Updated 4:11 p.m. eastern time
My Chicago Sun-Times colleague Natasha Korecki is reporting Tuesday morning that Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) was wiretaped while talking to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother Robert, who ran his campaign fund-raising operation.
A judge is allowing the tapes to be released to the Senate ethics committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Sun-Times exclusive: Burris promised Blago campaign a check by mid-December
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter
In a November conversation caught on an FBI wiretap, Roland Burris promised Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother that he'd write the governor a campaign check by mid-December, Burris' lawyer said today.
That was about a month before Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to the U.S. Senate.
But lawyer Timothy Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times today that his client never sent the check because he believed it wasn't a good idea given Burris' interest in the U.S. Senate seat appointment. Wright said Burris' decision not to send the check had nothing to do with Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest.
Burris made his decision before the arrest, Wright said.
"Sen. Burris, as he said, decided he couldn't send a check because it wouldn't look good," Wright said.
Burris did not mention a promise of a check in a Feb. 4 sworn affidavit that Burris submitted to an Illinois House panel investigating Rod Blagojevich's impeachment. That affidavit sought to supplement Burris' testimony before a House panel, where Burris only mentioned having contact with Lon Monk with regard to the appointment.
But Wright said the amount of the check was to be $1,500. The conversation with Robert Blagojevich happened when Burris was interested in the U.S. Senate. Wright said Burris' answers to the House panel have been consistent, and he has made repeated efforts to be as complete as possible to the public.
Wright scoffed at the notion that a promise of a check was part of any pay-to-play scheme.
"Fifteen hundred dollars? Come on" Wright said. "Burris had been a fund-raiser in years past. This had nothing to do with pay-to-play."
Today in court, Wright did not oppose the release of the tape to a U.S. Senate Ethics panel. Wright said he believes the tape will vindicate his client.
"It's good to get the facts out," Wright said. "It's just really good to get the truth out."
U.S. District Judge James Holderman said in court today he would unseal the tape and transcript of a November conversation between Burris and Robert Blagojevich, who chaired the ex-governor's campaign fund.
Burris came under fire in February after the Sun-Times disclosed the Feb. 4 affidavit, which was not previously made public. The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating whether Burris misled the public in different sworn affidavits and testimony to that impeachment panel.
In a Jan. 5 affidavit Burris told the committee: "Prior to the December 26, 2008 telephone call from Mr. [Sam] Adams, Jr., there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives regarding my appointment to the United States Senate."
Adam is a member of Rod Blagojevich's legal team.
Wright said that affidavit had to do solely with the actual appointment. Because Burris wasn't even in consideration until after the ex-governor was charged, he didn't detail conversations with Rod Blagojevich's aides or brother, Wright said.
Then, this is what Burris said in his amended affidavit Feb. 4:
"I recall that Governor Blagojevich's brother, Rob Blagojevich, called me three times to seek my assistance in fund-raising for Governor Blagojevich. ...
"I mentioned the Senate seat in the context of saying that I could not contribute to Governor Blagojevich because it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him regarding his decision to appoint a successor to President Obama," Burris wrote. "I did not raise or donate any funds to Governor Blagojevich after the fundraiser on June 27, 2008."
During the Jan. 8 appearance before the impeachment committee, Burris was asked to identify all Blagojevich emissaries with whom he spoke -- including Robert Blagojevich. Burris only named Lon Monk. Burris insisted during that testimony there was no quid pro quo with Blagojevich regarding the appointment.