U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor’s brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama.
Burris’ latest comments in Peoria Monday night were the first time he has publicly said he was actively trying to raise money for Blagojevich. Previously Burris has left the impression that he always balked at the issue of raising money for the governor because of his interest in the Senate appointment.
In comments to reporters after appearing at a Democratic dinner, the senator several times contradicted his latest under-oath affidavit that he quietly filed with the Illinois House impeachment panel earlier this month. That affidavit was itself an attempt to clean up his live, sworn testimony to the panel Jan. 8, when he omitted his contacts with several Blagojevich insiders.
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Burris told reporters he talked to Robert Blagojevich on a “routine fundraising call” in October, prior to Obama’s election as president, and the governor’s brother said, “I am now the new fundraiser for the governor, and Roland, you’ve been helpful for us in the past,’ and I said, ‘Yes, you know, I’ve certainly tried to work with the governor. I’ve tried to help you all. A lot of people didn’t.’”
Burris said Robert Blagojevich told him, “‘We need to raise some funds. We hope that you could probably get some of your friends together.’ I said, ‘What type of money we looking for?’ He says, ‘Can you raise us 10-or-15 thousand dollars?’
“I said, ‘I don’t know, but I can’t do it now because we are in the midst of an election. Call me after the election.’ He said, ‘Fine.’
In his recently filed affidavit, Burris said it was during his first discussion that he “asked Rob Blagojevich what was going on with the selection of a successor if then-Senator Barack Obama were elected president, and he said he heard my name mentioned in the discussions.”
But in his comments last night, Burris added new details.
“So some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called,” Burris said last night of Robert Blagojevich. “And now in the meantime, I’d talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fund-raiser on. Nobody was—they said we aren’t giving money to the governor. And I said, ‘OK, you know, I can’t tell them what to do with their money.’”
“So when the (governor’s) brother called me back, I said, ‘Well, look Rob…I can’t raise any money from my friends. I said, maybe my partner and I, you can talk this over and see, could we go to some other people that we might be able to talk to that would help us out if we give–because we give a fundraiser in the law office, nobody going to show up. We’ll probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect.’