Burris Discloses Fundraising Requests

One month into his tenure as Ill.'s junior senator, there are already calls for Roland Burris to resign because he held information during Gov. Blagojevich's impeachment trial. Nancy Cordes reports. Video by CBSNEWS.com
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 15, 2009

CHICAGO, Feb. 14 -- Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.), appointed to fill President Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate, has informed Illinois lawmakers that he did not tell them the complete story about his contacts with close associates of former governor Rod Blagojevich (D) before he got the job.

In a sworn affidavit made public Saturday, Burris said that the governor's brother asked him in a series of conversations to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich, who was later charged with trying to profit from his executive actions and removed from office.

Burris, who contributed to Blagojevich in the past, said he refused the request because fundraising could have been seen as an improper attempt to persuade the governor to name him as Obama's successor. He is not accused of wrongdoing.

The affidavit was Burris's third attempt to describe his contacts with the Blagojevich team during the months before his surprise appointment. It differed on several key points from the testimony he gave under oath to an Illinois House of Representatives impeachment committee.

Several Republican and Democratic state legislators, learning of the affidavit after the Chicago Sun-Times reported on it Saturday, said they would request an investigation.

"He was sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and it's obvious that didn't occur," state Rep. Jack D. Franks (D) said. "I'm disappointed, and I do feel betrayed."

Burris said in a statement issued Saturday by his Senate office that he was trying to be "transparent" after reviewing a transcript of his January testimony. He said he had done nothing wrong in seeking the job.

"I was asked to raise money by the governor's brother and made it unequivocally clear to him that it would be inappropriate and pose a major conflict because I was interested in the Senate vacancy," Burris said in the statement. "I did not donate or help raise a single dollar for the Governor from those conversations."

Blagojevich named Burris, a former Illinois attorney general who had largely retired from politics after losing several statewide races, as the state's junior senator three weeks after the governor's Dec. 9 arrest on corruption charges.

Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate tried to block the appointment by vowing not to seat anyone Blagojevich named. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) eventually relented, allowing Burris to be sworn in on the condition that he first testify truthfully to the Illinois House committee.

Reid is studying Burris's affidavit, a spokesman for the senator said Saturday.

Burris's first account of his contacts with Blagojevich associates came in a January affidavit to the impeachment committee, when he said he had spoken with no one. The second account came in his testimony to the committee.

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