crimesider

Burris: I Didn't 'Buy The Seat'

(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
U.S. Sen. Roland Burris in January.

CHICAGO (AP) U.S. Sen. Roland Burris reiterated Wednesday that he never participated in a pay-to-play scheme despite the release of a transcript in which he offers to "personally do something" for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund.

Burris spoke to reporters outside his Chicago home before leaving on a two-day tour of central Illinois. The Democrat said he has been truthful at every step since Blagojevich appointed him to the Senate seat previous held by Barack Obama.

"Did I try to buy the seat? Never," Burris said. "Did I commit perjury? No."

A judge on Tuesday allowed the release of a Nov. 13 telephone conversation between Burris and the governor's brother, Robert Blagojevich, which was secretly wiretapped by the FBI.

In it, Robert Blagojevich, head of the then-governor's campaign fund, urged Burris to "keep me in mind and you know if you guys can just write checks that'd be fine, if we can't find a way for you to tie in."

"OK, OK, well we, we, I, I will personally do something, OK," Burris says.

Earlier in the conversation, Burris and Robert Blagojevich explored the possibility that Burris might raise campaign money on a larger scale.

"I know I could give him a check," Burris said. "Myself."

The senator on Wednesday said the check would have been for $1,000, an amount he had donated to the Blagojevich campaign before.

"If you look at the transcript you can see what I was saying," Burris told reporters. "I did not know anything about a pay-to-play. I knew if I raised money, it would be a problem."

The wiretapped conversation took place about three weeks before Rod Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on charges of scheming to sell or trade the Senate seat being vacated by President Obama's election and using the political muscle of the governor's office to squeeze people involved in state business for campaign contributions.

Blagojevich and his brother have both pleaded not guilty to charges in the case, and so have four other members of the former governor's inner circle.

Burris told the Illinois House impeachment committee that he had promised nothing to Blagojevich in exchange for the seat but has changed his version of exactly what was said several times and questions have been raised about what happened.
  • Neil Katz

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