May 27th, 2009
12:28 PM ET
5 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. ronie patrick

    That old man is guilty of something. Not sure at this moment what it is because the evidence is not very clear at the moment. He wanted that seat in a very big way and knew he could not win an election because he hasn't won any big elections at all. Give me a break for he should not have been there in the first place. He is old, does not look good, not very smart at all. Reminds me of Sarah Palin being dumb, dumb, dumb.

    May 27, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  2. RR

    Pelosi, Dodd, Murtha, Harmon, Burris...yeah, change we can believe in!

    May 27, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  3. dominican mama 4 Obama

    OMG this guy could be Blagojevich's twin! "I don't care what you heard on those tapes, it wasn't me, it wasn't a bribe, it wasn't recorded....!"

    May 27, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  4. obamamama

    he should never have been seated in the first place, tainted appointment!!

    May 27, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  5. dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Sniffit:

    Sweetie you're on fire today!!!

    May 27, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Peter

    If Burris offered a check to the Governor then, he has no business holding a public office. He should immediately resign!!

    May 27, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. Kevin in Ohio

    He is getting a "pass" from the press as far as I can tell.... typical.

    May 27, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Lisa B

    Old news. If people are unhappy with Roland in the senate, vote him out come 2010 election. Nough said.

    May 27, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Teleprompter of the U.S.

    This goes all the way up the ladder, but the press isn't going to report it. Obama is neck deep in this scandal and no amount of saying it isn't is going to change that.

    Culture of Corruption.

    May 27, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. Dave From Philly

    I thought this was settled already. He should not be in the senate.

    May 27, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. dreamer

    Seems to me that even the dem's need to purge thier party of a few.All polititions need to remeber they work for the people and not thier own wallets.Maybie we need to move to a volenteer Goverment and get rid of a bunch of waist(basically what we pay them).

    May 27, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  12. LIP

    Oh Sniffit you are such a cad.
    Now you are going to try to convince us that only Republicans cause wars and Democrat's hands are clean. How about the Vietnam war and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. I'm thinking it was John Kennedy that gots us into that dirty little war with "advisors" and then Lyndon and his connections to the arms mfg's that took us on the remainder of the journey with torture like you wouldn't believe and war cimes coming out of your behind and not to mention the 50k lives lost of young servicemen and of course the collateral damage...100's of thousands of lives lost. You are probably too young to remember though or don't care to have that monster compared to Bush's little war. Get a life Sniffit

    May 27, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  13. Same Old White House

    Jason, why leave this man alone? A shady deal put him in office. Was it illegal? Who knows. What bothers me is he knows we do not want him there and he will not step down.

    May 27, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  14. Bertie Oldermeyser

    Burris is probably a good man, but he unfortunately has come up through the Illinois political machine which is totally criminal, just like his predecessor Obama. If Burris is guilty of paying for his nomination, need to also check out Obama, too.

    May 27, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  15. seebofubar

    Remember folks, Burris and Obama come from the same mold. Two peas in a pod.

    May 27, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. KLK

    Do yourself a favor. Just resign already, Roland.

    May 27, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  17. dustbunny

    Hey sniffit
    Are you smoking some high powered stuff today or forget to take your meds?

    May 27, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. jim - chicago, illinois

    I wish I would had known that $1,500 was all it took to be appointed as seantor. I would have gladly written a check, because I'd LOVE to be a senator myself!
    ~~~
    I have met Mr. Burris several times. I used to work in the building where his law office is. He was gracious, engaging, and always had time to stop and talk with me. I thought very highly of him, but now he's nothing more than an embarrassing buffoon. It's time for him to go and for Illinois to end its role as the punchline to a very sick joke.

    May 27, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. Pluto

    Waterboard him. Blago too. I'll look the other way this once, and perhaps we can gather vital data.

    May 27, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  20. sempdog

    Nobody gives a hoot about what Dr. Cockamamie thinks. His opinions are only slightly more respectable than Rush's and his ditto heads will believe almost anything he says.

    May 27, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  21. Frank

    I think this is a reach??? $1,500 for a seat on the Senate???? Where do I sign up???? Also was there a donation made??? If donation was made then is there actually a bribe?? Burris will definately lose the seat in 2010...

    May 27, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. Nathan

    This guy is an embarrassment and is doing exactly what that mophead ex governor wanted to happen which is embarass the party and Obama.

    May 27, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  23. Melissa

    He must think we're all really stupid. The man should never have been seated. We all knew he was guilty of corruption when he was first appointed.

    May 27, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Jefe

    He never cut the check, but he said he was going to. Bye-bye Burris. I was disappointed when we didn't have a special election...

    -Another Democrat who won't put up with corrupt politicians from either party. I'd rather call out a Democrat for wrongdoing, than use one party's wrongdoer to justify the treasonous activities of another (referring to Jimmy the Greek's justification of Cheney's duplicitous actions)

    May 27, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. Kathy

    Well, here we go. The GOP, or whatever you want to call the Republican camp run by 'good old boys', are digging. The circus begins.

    May 27, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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