and the plane began to shake, O'Connor said. There was also a great deal of turbulence.

The pilot announced to the passengers there was a hydrolic hydraulic system failure and the O'Hare Airport-bound plane would be making an emergency landing in Pittsburgh.

Emergency vehicles met the plane on the tarmac upon landing. Burris helped an elderly woman off the plane.

Catherine Mccormick-Lelyveld, a spokesman for the First Lady's office, said Rogers was fine and catching another flight to Chicago.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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