February 15, 2009 in Nation/World

Burris changes story again about Senate seat contacts

Blagojevich’s brother sought fundraising help
John Chase And Rick Pearson Chicago Tribune
 
Associated Press photo

Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris addresses the media in Chicago on Dec. 30 after being appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, to fill President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.
(Full-size photo)

CHICAGO – Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., who repeatedly denied anyone tied to disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich solicited him for cash in exchange for his seat, now acknowledges Blagojevich’s brother asked him three times to help with fundraising.

Leading House Republicans said Saturday they plan to call on an Illinois House special investigative committee to ask the Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office to investigate Burris.

In an affidavit Burris quietly filed nine days ago with the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich’s impeachment, Illinois’ new junior senator also said he spoke with three close associates of the governor about being appointed to the Senate. Prior, Burris only acknowledged having spoken to one such friend.

Burris said he refused the fundraising request for Blagojevich, who was removed from office after being charged Dec. 9 with corruption, including trying to sell the Senate seat Burris now holds.

The new affidavit – filed only after he was seated in Congress – is Burris’ third account of what happened behind the scenes preceding Blagojevich’s decision to pick him as President Barack Obama’s replacement in the Senate.

It also reflects a major omission he made before the panel. Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate initially refused Burris entry, but relented in part on the condition that he testify fully and openly before the House impeachment committee.

Initially, Burris stated unequivocally in an affidavit, “there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives” regarding the Senate appointment prior to Dec. 26, when he met with a Blagojevich attorney.

But during Jan. 8 testimony before the House committee, Burris disclosed that months earlier he had expressed his interest in the Senate seat to Blagojevich’s former chief of staff Lon Monk, now a state lobbyist whose activities have come under federal scrutiny.

But despite being asked specifically at the hearing if he had met with Blagojevich’s brother about the Senate seat, Burris cited only his meeting with Monk.

In this newest version, Burris said he talked about his interest in the Senate seat with Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, who called him three times to seek his assistance in fundraising for the then-governor. The first conversation was in early October, before Obama was elected president, and the other two were shortly after the Nov. 4 election.

Burris said he told Robert Blagojevich he couldn’t contribute to the governor’s campaign fund “because it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him regarding his decision to appoint a successor to President Obama.”

Burris said he filed the affidavit “to supplement my answer” to questions by the House members about what conversations he had with the governor and his associates.

In a statement released Saturday, Burris said he didn’t disclose the facts because he “was not given the opportunity to” during the impeachment committee hearing.


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