Chicago Sun-Times
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Illinois lawmakers mull Burris perjury probe.

| 16 Comments


February 14, 2009
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND DAVE MCKINNEY
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters

State lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation into whether U.S. Sen. Roland Burris committed perjury before a state impeachment panel, in the wake of a Sun-Times exclusive story published online today.

The development comes after the Chicago Democrat failed to initially disclose under oath to a House panel that he was hit up for campaign cash by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother.

State Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) said Saturday that the Sangamon County state prosecutor‚s office will be asked to review Burris‚ Jan. 8 sworn testimony before the House panel to determine whether Burris (D-Ill.) perjured himself.


"I don't trust anything that comes out of Roland Burris‚ mouth or from his pen," Durkin said.

"We had a major league situation facing us. This is a United States senate seat that came under the most clouded of circumstances," Durkin said. "This is supposed to be about the year of reform this is about ethics and about transparency."

Durkin questioned why he found out about the additional testimony Friday night from the Sun-Times.

"Why were we kept out of the loop? Why were we kept out of the latest filing of Roland Burris?"

Word that Burris' account of his appointment has changed yet again came as a surprise to some of his colleagues in the Senate, who were not aware of the affidavit's filing until learning of it from press accounts. It was unclear what response might be triggered by Burris' revisions.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who initially sought to block Burris from being seated, said the Senate leader intended to take a closer look at Burris' new affidavit. But Reid's office declined to say whether the new revelations would reopen the question of whether Burris should be Illinois' junior senator.

"Senator Reid is reviewing the affidavit," Reid spokesman Jim Manley told the Sun-Times Saturday.

After Reid's hand was essentially forced by Burris and African-American supporters in Congress, Burris was formally seated in mid-January, leaving the Senate few options in responding to the matter. If criminal charges were ever to surface against Burris, the Senate Ethics Committee could probe his conduct and recommend censure, but outright removal from the Senate would require a two-thirds vote.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who also had reservations about Burris' appointment, intends to more closely examine Burris' evolving storyline before determining a response, a spokesman said. The No. 2 Senate Democrat left for a trip to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus today and won't return until Friday, his office said.

"He wants to look at the affidavit and review the testimony," Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said.

The Sun-Times investigation found that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother solicited 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.

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. At least one of those took place at a campaign office where phones were being recorded by the FBI, according to sources.

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."

16 Comments

I'm flabberghasted. If the whole point of the impeachment was pay for play, how could Mr. Burris say he wasn't given a chance to mention the "tiny" fact that HE WAS approached improperly?

If he had any credibility, it's now gone. I can't imagine this wasn't perjury.

Simple deduction here.
Blago will appoint Burris if Burris keeps his mouth shut about conduct of Brother. He does.... until AFTER Blago is impeached. Now he wants to cover his bee-hind. The people of Illinois deserve better.

It doesn't matter if your a Democrat or Republican you probably are corrupt. The senate and house of reps are full of hypocrisy and the whole system should be revamped. The public doesn't trust Congress but i am not sure if Barack has the time or support to get it done.
Look at our new Secretary of Treasury: he is a crook; what the hell is going on??

Burris is just another piece of the corruption cake and it's time someone blows out the candles.

Living in and working for State of Illinois, this makes me hang my head in pure disgust. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin should have stuck by their initial word and NOT approved anyone appointed by BLOGO. They had to know it was tainted. The only words I had for them when they recanted was "spineless". Burris should be investigated for perjury and locked up with the rest of them if he is found guilty. Maybe we can have a whole cell block named in honor of Illinois.

GHADS, is the whole lot of Dems and Reps all corrupt?? WILL SOMEONE IN WASHINGTON AND IN EACH STATE PLEASE GET THE SLEEZY-BROOM OUT AND DO SOME HOUSE CLEANING FOR CRYING OUT LOUD???

just sickened....

Is there any politician from Illinois that isn't corrupt? I mean, maybe we should just make an exception for the state, to avoid the cost of the investigations, and automatically sentence all Illinois politicians to 2 years in minimum security, to immediately follow their elected term.

Or, what about revising the Illinois constitution, so that the person receiving the SECOND largest number of votes for any particular office wins.

Or, what about requiring anyone running for office to submit to a polygraph, and a few basic ethics questions? (This is my favorite. I would predict an 80% failure rate.)

I am pleased to see that Chicago is trying hard to keep its reputation as the home of the country's crookedest politicians. A major league effort by a pair of major league criminals. No one can represent Illinois better!


IF SENATOR BURRIS LIED THEN IS VOTE SHOULD
NOT COUNT ONT THE STIMULAS PACKAGE!ISN'T
THAT RIGHT...

Burris wanted this job so badly that he did not tell the truth about his work to obtain the senate seat from our corrupt former governor. We in Illinois continue to be lied to. Blago did not deserve the right to make this appointment and Burris is certainly not the person for this job. We have been had!

He needs to go, he needs to be gone. How can he make a claim that he wasn't given the opportunity to make the statements then that he is making now?? Durkin asked him in no uncertain terms if he had talked to anyone or if anyone had talked to him. Absolutely disgusting.

Maybe he meant that he wasn't given the opportunity to see into the future so he could more effectively cover his ass.

Mr. Burris may be, for the moment, the junior Senator from our state, but he does not represent me in the Senate. I refuse any longer to consider someone who is ethically-suspect, who uses language to cloud rather than to clarify, and whose poltical ambition exceeds his moral conviction as representative of my values and interests. If this is true (as it no doubt is, since we learned it from Mr. Burris himself), the Senate needs to toss him and Gov. Quinn needs to appoint someone to this seat. Politicians everywhere need to wake up: Voters out here are "mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!"

Roland Burris is a bum and should be removed from office. He's a lawyer and knew the impact of not mentioning that minor issue.

Bobby Rush shut up and stop dividing the state with your racist comments. The black community needs to look at the issues and stop crying foul.

Burris understands better than Blago that the only rule in IL politics is "don't get caught."

So he amends the record himself AFTER he lands safely in the Senate, but BEFORE the IL legislature wonders why he testified there was no contact b/w he and the Blago camp when the FBI has his voice on wiretaps.

A stroke of genius. His new affidavit gives him cover, and the Dems in the Senate need his vote badly to override any filibuster attempts, so he is free and clear. You think no one in DC is leaning on IL Dems?

"Majority Leader Currie, it's Rahm Emanual on line one!"

Ya gotta love Chicago!

If you're unhappy with the fact that Burris is in the Senate, don't forget that the Democrats in the state legislature made it possible by blocking the special election that we all wanted!

Go to http://www.congress.org/bio/id/26577 and contact him. Send him an email telling him what you feel, and that he should resign. If enough do it, it can be done.

I HOPE THAT THIS NICKLE AND DIME ILLINOIS POLITICAL ACTIVITY BETWEEN BLAGO, BURRIS AND REID DOES NOT OVER SHADOW THE DISTRUCTION OF A COUNTRY'S INFRASTRUCTURE, DICK CHANEY AND THE TREASURY BUSTING TRILLION DOLLAR CORRUPTION, ILLEGAL WAR IN IRAQ AND DEATH OF 4200 AMERICAN SOILDIERS AND KILLING OF 100,000 INNOCENT IRAQ PEOPLE THAT NEEDS INVESTIGATING BY THE SENATE. FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL LEFT BY HALBURTON.
DON'T GET SIDE TRACTED.

It's amazing Burris is still in office.

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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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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 14, 2009 5:57 PM.

Burris failed to disclose under oath asked for Blagojevich campaign cash. Sun-Times exclusive was the previous entry in this blog.

The Burris affidavit. is the next entry in this blog.

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