Burris Defends His Record, Says He's Done 'Nothing Wrong'

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris gave an impassioned defense of his fundraising efforts for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying Wednesday that he has "absolutely nothing to hide."

Burris is under increasing pressure to resign from the seat he assumed only a month ago after his appointment by the embattled Blagojevich to fill President Obama's vacancy in the U.S. Senate.

Burris was welcomed into the Senate despite allegations that Blagojevich had attempted to sell the seat to the highest bidder, a scandal that led to the governor's impeachment. At the time, Burris said he had given Blagojevich nothing in exchange for the appointment, but he now finds himself in a position similar to Blagojevich's -- on the defensive.

"If I had done the things I've been accused of, I'd be too embarrassed to stand up here in front of you," Burris told reporters Wednesday in Chicago. He said the public needs to stop the "rush to judgment" and decried what he called "misinformation" about how he lobbied for a U.S. Senate appointment. 

"You know the real Roland. I've done nothing wrong and I have absolutely nothing to hide," he said. Burris, a former state attorney general, defended his record in Illinois, declaring, "Thirty years in public life and never a hint of a scandal." 

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Burris spoke at length about major legislation he has supported in the U.S. Senate during the few weeks he has been a member, as well as about the relationships he built during his years in Illinois. 

The defense came after he told reporters late Monday that last year he had asked friends to give money to the former Illinois governor at the request of the governor's brother, but to no avail. 

That was the last straw for some groups and lawmakers. Burris already drew criticism for filing an affidavit over the weekend disclosing that Rob Blagojevich, the ex-governor's brother, had asked him to raise money for the governor. Burris hadn't mentioned this during his testimony Jan. 8 to the state House panel that eventually recommended impeaching Blagojevich. 

In the affidavit, Burris said he refused the request to raise money without explaining that he tried. To some, his admission Monday was the third version of the story.  

The latest call for Burris' resignation came from Democratic Rep. Phil Hare, the first member of Illinois' U.S. congressional delegation to demand Burris step aside. 

In a statement Wednesday, Hare said he is "deeply disappointed that Senator Burris hid the fact that he attempted to raise money for former Governor Blagojevich at the same time he was lobbying for an appointment to the U.S. Senate." 

The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune also called for Burris to step down. 

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stopped short of calling for Burris' resignation but did say Illinois residents deserve to know the extent of his involvement with Blagojevich. 

Burris reiterated Wednesday that he did not, in the end, give any money to Blagojevich. He refused to answer a question about whether he saw a problem with his attempt to raise the money. 

Blagojevich was kicked out of office after he was arrested and charged with trying to sell off President Obama's former Senate seat. Burris told lawmakers, though, there was no "quid pro quo" with him before accepting the governor's appointment to that seat following the arrest. 

The Senate ethics committee has launched an investigation into the matter, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday.