Sen. Burris: 'Any and all' investigations welcome

House speaker refers Burris case to prosecutor
February 17, 2009 8:25:53 PM PST
Illinois senator Roland Burris is now the target of two investigations. The U.S. Senate ethics committee is looking into Burris' testimony and actions before he was sworn in. And, a prosecutor in Springfield is now checking Burris' testimony to see if he committed perjury.

This all comes as the senator's story has changed yet again. Burris now admits he did try to raise money for former governor rod Blagojevich when the senate seat was in play.

The statements in question could lead to an investigation into whether Burris lied to an Illinois House Committee during the impeachment trial of former Governor Rod Blagojevich. The issue- what Burris did and didn't say about conversations he had with close associates to the former governor.

The documents--including impeachment committee hearing transcripts and Senator Burris's affidavit amending his testimony--were referred Tuesday afternoon to Sangamon County State's Attorney John Schmidt.

"Our job is to take the facts and apply them to the law and see if any criminal law has been violated. And, that's what we're going to do," said John Schmidt (R), Sangamon Co. State's Attorney.

On Tuesday, Burris said he talked to the Sangamon County prosecutor and would be open to an investigation by the Senate ethics panel.

After an event Monday night, he told reporters that he had reached out to friends after Blagojevich's brother, Robert, called him before President Barack Obama's election asking him to raise $10,000 or $15,000 for the governor.

"So some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called," Burris said, according to a transcript posted on the Chicago Tribune's Web site. "And now in the meantime, I'd talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fundraiser 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."'

Burris said he then talked to his business partner about going to others for money.

"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," Burris said. "We'll probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect."'

Burris reiterated that he never did end up donating to the governor or holding a fundraiser. He also said he told Robert Blagojevich in a later conversation that he couldn't raise money because he was interested in the Senate seat.

Senator Burris -- on a so-called "listening tour" in downstate Illinois -- continues to say he has done nothing wrong and will cooperate with investigators.

"There were never any inappropriate conversation between me and anyone else to get that point across and to keep my faith with the citizens of Illinois. We are working on a concise document that will be provided to the public later this week," said Sen. Roland Burris, (D) Illinois.

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday afternoon that Burris acknowledged trying to raise money for then Governor Rod Blagojevich at the same time he was under consideration for appointment to the U.S. Senate. Impeachment Committee member Jack Franks repeated his call for what he called Burris's unlikely resignation.

"I don't think he should have taken the appointment. That's why I don't think he's going to resign. What I think he needs to do is come to the House of Representatives, back to our committee, and fully answer all of our questions," said State Rep. Jack Franks, (D) McHenry County.

But U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush-- an outspoken Burris supporter during the appointment process-- said resignation talk is premature.

"I really haven't had a chance to talk to Roland. I am concerned, but haven't had a chance to hear his side of the story," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, (D) Chicago.

Elsewhere, Congressman Danny Davis-- who says he was offered the senate appointment before Burris but refused-- said he thought Burris could be an effective senator despite the controversy.

"I just think it is much too early based upon anything that Roland Burris has done to suggest he can be anything less than effective," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, (D) Chicago.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Burris said one of his advisers has already called the Sangamon County prosecutor to provide a full and complete account of Burris' actions, statements and contacts.

Burris also said he looked forward to quote "sitting down with the federal officials," that which may have been a slip of the tongue because the press didn't know that Burris had a sit-down scheduled with the feds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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