Burris Denies Offering to Help Blagojevich

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Sen. Roland Burris said Wednesday he did
not tell an Illinois House impeachment committee that he promised
to help then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign while also pushing for
a Senate appointment because, like any good lawyer, he did not want
to volunteer information he was not asked about.

Burris, 71, told The Associated Press on Wednesday it never
occurred to him he should have told lawmakers in January about his
conversation with the former governor's brother, Robert
Blagojevich, about both the empty seat and raising money for the
governor.

"You're being asked questions and one thing you don't do is to
try to volunteer information that wasn't asked," Burris said at a
union hall in Decatur. "There was no obligation there."

Burris said he did not consider informing members of the
committee afterward. "Why would I in hindsight turn around and
say, 'I shoulda, shoulda, shoulda?"'

On newly released wiretaps, Burris tells Robert Blagojevich that
he would like the appointment to the Senate seat vacated by
President Barack Obama. But he says it would look bad for him to
raise money directly, so he promises to personally write a check
and take other actions to help the campaign.

"Tell Rod to keep me in mind for that seat, would ya?" Burris
says in the Nov. 13 telephone conversation with Robert Blagojevich
which was secretly wiretapped by the FBI.

The transcript of the wiretapped conversation was released
Tuesday after U.S. District Chief Judge James F. Holderman approved
making it available to the U.S. Senate ethics committee for its
preliminary investigation of Burris's appointment.

Burris said he never wrote any checks to the Blagojevich
campaign following the conversation. The wiretap proves there was
no "pay to play" involved in his appointment, he said.

Burris said he talked with Robert Blagojevich, who was chairman
of the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign committee, about
fundraising because he felt he had to if he wanted to be considered
for the Senate seat.

Even then, Burris said, he knew he could not raise money for Rod
Blagojevich without creating the appearance he bought the seat.

"Here I am wrestling with this situation," Burris said
Wednesday. "How do I help the governor? How do I not offend the
governor's brother?"

Burris has been under intense scrutiny since he was appointed by
the now-ousted governor at the end of December, and for changing
his story multiple times about whether he promised anything in
exchange for it.

The conversation took place about three weeks before Rod
Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on charges of scheming to sell or trade
Obama's Senate seat 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.

While his answers to questions about his appointment may be
lawyerly - Burris was once Illinois' attorney general - Burris said
he is not manipulating the facts to strengthen his case.

"I'm not splitting hairs, I'm not walking a crooked line," he
told the AP. "I'm as straightforward and honest as I can be."

He insisted honesty was the chief qualification that won him the
appointment.

"They reached out to somebody who was clean," Burris said.
"He was looking for somebody who would give him some cover."

Burris said he has not decided whether to run in 2010 to keep
his Senate seat, but plans to make a decision in the next month.

Political observers say Burris' justifications aside, there's no
recovery for his image.

"If anything, the tapes confirm the position he was in," said
David Bositis, senior political analyst with the Joint Center for
Political and Economic Studies.

"Nothing Burris did or does was going to change his
prospects," Bositis said. "Even if he kept his nose to the
grindstone and worked hard and so forth, that wasn't going to make
a difference."


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