- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Roland Burris has asked the Senate’s ethics committee for permission to raise money for a legal expense fund in connection with his appointment to the Senate by ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Burris’ spokesman, Jim O’Connor, said Friday that the fund would be used to pay legal expenses incurred in connection with Burris’ appointment and an ongoing investigation into Burris’ statements after he took over the Senate seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

John Schmidt, the state’s attorney in Sangamon County, Ill., is reviewing Burris’ testimony before the Illinois House panel that impeached Blagojevich. Burris has made conflicting statements about contacts with associates of the former governor.

Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former seat before appointing Burris to it. Burris has admitted he attempted to raise money for Blagojevich, but has also denied wrongdoing.

The ethics committee hasn’t made a decision on Burris’ request, and such a decision could take three to four weeks.

Forming a legal expense fund would allow Burris to tap outside donors for contributions of up to $10,000 each for his representation. Burris has not spoken publicly, but has told Senate colleagues that he faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs.

Burris submitted his application for the defense fund Monday.

It was filed by the Chicago law firm Gonzalez, Saggio & Harlan, where Burris’ personal attorney, Tim Wright, is on staff.

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