- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) | Raising fresh questions about his appointment to Congress, Sen. Roland Burris admitted in a document released Saturday that former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s brother asked him for campaign fund-raising help before the governor named Mr. Burris as Illinois’ junior senator.

The disclosure reflects a major omission from Mr. 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 will ask Sunday for an outside investigation into whether Mr. 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 Mr. Burris on the condition that there were no “pay to play” promises exchanged in the appointment.

Mr. Burris issued a statement Saturday saying 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 Mr. Burris’ officeafter 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 fund-raising assistance.

Robert Blagojevich’s attorney said his client believes one of the conversations was recorded by the FBI.

Mr. Burris, a Democrat like the ex-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 on the appointment. But he said he did ask Robert Blagojevich “what was going on with the selection of a successor” to Mr. Obama in the Senate, and “he said he had heard my name mentioned in the discussions.”

It’s the second time Mr. Burris has changed his story. In an unsolicited affidavit to the impeachment committee Jan. 6, Mr. 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 would be interested in the post in the event Mr. Obama won the presidency and the seat became open.

The governor appointed Mr. Burris, a former state attorney general, to the seat on Dec. 30, three weeks after federal agents arrested Mr. Blagojevich on a complaint accusing him of trying to trade the appointment for campaign cash or a high-paying job. The state legislature removed Mr. Blagojevich from office.

Senate Democrats in Washington initially said they would not seat anyone appointed by Mr. Blagojevich, but they eventually relented. One condition of their acceptance was Mr. Burris’ testimony before the Illinois House committee.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Burris said he would not make himself available for interviews Saturday.

State House impeachment committee Chairwoman Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat, said she was planning committee action but that seeking an outside investigation now would be premature.

The affidavit discloses for the first time that Mr. Burris thinks he likely told former Blagojevich advisers Doug Scofield and John Wyma of his interest in the post at a fund-raiser in June and later asked about it when he spoke to Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, who was arrested with the governor on Dec. 9.

Mr. Scofield, Mr. Wyma and Mr. Harris were among the Blagojevich associates Mr. Burris was asked about in his Jan. 8 testimony by Mr. Durkin, the panel’s top Republican. In response, Mr. Burris said he had spoken only to Mr. Monk.

“This wasn’t a couple of questions that I can understand someone may forget; it goes way beyond that,” Mr. Durkin said Saturday. “To say that he wasn’t given the opportunity to explain himself is a load of BS.”

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