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Burris failed to disclose under oath asked for Blagojevich campaign cash. Sun-Times exclusive

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WASHINGTON--My Sun-Times colleagues Dave McKinney and Natasha Korecki write below in a Sun-Times exclusive about Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) omitting under oath that he was solicited for Blagojevich campaign cash before his appointment. He also did not disclose under oath to the Illinois House impeachment committee last month names of Blagojevich associates who he talked to about getting the appointment.

Burris also failed to provide me with a straight answer when I asked him at a Jan. 7 press conference in Washington about how he was trying to get then Gov. Blagojevich to appoint him to the seat vacated by President Obama. "How were you putting yourself in play? Who were you talking to specifically?" I asked. Here is the transcript of the Burris evasive answer to my question.



BY NATASHA KORECKI AND DAVE MCKINNEY

Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post -- something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show.

Burris (D-Ill.) acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office.

The affidavit is dated Feb. 5 -- three weeks after Burris was sworn in to replace President Obama in the Senate.

Burris -- who did not give money to the Blagojevich campaign fund in response to the previously undisclosed solicitation -- provided a copy of the sworn statement to the Chicago Sun-Times Friday in response to questions about his contacts with the Blagojevich camp about fund-raising.

Burris acknowledged having three conversations with Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund -- and one of those was likely recorded by the FBI.

Burris' statement offers the third version of events he has given about his discussions concerning the Senate seat, to which Blagojevich appointed him in late December, after Blagojevich was hit with federal corruption charges that included an allegation he tried to sell the Senate appointment.

Burris said he sent the new statement to House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) after he read the transcript of his testimony before the impeachment committee she headed and realized it was incomplete. "There were several facts that I was not given the opportunity to make during my testimony," Burris said. "I voluntarily submitted an affidavit so everything was transparent."

In October and again in November, Burris spoke with Robert Blagojevich, who initially asked him to host a fund-raiser. Burris said he'd get back to him after the election, sources with knowledge of the conversations said. The two later talked again, and Burris again was asked for campaign cash.

Burris said he refused to contribute and "made it unequivocally clear ... that it would be inappropriate and pose a major conflict because I was interested in the Senate vacancy."

A source with knowledge of the exchange said there was some discussion about Burris possibly getting others to give or raise money on his behalf. Not so, according to Burris: "I did not donate or help raise a single dollar for the governor from those conversations and would never consider making a donation through a third party."

In all, Burris expressed interest in the Senate seat to five people in Blagojevich's camp, documents obtained by the Sun-Times show. He disclosed just one of those contacts when asked Jan. 8 by state Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) during the impeachment hearings to name any contact he had with Blagojevich's people about the seat.

"I'm very surprised he didn't make these disclosures," Durkin said. "I don't know if Mr. Burris was purposely being evasive during the committee or had selected memory issues."

In a sworn statement filed with the House panel Jan. 5, before he testified, Burris said he had no contact with Blagojevich's camp about the Senate seat aside from his appointment in late December. In testimony before the committee, he added that he spoke with Lon Monk, Blagojevich's former chief of staff. In his new affidavit, Burris confirms he also spoke of his interest in the Senate appointment with Blagojevich insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma.

The discussions with Robert Blagojevich about money came after Burris spoke with those people. Burris had told the House committee he was unaware of any quid pro quo dangled by Blagojevich's camp.

Robert Blagojevich's lawyer said today that his client spoke with Burris about a fund-raiser but that the governor's brother didn't know of Burris' political aspirations.

"He didn't know he was in the running for the U.S. Senate seat," Michael Ettinger said.

The former governor's publicist issued a statment today about the Sun-Times story regarding Burris.

"There's absolutely nothing inappropriate that took place between Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Burris in connection to the governor's appointment of Mr. Burris to the U.S. Senate," the statment said.

"The governor acted ethically and honestly and believes Sen. Burris did too."

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said Burris' new statement regarding his contact with Blagojevich's emissaries represents a "fatal wound" to a potential 2010 Burris re-election bid. His new account contains "extraordinary detail" Burris should have disclosed to the impeachment panel when he testified and to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before being seated, Radogno said.

"If it turns out this was some sort of attempt to avoid this coming out as part of the appointment process, then he doesn't deserve to be senator," Radogno said. "I think the whole thing stinks to high heaven."

Currie acknowledged receiving Burris' letter but said she was unfamiliar with its contents.

After being read Burris' account of his dealings with Robert Blagojevich, Currie said: "Very odd. I don't know there is anything actionable here, but I would like to check the record."

6 Comments

Time for Senator Burriss to resign or at least announce he is not a candidate for office in 2010 and will just step assign so he can collect another pension. A big liar and self-serving egotistical politician shouldn't be in office and I am speaking about Burriss not Blagojevich.

Anyone with even scant familiarity with Burris' history will find it very easy to believe this story. Burris would not be bold enough to break big laws to further himself; his fear is the only restraint on his egotistical desires. But perjury, or at least failure to openly disclose, is certainly within his range.

Roland Burris does not strike me as a bad fellow. I believe that he believes that he's well intentioned. But he's a legislative seat warmer at a time when we need sharper noodles in every Senate chair.

If you give liars enough rope they will eventually hang themselves.And Roland Burris has done just that. Instead of giving forth-right and truthful answers he decided that he would not be truthful,with the press or the senate committee that approved him.I can agree that Burris is probabley not a bad guy,not the smartest egg in the basket,but not a bad guy.He assured himself and us that he will only be warming that senate seat for a couple of years.Then maybe for once we,the voters will be able to get past all the rhetoric and elect someone that only lies have the time.

On a related note. Illinois is considering a motto change from "Land of Lincoln" to "Land That’s Stinkin", "Laugh at Lincoln", Don't Land here Lincoln", Land that's leakin", That'll Cost You a lot of Lincolns", Land a Senate Seat for 10,000 Lincolns" or “Land where Lincoln Spins in His Grave”.
See Illinois new license plate at, http://stopthepresses2.blogspot.com/search/label/Blago

I do not want to burst the bubble of Republican's, there is NO perjury here. The truth is that the guy asking the questions failed to follow up on Burris' answer.

Burris refused to raise money on Blago's behalf because he was interested in the Senate seat. There is really no evidence of perjury here.

Truthfully, there is not a DA in this country who would call this perjury. While Burris may have kept certain things from the committee, he was never really asked the queston.

Burris will not run in 2010, and does anyone question the timing of this revelation? Right after the stimulus passed with exactly 60 votes? I heard of FOX NEWS, what about the fact that the deciding vote was cast by someone who may be a perjurer. GIVE ME A BREAK.

The Democrats had 61 votes for the stimulus. Ted Kennedy would have cast the 60 vote if it had been needed.

COME ON GOP STOP GRASPING AT STRAWS, YOU CAN RUN
FOR THE SEAT IN 2010, STOP TRYING TO MAKE A
MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLE HILL!
GO LISTEN TO JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, CRY ME A RIVER!
THE MAN HAS NOT PERJURED HIMSELF!
STOP ACTING LIKE RUSH AND HANNITY!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 14, 2009 5:06 PM.

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