Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sun-Times reports Blagojevich hit up Burris for cash

The ongoing saga of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich continues on. This is from Saturday's Chicago Sun-Times:

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post — something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show.

Burris acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office.

The affidavit is dated Feb. 5 — three weeks after Burris was sworn in to replace President Obama in the Senate.

Burris — who did not give money to the Blagojevich campaign fund in response to the previously undisclosed solicitation — provided a copy of the sworn statement to the Chicago Sun-Times Friday in response to questions about his contacts with the Blagojevich camp about fund-raising.

Burris acknowledged having three conversations with Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund — and one of those was likely recorded by the FBI.

Burris’ statement offers the third version of events he has given about his discussions concerning the Senate seat, to which Blagojevich appointed him in late December, after Blagojevich was hit with federal corruption charges that included an allegation he tried to sell the Senate appointment.


In October and again in November, Burris spoke with Robert Blagojevich, who initially asked him to host a fund-raiser. Burris said he’d get back to him after the election, sources with knowledge of the conversations said. The two later talked again, and Burris again was asked for campaign cash.

I've often talked about Republican stupidity in Washington, but apparently there are enough stupid Democrats in Chicago. Burris gets a call from Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother, asking for $10,000 cash to Blagojevich's campaign fund. This took place before Blagojevich named Burris to the U.S. Senate seat. Smells like Blago was, again, trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat to Roland Burris. And Burris was interested in the job:

In all, Burris expressed interest in the Senate seat to five people in Blagojevich’s camp, documents obtained by the Sun-Times show. He disclosed just one of those contacts when asked Jan. 8 by state Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) during the impeachment hearings to name any contact he had with Blagojevich’s people about the seat.

“I’m very surprised he didn’t make these disclosures,” Durkin said. “I don’t know if Mr. Burris was purposely being evasive during the committee or had selected memory issues.”

In a sworn statement filed with the House panel Jan. 5, before he testified, Burris said he had no contact with Blagojevich’s camp about the Senate seat aside from his appointment in late December. In testimony before the committee, he added that he spoke with Lon Monk, Blagojevich’s former chief of staff. In his new affidavit, Burris confirms he also spoke of his interest in the Senate appointment with Blagojevich insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma.

The discussions with Robert Blagojevich about money came after Burris spoke with those people. Burris had told the House committee he was unaware of any quid pro quo dangled by Blagojevich’s camp.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said Burris’ new statement regarding his contact with Blagojevich’s emissaries represents a “fatal wound” to a potential 2010 Burris re-election bid. His new account contains “extraordinary detail” Burris should have disclosed to the impeachment panel when he testified and to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before being seated, Radogno said.

“If it turns out this was some sort of attempt to avoid this coming out as part of the appointment process, then he doesn’t deserve to be senator,” Radogno said. “I think the whole thing stinks to high heaven.”

Burris has stated that he never contributed any money to Blagojevich's campaign, saying that "It would be inappropriate and pose a major conflict because I was interested in the Senate vacancy." The problem here isn't whether Burris gave money to Blagojevich in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat. The problem here is that Burris contradicted himself three times regarding conversations he had with former governor Blagojevich. Burris has even lied under oath before the House panel on January 5th on contacts he had with Blago's camp on the Senate seat. It is like Burris wanted so badly to stay away from the stink of Blago's corruption, that he was so willing to lie about the conversations he had with Blagojevich on the Senate seat, even though he never gave any money to Blago for the seat. Had Burris simply come clean with these conversations in the first place, rather than trying to hide them, the scandal would have quickly blown over. But with contradiction after contradiction after contradiction, Roland Burris has also acquired a rather fishy stink about him.

And this has resulted in state lawmakers calling for a perjury investigation against Roland Burris:

State lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation into whether U.S. Sen. Roland Burris committed perjury before a state impeachment panel, in the wake of a Sun-Times exclusive story published online Saturday.

The development comes after the Chicago Democrat failed to initially disclose under oath to a House panel that he was hit up for campaign cash by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother.

State Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) said Saturday that the Sangamon County state prosecutor's office will be asked to review Burris' Jan. 8 sworn testimony before the House panel to determine whether Burris (D-Chicago) perjured himself.

"I don't trust anything that comes out of Roland Burris' mouth or from his pen," Durkin said.


Word that Burris' account of his appointment has changed yet again came as a surprise to some of his colleagues in the Senate, who were not aware of the affidavit's filing until learning of it from press accounts. It was unclear what response might be triggered by Burris' revisions.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who initially sought to block Burris from being seated, said the Senate leader intended to take a closer look at Burris' new affidavit. But Reid's office declined to say whether the new revelations would reopen the question of whether Burris should be Illinois' junior senator.

"Senator Reid is reviewing the affidavit," Reid spokesman Jim Manley told the Sun-Times Saturday.

I should talk about the fallout here on Burris' latest contradiction. First, Illinois state Republican leaders are calling for Burris' resignation here. In this MSNBC story, Rep. Jim Durkin states "I think it would be in the best interest of the state if he [Burris] resigned because I don't think the state can stand this anymore." The Republicans would love to see Burris resign, after which they would then call for a special election on the vacant Illinois U.S. senate seat, and hopefully snatch the seat from the Democrats. Democratic leaders are demanding that Burris "come clean" on his contradictions and lies:

SPRINGFIELD -- A key Democrat on the House panel that moved to impeach Gov. Blagojevich believes that Democratic U.S. Sen. Roland Burris should be called back before the committee to explain his “absolutely misleading” testimony about his appointment.

Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), the first Democrat to call for Burris to be hauled back before the House Special Investigative Committee, also said Monday that the Sangamon County state’s attorney should open a perjury probe if Burris refuses to show up. Republicans called for a similar perjury probe over the weekend.

Burris “has an obligation to come clean,” Franks said.

Burris’ latest version of events leading to his appointment -- outlined in a Feb. 5 affidavit that committee members were not informed of until the Chicago Sun-Times broke the story Saturday -- is not sufficient, Franks said: “You can’t cross-examine an affidavit.”

Franks said he felt “betrayed” when he learned Burris had dramatically altered his Jan. 8 testimony before the committee.

Other Democrats called Monday for more information from Burris. “We can’t have the people of Illinois thinking their new U.S. senator lied under oath,” said State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

Burris should “make himself available to answer any and all questions,” said State Rep. John A. Fritchey (D-Chicago).

It appears that Roland Burris is starting to find himself alone, and friendless. He completely screwed up. And now with calls for a potential perjury investigation against Burris, nobody wants to touch Burris with a hundred-foot pole. Burris is toast. The Republicans want Burris to resign, and have a special election to snatch the U.S. Senate seat for themselves. The Democrats just do not want to have anything to do with him--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office is stalling for time by reviewing the latest Burris affidavit. They are waiting to see if the Illinois state legislature will open perjury investigations against Burris, and what will result in the investigations against Burris. The best thing for the state of Illinois would be for Roland Burris to resign from his U.S. Senate seat, and have the new governor Pat Quinn select a new replacement senator. However, Burris denies any wrongdoing, saying it was the media's fault for misconstruing the facts:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris defiantly defended himself Sunday against allegations he misled a state impeachment panel while under oath by not disclosing multiple contacts with former Gov. Blagojevich’s inner circle or being approached by the ex-governor’s brother for campaign cash before the appointment.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always conducted myself with honesty and integrity,” Burris said during an emotional press conference about why he quietly filed paperwork to revise his testimony, which the Chicago Sun-Times was the first to report Saturday.

“I responded to all questions that were asked of me by the impeachment committee in the time allotted. At no time did I ever make any inconsistent statements,” Burris said, blaming the impeachment panel for not asking him the right questions and the media for misconstruing the facts.

Is it time to pass the popcorn?

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