Burris ‘welcomes’ probes into Blagojevich contacts

Associated Press | 2/18/2009, 7:09 a.m.
Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris (right) speaks as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks on during a news conference on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Chicago. Appointed by Blagojevich to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama won the presidency, Burris now finds himself in hot water after admitting that he'd had more contact with Blagojevich about the open Senate seat than he described under oath to an impeachment panel, and after it was revealed that Burris had tried to raise money for the former governor. AP /M. Spencer Green

Burris’ admission that he had more contact with Blagojevich advisers about the Senate seat than he described under oath to a state House impeachment panel has furious lawmakers asking for an investigation into whether the Democrat committed perjury.

And the revelation that Burris tried to raise money for the governor after Blagojevich’s brother asked him for fundraising help has triggered calls for Burris’ resignation.

Burris insists he never raised money for Blagojevich while the governor considered whom to appoint to the seat President Barack Obama vacated.

“I have made an effort to be as transparent as I can and I’m willing to take a further step as I have nothing to hide,” Burris told reporters Tuesday night. “I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigating bodies, including those referred by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee, to answer any questions they have.”

Burris said he planned to release later this week “a concise document” related to his testimony in front of the state House panel that recommended Blagojevich’s impeachment, but he would not elaborate.

Illinois Democrats have sent documents related to Burris’ testimony to a county prosecutor for review.

The Chicago Tribune on Wednesday added its voice to the chorus demanding Burris’ resignation. In an editorial in its Wednesday editions, the paper said Burris has lost the benefit of the doubt with his latest version of events.

Burris told reporters on Monday he contacted friends after Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, called him before Obama’s election asking him to raise $10,000 or $15,000 for the governor.

“So sometime shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called and in the meantime I had talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fundraiser on,” Burris said, according to an audio clip provided by the (Peoria) Journal Star.

But Burris said his friends weren’t willing to contribute and suggested Robert Blagojevich talk to Burris’ partner about approaching other potential donors.

Burris reiterated that in the end, he raised no money and hosted no fundraiser. He told Robert Blagojevich in a later conversation that he couldn’t raise money because he was interested in the Senate seat. Burris, however, already had indicated his interest in the Senate seat to gubernatorial aides, including Robert Blagojevich, before the November election.

Lawmakers of both parties have said Burris should resign after he admitted that he talked to several Blagojevich aides before getting the Senate post. During his testimony before the panel, he said he remembered talking only to one aide about the seat and did not say he was hit up for campaign donations.

The new affidavit submitted to the impeachment panel indicated contact not only with Robert Blagojevich, but with Blagojevich’s former chief of staff John Harris and two other close friends — all of whom Burris had been specifically asked about by the committee’s top Republican.

“You would think those would be the kind of people you’d remember you had a conversation with,” said Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat and a member of the impeachment committee.