CHICAGO — A group of black ministers who supported U.S. Sen. Roland Burris as he fought to get his job now plan to ask for his resignation following revelations that he tried to raise money for the disgraced governor who appointed him, one of the ministers told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Many of the city’s influential black pastors supported Burris because of his scandal-free reputation — even though he was appointed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich three weeks after the governor was arrested for allegedly trying to sell the Senate seat.
Now some of those pastors will ask Burris to resign, according to the minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a meeting with Burris had not yet been scheduled.
Burris testified before an Illinois House committee in January that he hadn’t had contact with key Blagojevich staffers or offered anything in return for the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
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Last weekend, however, Burris released an affidavit saying he had spoken to several Blagojevich advisers, including Robert Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother and finance chairman, who Burris said called three times last fall asking for fundraising help. Burris changed his story again this week when he admitted trying, unsuccessfully, to raise money for Blagojevich.
Illinois lawmakers have asked local prosecutors to look into perjury charges, and a preliminary U.S. Senate Ethics Committee inquiry is under way. Burris denies lying under oath and has resisted a growing chorus of calls for his resignation, including from within his own party.
Burris spokesman Jim O’Connor would not say whether the senator would meet with the ministers, and referred to Burris’ previous pleas that fellow politicians and constituents alike “stop the rush to judgment.”
Burris is, like Obama was, the only black U.S. senator. Blacks were among his biggest defenders as Burris overcame Senate leaders’ resistance to admitting a senator appointed by a man charged with trying to sell the office.
Current sentiment in the black community is not unanimous, but the clergy’s silence as the maelstrom of criticism swells around Burris “speaks volumes,” said another minister, Ira Acree, of the Greater St. John Bible Church.
“I’m a little disturbed, but because of his track record, don’t want to rush to judgment,” Acree said Thursday. “But neither will I attempt to defend his actions.”
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