WASHINGTON--Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) is asking the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for permission to open a legal expense fund, I've learned.
Burris filed the request with the committee on Monday. The law firm handling the filing is Gonzalez, Saggio, Harlan led by Burris attorney Tim Wright, who has been advising Burris since his controversial appointment by impeached Gov. Blagojevich.
The treasurer named on the filing is Roderick Sawyer, former Mayor Eugene Sawyer's son. ( Eugene Sawyer's nephew, Kerry, is a senior advisor on the Burris Washington staff.)
The purpose for establishing the fund, according to the filing: "to pay for expenses incurred by the Senator in connection with his appointment to the US Senate on December 30th, 2008. Due to the controversy surrounding his appointment by former Illinois Governor Rod Balgojevich, Senator Burris incurred legal expenses to support his eventual swearing in on January 15th, 2009 in both Illinois and Washington, DC.
"In addition, even after he was seated, Senator Burris has continued to require representation amid accusations of perjury and other alleged improprieties relating back to his appointment to the senate seat."
Jim O'Connor, Burris communications director, said the Ethics Committee ruling on the permission request could take about four weeks, and no money can be raised in the meantime.
Burris told Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that he has hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills; the amount could be as high as $400,000, according to the Burris camp.