by Jamey Dunn
U.S. Sen. Roland Burris is likely to get an earful on his five-day “listening tour” of the state this week. It started off with a bang today in Chicago. He was hounded by media asking about the weekend’s headliner that contrary to what was on public record before the Illinois House, Burris had spoken with close friends and confidants of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich before being appointed to fill the seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
The new information comes in an affidavit that was filed with the Illinois House impeachment committee February 4 but that was not revealed until this past weekend.
Burris wrote that Rob Blagojevich, brother of the former governor, called him three times for fundraising help before Burris was appointed to the U.S. Senate. In his affidavit, Burris said he didn’t give any assistance or money to Blagojevich because “it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him regarding his decision to appoint a successor to President Obama.” Burris also wrote that he discussed his interest in the U.S. Senate seat with three other former Blagojevich insiders — Doug Scofield, John Wyma and former Deputy Gov. John Harris — between June and the November election.
Illinois Republicans allege that his new affidavit contradicts 1) his sworn testimony before the Illinois House impeachment committee in January (scroll down) and 2) his written affidavit filed January 5 with the committee. The GOP is calling for the Sangamon County state’s attorney's office to investigate possible perjury charges against Burris.
When Burris appeared before a special House impeachment committee in January, he only specified that he talked to Lon Monk, a close friend of and former chief of staff to then-Gov. Blagojevich, regarding his interest in the U.S. Senate seat. In his affidavit, he wrote that he did not speak with Blagojevich “or any or his representatives regarding my appointment.”
Both Burris and his lawyer Timothy Wright III said in a Chicago news conference Sunday that Western Springs Republican Rep. Jim Durkin’s line of questioning allowed that information to fall through the cracks. Wright said that after reviewing a transcript of Burris’ January 8 testimony, he realized that some details had been left out. Wright said he phoned Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, chair of the House committee, and asked her what to do. He said she told him to file an affidavit with her office.
House Democratic spokesman Steve Brown, speaking on behalf of Currie, said this morning that the staff became aware of Burris’ new affidavit on February 11, shortly before leaving town for a long weekend. He said they will further discuss the situation when they return to Springfield tomorrow.
Burris maintained during the news conference that he did not lie before the House committee and that the affidavit was meant to supplement his testimony, not change his story. He blamed any perceived inconsistencies on misleading media coverage.
He will give speeches and seek feedback from Illinoisans. Burris went to Peoria today and is scheduled to go to Bloomington-Normal, Rockford, Chicago and North Chicago before the end of the week.