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...
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

That panel’s chairwoman has no plans to recall Burris to answer questions about the supplements to his story. State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said Tuesday that doing so could interfere with a review of the situation by Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt, who was contacted about the matter by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Illinois House Republicans on Wednesday demanded more information about the affidavit. Minority Leader Tom Cross and state Rep. Jim Durkin sent a letter to Democrats asking for documents detailing Burris’ contact with the impeachment committee. They say delaying an explanation for Burris’ actions casts doubt on the integrity of the process that impeached Blagojevich and removed him from office.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate’s ethics committee, declined to comment Tuesday on whether the panel would investigate Burris. A spokeswoman for Boxer would not say whether a case would be opened but said preliminary inquiries begin whenever there are “allegations of improper conduct.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., “supports Sen. Burris’ decision to cooperate” with any investigation, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Reid and his No. 2, Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, initially refused to seat Burris because he was appointed by Blagojevich, who was arrested three weeks earlier on federal charges he tried to profit from the Senate appointment. They relented on condition Burris testify before the impeachment committee.

Burris initially told the committee he had only a brief conversation with Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat, before he was named to the seat Dec. 30. In testimony before the House committee Jan. 8, he added that he discussed the seat with a longtime Blagojevich friend last summer.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, said he asked Reid’s office Tuesday to open an ethics review.

“I don’t see how they can really avoid it at this point with the ever-changing story of Sen. Burris,” Franks said.

Associated Press writers Andrea Zelinski in Normal, David Mercer in Peoria, Deanna Bellandi in Chicago and Larry Margasak in Washington contributed to this report.

(Associated Press)