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What’s a Guy Got to Do to Get Noticed around Here? Roland Burris and the Senate Ethics Problem

I’m a bit conflicted about this. The Senate has opened an ethics probe into Roland Burris’s conflicting testimony about his relationship with Rod Blagojevich — as it should. But the moral authority of the Senate to cast judgment in the situation is seriously compromised by their lack of action with regard to Ted Stevens, who was actually convicted on federal corruption charges:

The Senate Ethics Committee has reported that it did not take any disciplinary actions last year, even though Alaska Republican Ted Stevens was convicted of seven felonies.

It was the second year in a row that the panel reported no disciplinary actions against any senator.

The committee’s year-end report, required under the 2007 lobbying overhaul (PL 100-81), does not include names of senators or staff members who might have been investigated without disciplinary actions being recommended. But it does pull back the curtain on the secretive panel’s activities.

The one-page document, released late Jan. 30, reveals that the committee did nothing — even privately — to admonish Stevens, whom a Washington, D.C., jury convicted Oct. 27 of seven felony counts of lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms.

The Washington Post is calling for Burris to resign, but if they ever called for Stevens to cash it in, I can’t find it.

John Nichols at the Nation:

Reid actually got the Burris question right in the first place.

The majority leader said that the Senate absolutely, positively, certainly, unquestionably would not seat a senator appointed by scandal-plagued Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Really? Because if Harry Reid had knowledge that Roland Burris did this stuff, it was his obligation to come forward with it at the time. Beyond that, it isn’t his job — or the job of the US Senate — to dictate who they will or won’t seat if the person has been legally chosen by state law.

If Burris lied, he deserves a punishment appropriate to the crime, in accordance with the punishment meted out to others who have committed similar crimes. If the Senate indeed expels him, is this some new standard that they are going to set for themselves that will henceforth be applied to all members of the "club" going forward, or is Burris somehow an exception?

And I would also add — are those who are calling for him to be (appropriately) investigated also calling for George Bush to be investigated? Or are some crimes too big to fail?

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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