Burris’ Legal Fees Reach $650,000

Posted November 5, 2009 at 3:13pm

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) incurred nearly $650,000 in legal debt over a six-month period, according to his legal defense fund’s most recent financial report.

The Illinois Senator, who applied for a legal defense fund in March, reported a debt of nearly $570,000 to the Chicago-based firm Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan. Burris formerly served as a senior counsel at the firm.

Burris’ debts also include a bill for more than $65,000 to the law firm Baker Botts and more than $14,000 to the law firm Troutman Sanders.

Since his appointment to the Senate in December 2008 by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), Burris has faced scrutiny from both Illinois law enforcement and the Senate.

In the weeks prior to his appointment, the Justice Department accused Blagojevich of orchestrating a pay-to-play scheme in an attempt to sell the Senate seat vacated by now-President Barack Obama. Blagojevich, subsequently impeached and removed from office, has not yet gone to trial.

In June, Sangamon County (Ill.) State’s Attorney John Schmidt announced that he would not bring charges against Burris, but the Illinois lawmaker remains under review by the Senate Ethics Committee.

According to his most recent legal defense fund report, filed Oct. 13, Burris raised $6,100 in donations in the third quarter of this year. His fund paid Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan $5,000 during the same period.

Burris’ campaign fund also reported payments totaling $10,000 to Fred Lebed, the Senator’s former business partner who maintains an office at Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan, in two payments of $5,000 in July and August.

The Senator, who is not seeking re-election, reported various debts totaling $139,000 in his most recent campaign finance report.