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Congress: Burris under fire

Per NBC's Ken Strickland, a source on the Senate Ethics Committee said it was opening a preliminary investigation into the Burris matter. MSNBC's Adam Verdugo got this quote from a spokeswoman for Ethics Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer: "Whenever allegations of improper conduct are brought to the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee, we open a preliminary inquiry."

The Chicago Sun-Times says the move by the Senate Ethics Committee, "which ultimately could lead to sanctions or Burris' expulsion from the Senate, followed a Downstate prosecutor's decision earlier Tuesday to open a perjury investigation against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's choice to succeed President Obama in the Senate."

Burris' hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, has called for the senator to resign. "There's only one honorable action for Burris: resign. Strip this whole wretched process out of the hands of the politicians and give it back to the people."

The Washington Post does the same: "From the moment that Mr. Burris was selected, he strove to portray himself as a blameless public servant. The sad pictures of Mr. Burris being cast out into the rain by the Democratic leadership of the Senate, which initially refused to seat him, turned public opinion in his favor. Mr. Burris got his seat. But this latest revelation makes a mockery of his professions of no quid pro quo. It is a violation of the public trust. The people of Illinois have suffered enough. Mr. Burris should resign."

A Chicago Sun-Times editorial, meanwhile, calls for him to provide to state lawmakers an accurate account of all the circumstances leading up to his appointment. "Burris owes it state lawmakers, who questioned him in good faith last month. He owes it to the people of Illinois. And Burris, a history maker in his own right, owes it to history. Every few days Burris offers the public a new version of what happened, and the versions do not improve with each retelling."

The New York Times recounts Burris' "dizzying series of versions of his dealings with Mr. Blagojevich's allies… Since January, Mr. Burris has offered differing descriptions — at least three of them under oath — of what led to his arrival in the Senate. In a sworn affidavit he provided to a committee of the Illinois House in Springfield on Jan. 5, Mr. Burris said 'there was not any contact' between himself or his representatives and those of Mr. Blagojevich before he was chosen."

More: "Three days after he filed the affidavit, he was asked by the committee whether he had talked with 'any members of the governor's staff or anyone closely related to the governor, including family members or any lobbyists connected with him,' including, by name, the governor's brother, the governor's chief of staff, former chief of staff and top advisers. Mr. Burris answered, 'I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes,' and then told of a conversation he had had months earlier with a former Blagojevich chief of staff about his interest in the Senate seat."

And: "Then earlier this month Mr. Burris sent a 'supplemental affidavit' to the committee in which he acknowledged that in the months before his appointment, he had spoken with many of the Blagojevich allies he had originally been asked about. In the affidavit, Mr. Burris described Mr. Blagojevich's brother as having sought fund-raising help for the governor. But it was not until this week, before the reporters in Peoria, that Mr. Burris also indicated he had initially tried to provide such help."