May 27th, 2009
12:28 PM ET
6 years ago

Burris insists secret recordings show no corruption

Roland Burris says that secretly recorded conversations between himself and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagovich's brother show no corruption.
Roland Burris says that secretly recorded conversations between himself and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagovich's brother show no corruption.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) – Embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris insisted Wednesday that recordings of secretly taped conversations between himself and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother show no evidence of corruption in his U.S. Senate appointment.

Burris also reiterated his assertion that he did not commit perjury in previous testimony regarding his involvement in an alleged "pay-for-play" scheme to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Burris's denials came one day after a federal judge approved sending to the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee recordings of the conversations, which took place before Burris was appointed.

The recordings, which show Burris offering to cut a check to then-Gov. Blagojevich's campaign, were requested by the Ethics Committee as part of an investigation into Burris' appointment and seating.

"I was truthful when I testified that at no time did I take any part in pay-to-play while lobbying for the Senate seat," Burris told a group of reporters in Chicago.

"Did I want to be appointed to the Senate seat? Yes I did. ... Did I try to buy the seat? Never."

Burris added that while he wanted to keep a previous commitment "to make a personal contribution" to Blagojevich, he ultimately did not "because of the perception of impropriety that might arise."

Burris said he expects "the media and the public to review every word of the transcript (of the recordings) in context. At the end of the day, I expect both to judge me fairly ... It is my belief the transcripts help set the record straight and should settle this issue once and for all."

During a November 18 conversation, Burris tells Robert Blagojevich, "I know I could give him a check" - then adds that he may make the contribution under the name of his attorney, Timothy Wright, "cause Tim's not looking for an appointment."

Burris then promises that he'll write the check by December 15.

Throughout the talk, Burris presses Blagojevich to tell him how he can help with the campaign without looking like he bought the appointment.

"I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment," he says.

"I hear ya. No, I year ya," Robert Blagojevich responds.

"And, and if I do that, I guarantee you that, that will get out and people said, 'Oh, Burris is doing a fundraiser' and, and then Rod and I both gonna catch hell. ... And if I do get appointed, that means I bought it."

Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that the check would have been for $1,500, and denied that Burris' promise to write the check was part of any "pay-to-play" scheme.

"Fifteen-hundred dollars? Come on," Wright told the paper. "Burris had been a fund-raiser in years past. This had nothing to do with pay-to-play."

Burris, whom the Democratic governor appointed days before he was impeached by the Illinois legislature in January, never mentioned the conversations while testifying before the legislature during the impeachment trial.

Burris said Wednesday he didn't tell the legislature about the conversations because he wasn't asked.

According to Burris staffers and an affidavit obtained by CNN in February, Robert Blagojevich solicited Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Burris was named to his Senate seat. However, in the affidavit, Burris said he refused to contribute to Blagojevich or to assist in fund-raising for him.

Rod Blagojevich, who was removed from office earlier this year, has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges. A federal grand jury indicted him in April on 16 felony counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements to investigators.

Blagojevich denies all charges.

The indictment also charges some of Blagojevich's closest aides and advisers, including his brother, Robert, in a wide-ranging "scheme to deprive the people of Illinois of honest government," according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Robert Blagojevich also pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to the indictment, the governor schemed with others in 2002 - even before he took office - to use his position to make money, which they were to share after he left office.

Among other allegations, Blagojevich is accused of working with others to figure out how he could make money by appointing Obama's replacement.

The indictment says he believed an associate of someone referred to in the indictment as "Senate Candidate A" had offered $1.5 million in campaign contributions in exchange for the appointment.

Blagojevich had asked his brother to meet with an associate of "Senate Candidate A" and say that some of those contributions needed to come through before he made the appointment - but the meeting was canceled after a newspaper article reported that Blagojevich had been recorded talking about selling the seat.

A lengthy FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps trying to profit from the Senate vacancy.

The indictment said that Blagojevich communicated "directly and with the assistance of others" with people he believed were in contact with Obama - trying to gain political favor by possibly appointing someone the president-elect supported.

He ultimately appointed Burris, the Democratic former state comptroller and attorney general, who was seated in the Senate despite protests from the chamber's Democratic leaders. Those leaders said a special election should be called because of the controversy over the appointment.

If convicted, Blagojevich would face up to 20 years in prison for each of the 15 most serious charges in the indictment, and five years on a single charge of making false statements.

- CNN's Katherine Wojtecki contributed to this story


Filed under: Roland Burris
soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. jason007thomas

    I really wish they would leave this man alone!!!

    May 27, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  2. Jimmy the Greek

    Burris... Blago...Pelosi.... democrats who can't tell the truth.....

    yet dems & liberals cry about Cheney??

    What's that old saying..... something about glass houses??

    May 27, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  3. Denise, HI

    Roland Burris is an idiot. How about that?

    He can roll right out of the Capitol because he shouldn't have been there in the first place. The citizens of Illinois deserve better and they did NOT vote for this guy 5 times. They REJECTED him then, and they REJECT him now.

    May 27, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. Jayden,FL

    Burris don't even bother running for re-election..

    May 27, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Either way you look at it, Roland is up sugar honey iced tea creek without a paddle.

    May 27, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. Tulsa

    This guy needs to be gone. Probably in jail. Same with Blogo.
    Just MHO.
    Although I am a Democrat, I have no problem calling a corrupt politician what he or she is, regardless of party affiliation.

    May 27, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. reality check

    Guilty by association.

    May 27, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Mississippi Mike

    Chicago politics at its finest. Aren't you glad we have a Chicago politician in the White House? He's going to leave us with all kinds of goodies to talk about for generations to come when his secret communications are made public.

    May 27, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Liar, liar!
    Pants on fire!

    May 27, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Fitz in Texas

    Just one more crook in government.

    May 27, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. strong

    Don't ya just love politics? So full of corruption, everywhere.

    May 27, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. Lisa in Shelton CT

    If there was not even a hint of impropriety why would Burris suggest hiding his routine contribution amount under his lawyer's name? When you're honest and above board you don't need to hide.

    May 27, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Dawn

    OUT, OUT, OUT....Yes he should get the Flock out of there, and place someone with scruples...Now where do you find a politician like that?

    May 27, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. demwit

    Its not corruption., just good ole Chicago politics...

    May 27, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. demwit

    Same way Obama got his start from the "GrandFather of Chicago Politics"

    May 27, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Tulsa

    Hey Jimmy the Greek,
    I noticed that of the first 5 posts on this article, 4 are left leaning posters. Only one of those is for Burris. So It seems to me that the DEMOCRATS are the ones who will not support hypocrisy or corruption. You, on the other hand, keep saying "He did it too!" as in some way legitimizing what the previous administration did.
    We don't buy your twisted grade school mentality.

    May 27, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Ken in NC

    If Roland Burris was funny, he would be a good joke. Well as he is not funny I would therefore venture to say he is only a joke, a really bad joke at that.

    May 27, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. Imarriedmy sister in Mississippi

    Lock him up.Hes smarter than me.

    May 27, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. Rick CT

    In the end, the Dems will stoop to almost anything to preserve this seat for Burris, or any other Dem that wishes to buy it. Losing their chance at 60 seats will overcome the right thing to do – that is, expel Burris (who never should have been seated to begin with) and demand a general election for the open seat.

    May 27, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    @ jimmy the greek, who said "yet dems & liberals cry about Cheney??"

    Not one Dem you mentioned (a) told lies that got us into a war or (b) had power, authority or control over whether prinsoners in our custody were tortured. I'm all for calling out liars...but equivocating just isn't going to fly here. Cheney's crimes against this country and humanity are several orders of magnitude worse than anything the three you mentioned have ever done in their entire lives.

    Next.

    May 27, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. daniel cabrera

    I seems that the "DIRT" started to come out from the CHICAGO CORRUPTED POLITCAL ATMOSPHERE.Perhaps sooner than expected some of the dirty-wave will surface to say something about Obamma too.....who knows !??? After all he also is a product of the SAME CHICAGO CORRUPTED PILITICAL SPECTRUM.
    All in due time...all in due time.
    Good day everyone,
    Daniel Cabrera
    Merrillville, Indiana

    May 27, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. No Incumbents 2010

    Burris is the most honest politician that Blagojevich knew. Burris is honored to have the honor and perks of being a Senator, and the astute Illinois voters will be just as honored to re-elect him, if nothing else based on name identification alone.

    May 27, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Aren't you glad we have a Chicago politician in the White House?"

    Yes, because guilt by association is a fool's tool. You're welcome to keep wielding it though...it does more damage to the GOP than anything else.

    May 27, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Arlene, Roselle, Illinois

    Roland, maybe you could take Blogos place in the jungle and
    add that to your tombstone.
    The tombstone is a local joke around here.

    May 27, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. elana

    For whatever Reason, Senator Burris doesn't seem to "fit" very well with media interviews! The more he talks, the more "negative" coverage he gets! I believe it would be a very good idea for him to "step away" from any media interviews and forget about explaining away the situation. The more he explains the more questions about his integrity surface. There is no doubt he will be challenged by another Democract in the next election cycle and more than likely he will lose his Senate seat!

    May 27, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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