Springfield, Ill. Raising fresh questions about his appointment to Congress, Sen. Roland Burris admitted in a document released Saturday that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother asked him for campaign fundraising help before the governor named Burris as Illinois’ junior senator.
The disclosure reflects a major omission from Burris’ testimony in January when an Illinois House impeachment committee specifically asked if he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or other aides to the now-deposed governor about the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.
State Rep. Jim Durkin, the impeachment committee’s ranking Republican, told The Associated Press that he and House Republican Leader Tom Cross today will ask for an outside investigation into whether Burris perjured himself.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also said he was reviewing the disclosure, the latest twist for Senate Democrats in Washington who only consented to seat Burris on the condition that there were no “pay to play” promises exchanged in the appointment.
Burris said he voluntarily gave the committee a Feb. 4 affidavit disclosing the contact with Robert Blagojevich because “there were several facts that I was not given the opportunity to make during my testimony to the impeachment committee.”
The affidavit, released by Burris’ office after it was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, said Robert Blagojevich called him three times — once in October and twice after the November election — to seek his fundraising assistance.
Robert Blagojevich’s attorney said his client believes one of the conversations was recorded by the FBI.
Burris, a Democrat like the former governor, said he told Robert Blagojevich he would not raise money because it would look like he was trying to win favor from the governor for his appointment. But he said he did ask the governor’s brother “what was going on with the selection of a successor” to Obama in the Senate and “he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions.”
It’s the second time Burris has changed his story. In an unsolicited affidavit to the impeachment committee on Jan. 6, Burris said he had only one limited conversation with the governor before accepting the Senate appointment.
Then, appearing before the committee Jan. 8, he said he told former Blagojevich aide-turned-lobbyist Lon Monk last summer that he was interested in the post.
The governor appointed Burris, a former state attorney general, to the Senate seat on Dec. 30, three weeks after federal agents arrested Blagojevich on a complaint alleging he had tried to trade the appointment for campaign cash or a high-paying job. The state House impeached Blagojevich and the state Senate removed him from office on Jan. 29.
Reid and Dick Durbin of Illinois, among other Senate Democrats, initially said they would not seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich but eventually relented after accepting Burris’ impeachment committee testimony under oath that there were no promises exchanged for his appointment.