Illinois GOP chairman said that a "national embarrassment" could have been avoided if the people of Illinois, not former Gov. Blagojevich, had chosen the state's junior senator.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Jan. 8: Sen. Roland Burris enters the Illinois state Capitol to testify before the House Impeachment Committee on now-former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Illinois GOP Chairman Andy McKenna said U.S. Sen. Roland Burris' appointment was an "embarrassment to the people," hours after Burris claimed he was not guilty of lying to a state House panel.
McKenna issued a statement Sunday evening.
"Today Roland Burris provided an object lesson in why Blagojevich Democrats should have stripped Rod Blagojevich of his appointment powers in December and kept their promise to people of Illinois to hold a special election," he wrote.
Burris' appointment was an "embarrassment to the people of Illinois," McKenna wrote.
"This continuing national embarrassment could have been avoided if Blagojevich Democrats had simply kept their promise to the people of Illinois and allowed them, instead of Rod Blagojevich, to choose Illinois junior Senator."
Earlier Sunday, Sen. Burris said at a press conference that he was not guilty of lying to an Illinois House panel during the impeachment of former Gov. Blagojevich after two House Republicans called for his resignation and for an outside investigation.
"Yes, I had contacts with representatives and friend of the former governor about the Senate appointment. None of it inappropriate," Burris said Sunday.
"I did not donate one single dollar nor did I raise any money or promise any favors for the governor," he said, adding that anyone who suggested otherwise was "playing partisan politics."
Rep. Jim Durkin, the impeachment committee's ranking Republican, and House Republican Leader Tom Cross said Burris had every opportunity to reveal information about his contacts with the former governor's brother-in-law about possible campaign donations, but waited weeks to submit the information rather than divulging the details during testimony under oath.
"Mr. Burris had every opportunity in the world to fully describe his relationship with the governor and the circumstances of his appointment, so I don't buy it," Durkin said.
It's a completely contradictory statement," Cross told FOX News. "Do I think he committed perjury? Yes."
The freshman Democratic senator revealed over the weekend that he filed an affidavit earlier this month with the head of the impeachment committee to amend his testimony by noting that Blagojevich's brother solicited him for campaign funds to the governor's campaign.
"The situation was this: Rob called me in October and as we said in the affidavit, that we would ... I advised him that I can't raise him any money because I am raising money for other candidates, and to call me back after the election," he told reporters Sunday.
"That's what you all are looking at as professionals. Let me say to you as a witness on the stand, I was answering questions that were asked of me," he told reporters, saying that he followed the line of questioning when it went in another direction.
Earlier Sunday Burris issued a statement.
"I wish to supplement my answer with other events that I have been able to recall, to make certain the record is complete. ... I recall that Governor Blagojevich's brother, Rob Blagojevich, called me three times to seek my assistance in fund-raising for Governor Blagojevich," he wrote.
Burris said he declined to do so because it would look like he was trying to win favor.
"I was asked to raise money by the governor's brother and made it unequivocally clear to him that it would be inappropriate and pose a major conflict because I was interested in the Senate vacancy," he told FOX News in a statement.
The disclosure reflects a major omission from his testimony in January. Burris, who entered the Senate the same week he testified at the panel, said he filed the affidavit because he didn't have the opportunity to lay out all the facts during his live testimony, a claim Durkin rejected.
Durkin said the information was evidence withheld by Democrats. Cross said he only learned about the affidavit after reading about it in the news on Saturday, even though the Illinois Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Currie received the affidavit on Feb. 5.
"I think somebody in the Burris camp finally realized that these conversations were probably on tape," Cross said explaining why he thinks the information became public.
The weekend's affidavit was the second time Burris amended himself before the panel. On Jan. 5, he filed an affidavit that said he had just one conversation with the governor's attorney but had not had any contact with the governor or his representatives regarding a possible appointment to the Senate.
But on Jan. 8, Burris testified to the panel that he had more contact -- with the governor's former chief of staff.
Gov. Pat Quinn's office has said the Democratic senator owes an explanation of his seemingly contradictory statements.
Blagojevich was found guilty by the state Senate on Jan. 30. He is still awaiting indictment on charges he tried to sell the seat vacated by President Obama and other pay-to-play allegations.