Former Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) said he spoke with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday and is planning to put together a reception in Illinois and a national committee to help raise money for his legal defense fund.
“Leader Reid has certainly been very helpful,” Burris told Roll Call in an interview Friday. “I talked to him yesterday. If I can get him in for the reception that would be good.”
Burris was forced to defend his Senate appointment in the aftermath of the scandal involving former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and his alleged pay-to-play scheme to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Reid and Democratic leaders initially refused to seat Burris after he was appointed by Blagojevich in December 2008. But ultimately they acquiesced and seated him in mid-January 2009 when he produced the appropriate paperwork.
State officials announced in June 2009 that Burris would not face perjury charges for making vague statements to an Illinois legislative committee regarding how he was appointed. But he racked up more than $400,000 in legal fees tied to the controversy.
“I’m right in the middle of seeking to try to get some type of dollars that would settle up with the lawyers,” he said Friday. “All of those legal battles I had, nothing came from any of them. It was a major waste of time, energy and money because of politics among my Democratic colleagues and even more so locally here because of Republican colleagues.”
Some of his former colleagues have donated money, he said, naming Democratic Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) as those who have written checks so far.
Burris also blamed the media for blowing the allegations against him out of proportion.
“The media jumped on that like it was raw meat hanging out there,” Burris said. “The media just kept pumping against me what was not true.”
Now living in Chicago, the former Senator said he just finished dictating his memoirs. He said his wife, Berlean, is also finishing a book, which will include a chapter about the couple’s personal experience dealing with the corruption allegations.
“That put us through something we didn’t even dream we’d have to experience,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, he’s looking to get back into the private sector, perhaps at a law firm, and spending time with his grandchildren.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.