GOP's Durkin: Burris Gave False Testimony

Monday, 16 Feb 2009 02:12 PM

By David A. Patten

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An Illinois state legislator demanding the resignation of Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., tells Newsmax that Burris repeatedly told falsehoods during his sworn testimony in January before the committee that investigated “pay-to-play” corruption scandals against impeached former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“He should resign because of a number of things. He clearly was not truthful before the committee on three different occasions,” GOP state Rep. Jim Durkin tells Newsmax.

Burris initially told the Illinois House impeachment committee in a sworn statement that he had no conversations with anyone close to Blagojevich, prior to being nominated to fill the senate seat that opened up when Barack Obama won the presidency.

On Jan. 8, Burris corrected himself, telling the Illinois House impeachment committee that he did have one conversation expressing interest in the Senate appointment, with former Blagojevich chief of staff Lon Monk. Burris also maintained he was not approached for any favor in return for the Senate seat.

The sworn statement that Burris filed Feb. 5, however, says Burris had six conversations about the Senate seat, including one with Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, who was arrested along with Blagojevich in December.

Burris also now states that he was approached by the then-governor’s brother, Rob Blagojevich, on three occasions “to seek my assistance in fund-raising.” Burris apparently declined to make any contributions, however.

Durkin and other Illinois Republicans are calling for an investigation into whether Burris committed perjury.

When Blagojevich nominated Burris, it appeared the choice would be tainted by federal allegations that Blagojevich had been trying to sell Obama’s seat to the highest bidder.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid initially voiced opposition to the Burris appointment, but later backed down. He set as a condition that Burris exonerate himself in testimony before the Illinois House committee that was investigating Blagojevich’s activities. Burris appeared to do so, and was seated as a U.S. senator.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday that Burris amended his sworn testimony “after contact with federal agents.” Burris’ attorney says his client’s voice “might have been” recorded on wiretaps by federal investigators.

“What prompted him to bring this new affidavit to light, I guess we’ll find out in due time,” Durkin tells Newsmax. “Some newspapers have suggested that Mr. Burris was contacted that he was captured on a wiretap. This may be a way to ‘front’ the issue and be preemptive perhaps, but the fact is we’re coming off the worst scandal in Illinois history.

“At some point in this state,” Durkin adds, “taking an oath has to mean something. Particularly when someone is about to become a member of the U.S. Senate. The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House on a regular basis haul people off to the federal lockup for lying to them. Why should there be a different standard on truthfulness and transparency in Springfield?”

Burris insists he did nothing wrong, and that being caught on federal wiretaps did not trigger the affidavit amending his testimony. Rather, he states he was not given an opportunity at the hearing, which was controlled and carefully managed by his fellow Democrats, to give complete answers.

Durkin dismisses that explanation.

“It’s nonsense for him to say that he wasn’t given the opportunity to fully respond,” Durkin says. “I was there, he was there, a lot people watched the tape and looked at the transcript.”

Durkin said when he first asked that Burris appear before the impeachment committee, the request “was laughed at” by state Democrats, who insisted Burris “was as clean as a whistle.”

During the January testimony, Durkin’s questioning was interrupted at least eight times by Democrats, who appeared determined to protect Burris.

Durkin says he was “floored” when he learned recently from a reporter about the affidavit changing Burris’ testimony.

As the ranking member on the Impeachment Committee, Durkin says he wants an explanation from Illinois Democrats on why the affidavit was kept quiet.

It is unclear how Burris may be affected by the scandal, although it would obviously complicate any bid he might make for reelection in 2010.

Illinois’ current governor, Pat Quinn, a Democrat and a reformer, has asked Burris to explain the conflicts in his testimony. Also, a spokesman for Sen. Reid tells the Sun-Times that the majority leader is “reviewing the affidavit and will await any action by Illinois’ legislative leaders.”

Durkin voiced concerns that Burris’ testimony was not forthcoming about a $1.2 million campaign loan Burris received when he was running for governor. The loan was never paid back.

Durkin says: “He basically avoided my questioning about the source of the loan, why it was never repaid, whether it was forgiven -- which should be a very great concern to anybody.”

The loan is thought to be the single largest campaign contribution in Illinois political history. Records indicate it came from Telephone USA Investments, a company owned by Joseph Stroud of Oak Brook, Ill. Stroud, a major donor to Democratic candidates, also owns Jovon Broadcasting, a television broadcasting firm.

“I just said I wanted to understand the relationship,” Durkin told 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.”

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