Roland Burris

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Roland Burris
000Sen Roland Burris 250.jpg
U.S. Senator from Illinois
From: January 15, 2009 – November 10, 2010
Predecessor Barack Obama
Successor Mark Kirk
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) Berlean M. Burris
Religion Baptist

Roland Burris (born 1937), a liberal Democrat, is the former U.S. Senator from Illinois. He announced that he would not seek reelection in 2010. In 1978 he became the first African American elected to statewide office in Illinois, and in 1990 was elected state attorney general. Since then he lost a series of primary elections and was considered a minor player in Illinois politics.

Burris was named by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama, causing enormous uproar because Blagojevich was being impeached for trying to sell that same seat. Blagojevich was convicted and removed from office in January 2009.

Senate Democrats promised not to seat anyone named by Blagojevich, because of the taint associated with him. Therefore, on Jan. 6, 2009, Burris was denied entry to the Senate chambers as he tried to claim the seat.[1]

Legally, however, his claim to the seat seemed strong, because it depended on Blagojevich being governor, which he was.

On Jan. 12, 2009, he was finally certified by the Senate.[2]

Burris was seated after promising to testify truthfully to the impeachment committee of the Illinois legislature, which investigated Blagojevich.

However, Burris later admitted that he did not testify truthfully to the committee while under oath. The Democratic speaker of the state legislature called for an investigation. In Washington, Senate officials investigated the situation. One state representative, a Democrat, sighed that Burris:

"wasn’t forthcoming, and that’s the bottom line. I feel betrayed. The real problem here is the question of trust for the citizens of Illinois. We were supposed to rise to the occasion and, again, Illinois becomes the laughingstock for the nation."[3]

Burris is now shunned and ostracized by his fellow senators, and has been "relegated to outcast status on Capitol Hill." [4]

Burris, bereft of political support, announced he would not run for reelection in 2010.

Finally in November, 2009 the Senate ethics committee issued a "public letter of qualified admonition" which formally reprimanded Burris for his denials—some made under oath—that he had tried to raise any campaign contributions for Blagojevich. A letter of admonition is the mildest form of rebuke that the ethics committee can administer. There will be no further punishment as Burris, still shunned by the other Senators, returns to obscurity with his reputation ruined.


After sensational reports of advising illegal activities by the group ACORN, Burris was one of seven Democrats who voted to continue funding ACORN. They failed and ACORN was stripped of funding.[5]


  3. John Chase and Rick Pearson, "Burris changes story on Senate seat," Chicago Tribune Feb. 14, 2009; Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney, "Illinois lawmakers mull Burris perjury probe," Chicago Sun-Times Feb. 14, 2009; Dirk Johnson and Monica Davey, "Burris Tried to Raise Money for Blagojevich' New York Times Feb. 17, 2009
  4. Burris Relegated to Outcast Status on Capitol Hill, AP,, June 01, 2009
  5. Senate denies ACORN funding, Politico, September 14, 2009