Burris Denies Pay-to-Play Scheme With Blagojevich Allies

Sen. Roland Burris promised to "personally do something" for Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund while pressing for the then-Illinois governor to appoint him to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat. Video by AP
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) denied yesterday that he was involved in a pay-to-play scheme with allies of then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to help win appointment to a Senate seat.

The statements came a day after the release of an FBI recording in which Burris is heard pressing to be appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama and saying he would look for ways to aid in financing Blagojevich's campaign.

"Please understand that there was no pay-to-play in this or any intention of pay-to-play," Burris said yesterday morning on "The John Williams Show" on the radio station WGN (720 AM), according to the Chicago Tribune. "And, therefore, that should be the end of the story. The transcripts bear that out. There's no conjecture. . . . If you look at my whole record and my ethics, what I come to the conclusion was that I could not raise any money for the governor."

The recording, secretly made by the FBI on Nov. 13 and released Tuesday by a Chicago federal judge, includes Burris telling Rob Blagojevich, the governor's brother, that he was willing to attend a fundraising event for the governor and to ask his friends to donate as well. Burris said yesterday that he had not given money to Rod Blagojevich after the call.

"I didn't give him any money, and I didn't raise any money," Burris told reporters outside his home.

Burris has been dogged by his connections to Blagojevich from the moment he was appointed in December by the governor, who was removed from office this year and was indicted in April on corruption charges. Burris's accounts of the appointment and his connections to Blagojevich's fundraising have shifted several times.

Burris first filed an affidavit saying he had no contact with Blagojevich's allies, then told an Illinois House panel that he had limited contact with Blagojevich aides about seeking the seat and finally filed an affidavit acknowledging more contacts, including with the governor's brother.

Democrats in Washington and Illinois have said they will not back Burris if he seeks election to the seat in 2010, although he has not ruled out a campaign. A prosecutor in Sangamon County, Ill., has been investigating the veracity of the senator's statements to the House panel about his appointment. And the U.S. Senate ethics committee, which requested the recording, is also investigating.

Staff writer Carrie Johnson contributed to this report.

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