Roland Burris, a Democrat, is a former U.S. Senator for Illinois, having served 2009 to 2010. Burris was appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat vacated by then President-Elect Barack Obama. At the time of Burris' appointment, Gov. Blagojevich was under-investigation for allegedly attempting to sell Obama's Senate seat. Republican Mark Kirk won Barack Obama's old Senate seat in 2010 by beating Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. 
- 1 Positions, record and controversies
- 2 Bio
- 3 Investigation into Blagojevich appointment
- 4 Money in politics
- 5 Committees and affiliations
- 6 More background data
- 7 Contact
- 8 Articles and resources
Positions, record and controversies
When the Senate convened on January 7, 2009, Roland Burris had not been approved by the Democratic leadership and his paperwork was rejected by the Secretary of the Senate prior to the opening of the 111th Congress. 
On January 12, 2009, following a week of negotiations, Senate Democrats said Burris would be seated in the United States Senate. Burris, while awaiting a determination of his fate, testified before the Illinois state legislature while that body was deliberating impeachment of Blagojevich. In addition, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Burris' appointment met the requirements of state law, even though the Secretary of State had not signed Burris' certification.
Burris was born and raised in the small community of Centralia in southern Illinois. Burris was a 1955 graduate of Centralia High School (CHS). He attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He was an exchange student on scholarship to study International Law at the University of Hamburg in Germany. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from Howard University School of Law in 1963.
From 1979 to 1991, Burris was elected to the office of comptroller of Illinois. He was the first African American to be elected to a statewide office in the state of Illinois. Burris was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 1984, losing to Paul Simon who went on to defeat incumbent Senator Charles Percy.
From 1991 to 1995, Burris was Attorney General for the State of Illinois, where he supervised over 500 lawyers. There, he was the second African American elected to a state office of Attorney General in the United States. In 1994, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois.
In 1995, he ran for mayor of Chicago, losing to incumbent Richard M. Daley. In 1998 and 2002, he again unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois, running in 2002 against, among others, Rod Blagojevich. During his 2002 run for governor he was supported by, among others, President-elect Barack Obama.
On December 30, 2008, Gov. Blagojevich announced Burris was his choice to fill the Senate seat left vacant by then President-elect Barack Obama. Burris came to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2009, to be sworn into office, but he was turned away from the Senate chambers. On January 15, 2009, after Senate leaders had agreed to seat him and after the Illinois State Supreme Court ruled in his favor, Burris was sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney.
In July 2009, Burris announced that he wouldn't seek reelection in 2010. He would have had to compete in a Democratic primary in February 2010 and a general election in November.
Investigation into Blagojevich appointment
After being appointed to the Senate, but before being sworn into office, Burris was asked to testify before the Illinois House panel then engaged in impeachment proceedings against Governor Rod Blagojevich. Burris filed an affidavit dated January 5, 2009 stating that he had not had any contact with Blagojevich or anyone involved in the Blagojevich campaign concerning the Senate seat. On January 8, 2009, Burris testified in person before the impeachment committee. Asked if he had spoken with anyone "closely related to the governor, including family members or lobbyists connected with him," Burris, after consulting his lawyer, named only former Blagojevich chief of staff Lon Monk.
Over a month later, on February 14, 2009, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Burris had sent an additional affidavit to the head of the Illinois House impeachment committee dated Feburary 5 revealing that Robert Blagojevich, Rod Blagojevich's brother, had spoken with Burris three times in October and November 2008 about raising funds for the then-Governor. Initially, Burris stated that he refused to contribute to the campaign, saying that "it would be inappropriate and pose a major conflict because I was interested in the Senate vacancy." However, a few days later Burris offered yet another version of events, telling reporters that he had in fact contacted several people about holding a fund-raiser, but that he had abandoned the idea because of lack of interest. According to this version, it was not until their final conversation that Burris told Robert Blagojevich that his interest in the Senate seat prevented him from raising money for the then-Governor.
In response to these revelations, the Senate Ethics Committee has opened a preliminary investigation into Burris' conduct. Additionally, Illinois State's Attorney John Schmidt has begun to look into possible inconsistencies in Burris' statements relating to his Senate appointment.
Money in politics
Committees and affiliations
- Senate Committee on Armed Services
- Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
- Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
More background data
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Roland Burris profile, The Washington Post, accessed January 2011.
- Mark Kirk profile, The Washington Post, accessed January 2011.
- "Report Raises Questions About Burris' Relationship With Blagojevich," FOXNews.com, January 6, 2009.
- Catharine Richert,"Senate Will Seat Burris This Week, Reid Says," CQ Politics, January 12, 2008
- Carrie Budoff Brown and Mike Allen, "Obama calls Blago move 'disappointing,'" Politico, December 30, 2008
- Peter Slavin, Burris Admits to Fundraising Attempt, Washington Post, February 18, 2009.
- Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney, "Sun-Times exclusive: Blagojevich hit up Burris for cash", Chicago Sun-Times, February 14, 2009.
- Ray Long, John Chase and Monique Garcia, Burris' Senate-seat story changes again, Chicago Tribune, February 18, 2009.
- J. Taylor Rushing, "Ethics panel opens probe on Sen. Burris", The Hill, February 17, 2009.
|Current Office: U.S. Senate|
Ranking Member On:
|Committees: Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs|
Ranking Member On:
|First Elected to Current Office:
Appointed December 31, 2008
|First Took Current Office:
January 3, 2009
November 2, 2010
|Previous Political Work?
Illinois Comptroller, Illinois Attorney General
|Other Party Membership:|
|Zip Code Affiliations:|
Date of Birth: August 3, 1937