PI Original Josh Kalven Saturday February 14th, 2009, 12:18pm

Burris' Idea Of "Flying Colors" (UPDATED)

After appearing before the House impeachment committee on January 8, Roland Burris told the press that he had passed with "flying colors," adding: "I have nothing to hide." It's hard not to look back on those words and laugh after reading this revelation ...

After appearing before the House impeachment committee on January 8, Roland Burris told the press that he had passed with "flying colors," adding: "I have nothing to hide."  It's hard not to look back on those words and laugh after reading this revelation from the Sun-Times today:

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post -- something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show. [...]

Burris acknowledged having three conversations with Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund -- and one of those was likely recorded by the FBI. [...]

In his new affidavit, Burris confirms he also spoke of his interest in the Senate appointment with Blagojevich insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma.

Below is a video clip from the impeachment hearing in which State Rep. Jim Durkin questions Burris about contacts with the governor's staff prior to Blagojevich's arrest.  Durkin specifically asks about Harris, Wyma, and the governor's brother.  In retrospect, Burris' answer is telling.  Rather than denying having spoken to those individuals, he says, "I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes."  When pressed by Durkin, he discloses the contact with Lon Monk in September.  Of course, Durkin moves on without asking the obvious follow-up question: "Did you speak with any other aides or confidantes of the governor?"  And Burris gets away without ever really answering the original question.  Watch it:

So what prompted Burris to send this new affidavit -- containing his third version of events -- to the House impeachment chair Barbara Flynn Currie?  Firedoglake's Marcy Wheeler raises one likely scenario:

I'm wondering, too, whether in the interim Burris didn't have a visit with Patrick Fitzgerald's folks about what got caught on the FBI's tapes?

Frankly, we're less concerned with why this information is coming out now -- three weeks after he was sworn in as Illinois junior senator -- than with the fact he chose to keep it under wraps in the first place.  We're talking about at least six previously undisclosed conversations in the months leading up to Blagojevich's arrest.  We're talking about numerous discussions surrounding fundraising.  At the time of his testimony, these disclosures would have almost certainly concerned Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, who were then on the fence about whether to seat Burris. 

You won't hear us agree with Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno very often on this site, but we have to second this statement:

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said Burris' new statement regarding his contact with Blagojevich's emissaries represents a "fatal wound" to a potential 2010 Burris re-election bid.

Burris was already a weak candidate.  After this revelation, it's hard to imagine how he's a candidate at all in 2010.

UPDATE: The Sun-Times has more on the fallout from Burris' affidavit:

State Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) said Saturday that the Sangamon County state prosecutor‚s office will be asked to review Burris‚ Jan. 8 sworn testimony before the House panel to determine whether Burris (D-Ill.) perjured himself.

"I don't trust anything that comes out of Roland Burris‚ mouth or from his pen," Durkin said. [...]

In all, Burris expressed interest in the Senate seat to five people in Blagojevich's camp, documents obtained by the Sun-Times show. He disclosed just one of those contacts when asked Jan. 8 by state Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) during the impeachment hearings to name any contact he had with Blagojevich's people about the seat.

"I'm very surprised he didn't make these disclosures," Durkin said. "I don't know if Mr. Burris was purposely being evasive during the committee or had selected memory issues."

What we do know is that Durkin and his colleagues should have paid closer attention to Burris' answers during the January 8 hearing and asked better follow-up questions. 

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