Burris Tried To Fundraise For Blagojevich
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
It turns out that the new senator from Illinois did try to raise money for former Governor Rod Blagojevich; this news from Roland Burris himself amid a new focus on his path to the U.S. Senate. Even as he revises his story, Burris still denies any wrongdoing but Burris does admit that the former governor's brother asked him to raise money for the governor.
NPR's Cheryl Corley joins us from Chicago.
And, Cheryl, why don't you walk us through the timeline a bit here? What has Roland Burris previously said about his appointment and this notion of raising money for Governor Blagojevich?
CHERYL CORLEY: Mm-hmm. Well, Roland Burris has said all along that there was nothing untoward about his appointment that was made by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. And you may recall that the governor, who has since been impeached, faces a number of corruption charges and is accused of trying to sell the Senate seat that Roland Burris holds.
Burris appeared before a House Impeachment Committee last month, where he was asked repeatedly if he had had any contact with the Blagojevich associates about the Senate seat. And he had emphatically said that there was nothing wrong. And here's what he had to say when he was asked if there was any benefit for him legally, personally or politically. Take a listen.
Senator ROLAND BURRIS (Democrat, Illinois): …that there was nothing legal -what were the three points?
Representative MARY FLOWERS (Democrat, Illinois): The three points were legal...
Sen. BURRIS: ...legal...
Rep. FLOWERS: ...personal...
Sen. BURRIS: ...personal...
Rep. FLOWERS: ...or political.
Sen. BURRIS: ...or political exchanged for my appointment to this seat.
Rep. FLOWERS: There was no conversation, none to that effect. No quid pro quo, none of that.
Sen. BURRIS: Absolutely, positively not.
BLOCK: Okay. So that was then. What about now?
CORLEY: Well, first off, the senator filed an affidavit with the House committee, which indicated that he had had some contact with at least one Blagojevich associate. And he's now essentially confirming that he did at one point try to raise money for the governor, or was at least asked to raise money for Governor Blagojevich.
He talked to reporters last night in Peoria, Illinois, and said he had been called by the governor's brother; governor's brother was his chief fundraiser. But the Senator continues to say that he did nothing wrong, that this was a routine fundraising call that was made to him before the November election. Here's what he says.
Sen. BURRIS: And he says we need to, you know, raise some funds. We hope that you could probably get some of your friends together. I said, well, you know, what type of money are we looking for? He said, you know, can you raise us 10 or $15,000? I said I don't know but I can't do it now because we are in the midst of an election.
BLOCK: And, Cheryl, certainly Roland Burris spoke at some length to reporters last night. What's the reaction been to all of this in Illinois?
CORLEY: Well, I can tell you that people are - the frenzy sort of continues about this story. A couple of House lawmakers on the Republican side have called for his resignation, and say that they are just weary of the controversy associated with this appointment. The Illinois speaker of the House, a Democrat, sent Roland Burris's testimony that he made before the impeachment committee over to the county prosecutor office, with no comment today.
And others have said, though, that the prosecutor should really sift through this testimony to see whether Senator Burris perjured himself when he appeared before the committee. So those are the steps that are being taken today.
BLOCK: So, the county prosecutor looking at that, any other investigations that might be pending?
CORLEY: Not investigations that we know of as of yet. But I can tell you that Senator Burris says that he is open to any Senate ethics investigation that might be done by the U.S. Senate. But, as I mentioned, he continues to insist that he's done nothing wrong, and doesn't appear to be taking the comments that he resign seriously at all.
BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Cheryl Corley in Chicago. Cheryl, thanks very much.
CORLEY: You're quite welcome.
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