A leading Republican on the Illinois House panel that voted to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he was “cut off” repeatedly by Democrats as he tried to get a full explanation from former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris about a mysterious $1.2 million campaign loan from 2002 that Burris says “is still on the books” and was never paid back.
GOP state Rep. Jim Durkin says the $1.2 million is the single largest campaign contribution in Illinois political history. He tells Newsmax Democrats would not allow him to elicit a detailed explanation from Burris about the unusual debt.
“They were quick to object to my questions,” Durkin says of the Democrats on the panel. “It was quite apparent they were told what to say by party leaders. I’m sure it came from Washington: Let’s make sure [Burris] doesn’t have a difficult time before the committee.”
Records indicate the massive loan to Burris came from Telephone USA Investments, a company owned by Joseph Stroud of Oak Brook, Ill. Stroud also owns Jovon Broadcasting, a television broadcasting company that operates WJYS-TV.
It’s hardly news that Stroud is a major donor to Democrats. Federal election commission records show that in 2003, Stroud donated $12,000 to the Senate campaign of President-elect Barack Obama. In 2006, he gave $100,000 to Blagojevich’s gubernatorial reelection campaign. He also has donated thousands of dollars to Sen. Hillary Clinton and former vice president Al Gore.
Durkin says Democrats were “very sensitive” about questions put to Burris. Durkin first requested that Burris testify, and says Democrats’ attitudes toward the Burris appointment shifted sharply in the 48 hours preceding the testimony.
The transcript of last week’s hearing shows Durkin was interrupted at least eight times, mostly while he was asking Burris about the loan. Several of his questions went unanswered.
Some objections came from Durkin’s fellow committee members, which Durkin says did not occur with other witnesses brought before the committee.
“I just said I wanted to understand the relationship,” Durkin tells Newsmax. “I don’t recall any time in the history of this state where a loan of this size had not been pursued, or was forgiven without anything in writing or any type of dialog about it. I don’t care if you’re Warren Buffet, a million dollars is a million dollars. It just doesn’t seem right.”
Asked by Durkin if Stroud had forgiven the loan, Burris said, “I have not – the campaign committee no longer exists. I have no way of repaying the money, and I’ve not heard one word from Mr. Stroud about anything that is due and owing as a result of that loan.”
Durkin says he was also concerned that Burris testified he had not read the 76-page federal complaint detailing charges that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade the Obama seat.
“Don’t you think you’d want to know if you were going to be appointed senator what the charges were against [Blagojevich]?” Durkin asks, pointing out that Burris is the state’s former attorney general.
Durkin tells Newsmax that he found some of Burris’s responses “very startling,” adding, “With all due respect to Mr. Burris, I’m having a hard time reconciling it. It seems odd. $1.2 million just sort of disappears. But every time I got a couple of questions into it, they cut me off.”
Ironically, the $1.2 million loan came as Burris was running against Blagojevich for governor. The Senate is expected to confirm Burris’ appointment this week.
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