Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The never-ending story

By Jamey Dunn
House Speaker Michael Madigan sent documents today to the Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office that could prompt a perjury investigation of U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, and Burris on Monday revealed more information about his conversations with Rob Blagojevich, brother of the former governor.

Burris’ latest public perception battle began over the weekend, when it was revealed in a new affidavit that he discussed his interest in the U.S. Senate seat with members of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s inner circle. Illinois Republicans and Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan have called for Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt to investigate possible perjury charges based on inconsistencies between the most recent affidavit, filed earlier this month, and Burris’ affidavit and testimony that was given to the House committee a month ago.

Madigan today sent the two affidavits that Burris filed with the special House investigation committee and a transcript of his testimony to Schmidt’s office. House Minority Leader Tom Cross said that this was a “good start,” but he said he still wanted Democrats to explain why they did not disclose the affidavit as soon as it was filed February 4.

Rep. Jim Durkin, minority spokesman for the House committee, said that Democrats kept the GOP members out of the loop by refusing to reveal the new affidavit and by making the decision to send the documents to the state’s attorney’s office on their own. Durkin said Democrats have closed the door on bipartisanship and that he sees “no reason to talk to them about anything.”

Meanwhile, Burris continues to add details to his story. He reportedly said today that he reached out to the prosecutor and said he had nothing to hide. Also, according to the Chicago Tribune, he said he did, indeed, speak to the former governor’s brother and tried raise some money for the governor’s political campaign. As outlined in the affidavit, there were three conversations. Burris shed some more light on them today, per the Tribune transcript:
  1. October 2008: Burris said Rob Blagojevich called him to seek fundraising help for the former governor, and Burris said he couldn’t help until after the election. According to Burris, during that phone call, he also inquired about the Senate seat. Rob Blagojevich’s lawyer has been quoted as saying otherwise. According to Burris’ affidavit, Rob Blagojevich said Burris’ name had come up.
  2. After the November election, Rob Blagojevich called again. Burris said he tried to organize fundraising, but no one he approached was interested in donating. Burris said they discussed the possibility of approaching other people to raise money.
  3. The third time that Rob Blagojevich called, Burris said he explained that he could no longer help because he was interested in the appointment. Burris previously said that he did not offer any fundraising help.

Kent Redfield, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said there probably was no quid pro quo involved in the U.S. Senate appointment. Redfield said that Burris’ one chance to clear up any suspicion about his appointment and “sever ties” with the former governor was in January. And the more details that come out now, the more “everything is under suspicion.”

In addition, Redfield said, the more details that trickle out, the more Burris’ chances in the 2010 U.S. Senate race are called into question. Burris’ actions also increase the chances that state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who currently is traveling abroad with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, will make a run for the seat. Redfield also said that if Burris decided to run and won the Democratic primary, these revelations would become fodder for a Republican challenger’s campaign. “The TV commercials almost write themselves,” he said.

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