Senator says Blagojevich kin asked for help in fund-raising

Senator Roland Burris's newest disclosure is at odds with his January testimony to an Illinois House impeachment panel. Senator Roland Burris's newest disclosure is at odds with his January testimony to an Illinois House impeachment panel. (J. Scott Applewhite/ Associated Press)
By John O'Connor
Associated Press / February 15, 2009
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Senator Roland Burris said in a document released yesterday that former governor Rod Blagojevich's brother asked him for campaign fund-raising help before the governor appointed Burris to the Senate.

The disclosure is at odds with Burris's testimony in January, when an Illinois House impeachment committee specifically asked if he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or other aides to the now-deposed governor about the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

State Representative Jim Durkin, the impeachment committee's ranking Republican, said he and House Republican leader Tom Cross will ask today for an outside investigation into whether Burris perjured himself.

Burris issued a statement yesterday saying he voluntarily gave the committee a Feb. 4 affidavit disclosing the contact with Robert Blagojevich because "there were several facts that I was not given the opportunity to make during my testimony to the impeachment committee."

The affidavit, released yesterday by Burris's office, said Robert Blagojevich called him three times - once in October and twice after the November election - to seek his fund-raising assistance.

Robert Blagojevich's lawyer said his client believes one of the conversations was recorded by the FBI.

Burris, a Democrat like the former governor, said he told Robert Blagojevich he would not raise money because it would look like he was trying to win favor from the governor for his appointment. But he said he did ask the governor's brother "what was going on with the selection of a successor" to Obama in the Senate, and "he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions."

It's the second time Burris has changed his story. In an unsolicited affidavit to the impeachment committee on Jan. 6, Burris said he had only one limited conversation with the governor before accepting the Senate appointment.

Then, appearing before the committee Jan. 8, he said he told former Blagojevich aide-turned-lobbyist Lon Monk last summer that he was interested in the post.

The governor appointed Burris, a former state attorney general, to the Senate seat on Dec. 30, three weeks after federal agents arrested Rod Blagojevich on a complaint alleging he had tried to trade the appointment for campaign cash or a high-paying job. The State House impeached Rod Blagojevich and the state Senate removed him from office on Jan. 29.

Senate Democrats in Washington, including majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Dick Durbin of Illinois, initially said they would not seat anyone appointed by Rod Blagojevich, but eventually relented. One condition of their acceptance was Burris's impeachment committee testimony under oath that there were no "pay to play" promises exchanged in his appointment.

A spokesman said Reid was reviewing the affidavit, and a spokeswoman for Durbin said he had no comment yesterday. The White House also had no comment.

State House impeachment committee chairwoman Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat, said she saw the affidavit earlier this week but had not had time to share it with all committee members until now.

She said she was planning committee action, but that seeking an outside investigation was premature at this point.

The affidavit discloses for the first time that Burris believes he probably told former Blagojevich advisers Doug Scofield and John Wyma of his interest in the post at a fund-raiser in June, and later asked about it when he spoke to Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, who was arrested with Rod Blagojevich on Dec. 9.

Scofield, Wyma, and Harris were among the Blagojevich associates Burris was asked about in his Jan. 8 testimony by Durkin.

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