MAY 27, 2009
The politician who replaced Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate is heard on an FBI wiretap, unsealed by a federal judge this week, offering to bribe the corrupt governor who appointed him.
The recording proves that Senator Roland Burris lied in sworn testimony to the Illinois House impeachment panel investigating former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was criminally indicted for operating a massive bribery scheme in which he sold the influence of his office, lucrative state jobs and contracts to the highest bidders. Federal prosecutors say he also tried to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat.
In the November 2008 conversation with Blagojevich’s brother Burris, a former Illinois comptroller and attorney general, repeatedly expresses worry that donating money to the governor or holding a fundraiser would make it look as if he was “trying to buy an appointment.”
He tells Blagojevich’s brother: "If I do get appointed that means I bought it. If I don’t get appointed then my people who I’m trying to raise money from are gonna look at me, yeah, what, what’s that all about Roland." The veteran Democrat politician goes on to suggest that he could perhaps conceal the donations by making them in his attorney’s name even though it’s illegal to do it in Illinois.
Burris initially said that he had no contact with Blagojevich prior to being appointed to the Senate in late December, but his story has changed several times over the months. Shortly after lying to fellow lawmakers investigating the scandal, Burris contradicted his own sworn affidavit by admitting he did in fact try to raise cash for Blagojevich before the disgraced governor appointed him.
The admission and subsequent amended versions of the facts led Illinois’ largest newspaper to call for his resignation in an editorial pointing out that Burris has no credibility. Several other major newspapers around the nation have since called for his ouster.
Another high-profile Illinois politician is also under federal investigation for trying to buy the same Senate appointment. Jesse Jackson Jr. is under a Justice Department and Office of Congressional Ethics probe for his involvement in the scandal and is mentioned in Blagojevich’s criminal complaint.
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