Some are calling him an elder statesman and others a Democratic Party hack, but nobody’s saying Roland Burris isn’t upright. However, 12 years ago a group of journalists from the State Journal-Register in Springfield published a book called Illinois for Sale: Do Campaign Contributions Buy Influence? and when it came to the office of attorney general when Burris ran it, the implicit answer to that question was . . . maybe.

“The State Journal-Register found that in fiscal year 1992, the state contracted at least $3.4 million worth of private legal representation to law firms or individuals that had contributed money to Burris’ election campaign, or to the main Democratic fundraising committee,” said Illinois for Sale. “That represents almost half of the total value of Illinois’ legal-representation contracts that were in force from July 1, 1991, through June 30, 1992, the first full fiscal year Burris was in office.”

Here’s a link to a pdf of the five pages of the book that discuss Burris’s office. Your eyes won’t pop out, but they’re interesting.

The authors explained that the attorney general’s office was responsible for hiring outside attorneys on contract to do state legal work, regardless of which agency requested the help — including the office of Governor Jim Edgar, a Republican. “Attorneys who worked for the state on contract insisted that fact had nothing to do with their political contributions to Burris,” the authors wrote, and then quoted an attorney who in 1990 contributed not only to Burris’s campaign but also to his Republican opponent, Jim Ryan. “Personally,” said this attorney, “I have never felt any pressure to make a contribution to any state official.”