If Roland Burris thought that he might have a few weeks before the transcripts of his call to the Blagojevich Enterprise leaked to the press, he has now discovered the speed of the modern media. A site run in partnership by WGN and the Chicago Tribune got the court order, with the transcript included, and published it last night. The transcript devastates Burris’ claims of innocence:
A transcript of a secretly recorded phone call between the brother of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Roland Burris was released in federal court today, a call in which Burris, then seeking the Senate seat, was recorded offering the Blagojevich campaign a campaign check. …
Burris did not specifically mention offering Blagojevich a check in affidavits he filed in Springfield in connection with hearings on Blagojevich’s impeachment. On a “good will” tour around the state in February, Burris addressed a conversation he had with Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, during the fall timeframe.
“So some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called,” Burris said then. “And now in the meantime, I’d talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fundraiser on. Nobody was — they said we aren’t giving money to the governor. And I said, ‘OK, you know, I can’t tell them what to do with their money.’
“So when the [governor’s] brother called me back, I said, ‘Well, look Rob … I can’t raise any money from my friends. I said, maybe my partner and I, you can talk this over and see, could we go to some other people that we might be able to talk to that would help us out if we give — because we give a fundraiser in the law office, nobody going to show up. We’ll probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect.'”
The new transcript proves Burris lied, and lied a lot, during his sworn testimony. Here’s what Burris actually said to Robert Blagojevich, the impeached governor’s brother:
BLAGOJEVICH: We’ve had a number of conversations about, you know, anything you might be able to do; you and Fred might be able to do here before the end of the year for Rod. Again, we’re trying to get as much as we can in his war chest, ah, so that when he has to, you know disclose in January …
BLAGOJEVICH: … what he’s done and if he, you know looks formidable. … whoever might be out there.
BURRIS: Yeah. Right, right and, and now how do, answer me this question because I’m very much interested in, in trying to replace Obama, okay. Now I …
BLAGOJEVICH: So you, let me just tell you Roland, …
BLAGOJEVICH: … you and 1 million other people.
BURRIS: That’s right, that’s right so …
BLAGOJEVICH: Of every race, color, creed and faith, it’s amazing.
BURRIS: So let, it is and so if I put on a fundraiser now …
BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.
BURRIS: … and, I, you know I, I think it would have something … this is what I’ve been talking to Fred about it, it has so many negative connotations that Burris is trying to buy an appointment …
BURRIS: … from the governor …
BURRIS: … for the Senate seat. I mean and I’m a high-profile person.
BURRIS: You know and, and so, I’m now, ’cause I’ve been just holding off calling you.
BURRIS: I’m trying to figure out how in the hell and since you called me I will be honest with you.
BURRIS: And I’m trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment.
BLAGOJEVICH: I hear ya. No, I hear ya.
BURRIS: 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,
BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.
BURRIS: And if I do get appointed that means I bought it.
BURRIS: 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. I mean, so, Rob, I’m in a, I’m in a, a dilemma right now wanting to help the governor.
BURRIS: I mean I, you know I, I have been with him on all of the, all the issues and I’m now trying to figure out what the hell the best thing to do.
BURRIS: I know I could give him a check.
BURRIS: And, and my law partner we were gonna try to do something at the law firm. I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright.
BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.
BURRIS: Okay, ’cause Tim is not looking for an appointment, okay.
BURRIS: So if I can talk to my law partner who’s been, you know, in New York trying to drum up business.
BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, good for you, …
BLAGOJEVICH: good for you.
BURRIS: ‘Cause you know he’s trying to get a part of that, ah, federal bailout stuff.
BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, yeah, yeah.
There’s much more, all of it bad, and all of it proving that Burris and Robert Blagojevich wanted to build a way for Burris to contribute to the Blagojevich Enterprise without making it look like a purchase of the seat. Burris never says that he was reluctant to hold a fundraiser during the conversation; in fact, he practically begs Blagojevich to allow him to hold one, while repeatedly reminding the governor’s brother of his interest in Obama’s seat.
The coup de grace comes, by the way, when Burris notes that his partner isn’t available for consultations — because he’s trying to feed at the federal bailout trough. Even if Burris hadn’t been bargaining for the Senate seat, wouldn’t that be a huge conflict of interest for Burris now? It provides yet another line of inquiry for the Senate Ethics Committee, although right now it looks like the equivalent of prosecuting Ted Bundy for tax evasion.
Does this force Burris to resign? Supposedly he’s still preparing his 2010 run for the seat Rod Blagojevich apparently sold him. This is likely the last shoe to drop for a while, and Burris might think he could ride this out. Democrats in Illinois know that the longer this drags out, the less likely they will get to hold the seat next year — and perhaps others around the state, as voters wonder who else played Let’s Make a Deal with the Blagojevich Brothers. Dick Durbin and Pat Quinn have already tried on more than one occasion to push Burris out, and I’d expect more to join them now.