Burris Tried to Raise Money for Blagojevich
Updated: 5:57 p.m. Though he continues to deny that he engaged in pay to play to get his Senate seat, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) told reporters Monday night that he did attempt to raise campaign funds for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) who was removed from office following allegations that he attempted to sell President Barack Obamas vacant Senate seat. On Tuesday, Burris said he is open to any Senate Ethics Committee investigation that may ensue based on his actions, which includes a possible perjury investigation of his testimony to an Illinois House committee that was pursuing impeachment charges against the governor. I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigative bodies … to answer questions they have, Burris said, according to the Chicago Tribune. In a separate Tribune story, Burris acknowledged to reporters Monday night that he tried to organize a fundraiser for Blagojevich following a call from the governors brother, Rob Blagojevich, in October. After attending a Peoria Democratic dinner, Burris indicated that he had agreed to try to raise $10,000 to $15,000 for the governor. The governors brothers on a routine fund-raising call indicated, I am now the new fund-raiser for the governor, and Roland youve been helpful for us in the past, and I said, Yes, you know, Ive certainly tried to work with the governor. Ive tried to help you all. A lot of people didnt, Burris told reporters, according to a transcript on the Tribunes Web site. I said, I dont know but I cant do it now because we are in the midst of an election. Call me after the election. … So some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called. And now in the meantime, Id talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fund-raiser on. Nobody was they said we arent giving money to the governor. And I said, OK, you know, I cant tell them what to do with their money. Burris also acknowledged that he talked to Rob Blagojevich during the fundraising call about being appointed to Obamas seat. But Burris said he had trouble finding people to contribute to the governor, and offered to contribute himself and recruit his law partner. Burris said he told the governors brother, Well probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect. Burris said he finally discussed the matter with his law partner and decided, Im interested in the Senate seat. I cant raise any money for him. And so [Rob] called me back and … I told him that. I said, No. 1, I cant raise any money for you and I cant give you any money because I dont want to have a conflict. I mean, that should give some indication of my commitment right there to get out of pay to play. Burris made the comments while trying to explain to reporters why he failed to acknowledge his contacts with the governors brother and other Blagojevich associates during an Illinois House impeachment hearing in January. Illinois House members repeatedly asked Burris whom he had spoken with in the run-up to his Dec. 30 appointment by Blagojevich to Obamas seat. Burris attempted to deflect most of the questions, and made a vague reference to friends. When he was asked to clarify who those friends were, Burris did not name Rob Blagojevich, with whom it appears he had at least three conversations. Burris filed an affidavit with the statehouse Friday noting he had not told them that he had contacts with several Blagojevich associates, including the governors brother. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said in a statement Thursday evening, “Senator Reid supports Senator Burris’ decision to cooperate with all appropriate officials who may review this matter, including state agencies and the Senate Ethics Committee.” Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is traveling overseas and is not expected to comment until this weekend at the earliest. The Democratic Illinois Speaker on Tuesday turned over the affidavit and transcripts of the hearing to state prosecutors in an attempt to determine whether the case merits an indictment for perjury, according to the Associated Press. Burris reportedly said Tuesday that he has reached out to the prosecutor in the case because he has nothing to hide.