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Impeach governor, Ill. panel urges

Full House vote on Blagojevich could be today

Globe Wire Services / January 9, 2009
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CHICAGO - A committee of the Illinois House unanimously recommended last night that Governor Rod Blagojevich be impeached for abuse of power.

The full House could vote as soon as today to make Blagojevich the first governor impeached in the state's history. If the House votes to impeach, the matter would go to the state Senate for a trial and his possible removal from office.

"The citizens of this state must have confidence that their governor will faithfully serve the people and put their interests before his own," the 21-member panel wrote in a draft report. "It is with profound regret that the committee finds that our current governor has not done so."

The 69-page report draws heavily on an FBI affidavit and secretly recorded telephone conversations that led to Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell the appointment to President-elect Barack Obama's vacant US Senate seat. The report also alleges misconduct in his official duties during other stages of his six stormy years in office.

Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing. A statement from his office last night called the panel's vote a "foregone conclusion" resulting from proceedings where his team was "never given the chance to put on any kind of defense." The statement also assumed the full House will vote to impeach. "When the case moves to the Senate, an actual judge will preside over the hearings, and the governor believes the outcome will be much different," it said.

Earlier yesterday, Roland Burris, picked by Blagojevich to fill the seat, testified that he promised the governor nothing in return for the appointment.

Burris told the special impeachment committee of the Illinois House of Representatives that one of Blagojevich's lawyers approached him Dec. 26 and told him the governor wanted to name him as Obama's successor. He said he replied that he needed time to think it over. Two days later, Burris testified, Blagojevich telephoned to offer him the job, and he accepted.

As the testimony continued, lawmakers questioned Burris on his lobbying work and his political contributions to Blagojevich. Burris said his firm contributed $11,200 to Blagojevich in the past eight years and that he contributed several thousand dollars individually.

A former state attorney general who has lost several bids for higher office, Burris said he held a fund-raiser for Blagojevich in 2006 and made his last contribution to the governor's campaign in June 2008.

Burris said he first told a Blagojevich aide in July that he would be interested in the seat. He said he had no further conversations with anyone close to Blagojevich until Dec. 26.

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