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Roland Burris changes story on Senate seat

In an affidavit filed Feb. 5, he says he spoke three times with the brother of then-Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. State Republicans want an investigation into whether Sen. Burris perjured himself.

February 15, 2009|John Chase and Rick Pearson

CHICAGO — Roland Burris has changed his story again about what happened before then-Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich appointed the Democrat to the U.S. Senate. State Republican leaders said Saturday that they wanted an investigation into whether Burris perjured himself.

After initially portraying himself as a surprise pick for the Senate seat vacated by President Obama, Burris gradually has acknowledged deeper contacts with allies of Blagojevich, a Democrat who was recently impeached and forced out of office.

Burris described the discussions with the governor's brother, Robert, in an affidavit the senator quietly filed Feb. 5 with the head of the Illinois House impeachment committee -- a couple of weeks after he was sworn in as senator. Burris said he filed it after reading the transcripts of his sworn testimony and realizing his answers were incomplete.

In the affidavit, Burris said Robert Blagojevich had called him three times to seek his help in fundraising for the then-governor. Burris also said he had spoken with three other close associates of the governor and a labor leader with ties to the Blagojevich administration about being appointed to the Senate. Burris previously acknowledged having spoken to one such friend.

U.S. Senate Democrats demanded that Burris testify fully and truthfully to the Illinois House impeachment committee before agreeing to seat him. Many said Burris was tainted because his appointment came after Blagojevich was arrested on allegations that he had abused his power by, among other things, trying to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Burris' attorney said that although Burris testified truthfully and to the best of his recollection, he was unable to respond fully because of the "the fluid nature of the questions and answers."

In the new affidavit, Burris said he had talked about his interest in the Senate seat with Robert Blagojevich, who called him three times seeking fundraising help. The first conversation was in early October; the other two were shortly after the Nov. 4 election. During one of the talks, Burris said, he told Robert Blagojevich he couldn't contribute to the governor's campaign "because it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him regarding his decision to appoint a successor to President Obama."

After learning about the revelations by Burris, Republican Illinois state Rep. Jim Durkin said he would ask the now-dormant impeachment committee to refer the matter to the Sangamon County state's attorney's office.

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jchase@tribune.com

rpearson@tribune.com

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