CHICAGO - Democratic Sen. Roland Burris, appointed late last year to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, has informed Illinois lawmakers that he did not tell them the complete story about his contacts with close associates of Gov. Rod Blagojevich before he got the job.
The admission came in a sworn affidavit filed quietly by Burris last week with the Illinois House, and it raises questions about the new senator's credibility as he begins to finish the final two years of Obama's term.
"I'm disappointed, and I do feel betrayed," state Rep. Jack Franks, an Illinois Democrat, said yesterday as Illinois' political leadership began to assess the implications of Burris' admission. "He was sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and it's obvious that didn't occur."
Burris was appointed by Blagojevich in December, following the Democratic governor's arrest on federal corruption charges in a case that included allegations of trying to profit from his authority to fill Barack Obama's seat.
Although the entire Senate Democratic caucus joined Republican and Democratic leaders in Illinois in calling on Blagojevich to leave the seat unfilled, he chose Burris, 71, who had lost three races for governor and one for the U.S. Senate. Burris accepted the appointment, and, after some delay, the Senate seated him.
One condition of Burris' seating was that he testify openly and truthfully to the state House committee that was considering the impeachment of Blagojevich. Burris acknowledged in the affidavit that he had left out several key points in that testimony.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who once vowed not to seat Burris but relented at the urging of President Obama and others, is reviewing the affidavit, a Reid spokesman said.
In questioning by lawmakers, Burris said that after July, when he spoke with former Blagojevich deputy Lon Monk, he had had no conversations with anyone close to the governor until one of the governor's lawyers called him on Dec. 26. Blagojevich offered him the job on Dec. 28.
Republican Rep. Jim Durkin asked Burris if he had spoken to associates of Blagojevich, listing six of them by name. Burris conferred with his lawyer and then answered that he had spoken with Monk.
Burris stated in the new affidavit that he had actually spoken with three or four people on the list, including Blagojevich's brother, Rob, and top fundraiser John Wyma. He said he made clear to them that he was interested in the Obama seat.
Rob Blagojevich called him three times - once in October and twice in November - to ask Burris to raise money for the governor, according to the affidavit, news of which was first published yesterday by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Burris said he asked the governor's brother about the Senate appointment but did not offer to raise money. During one of the November calls, he said, "I mentioned the Senate seat in the context of saying that I could not contribute to Governor Blagojevich because it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him."
In the affidavit, Burris also said he neglected to mention that he asked John Harris, the governor's chief of staff, about the Senate seat in an October conversation. He said he called Harris to recommend his nephew for a state job and mentioned the Senate seat at the end.
Harris was arrested and charged with Blagojevich on Dec. 9 in a bribery conspiracy case.
Burris said in the affidavit, which he signed on Feb. 4, that he wanted "to make certain the record is complete." He implied that he might have mentioned the others in his testimony, "but was then asked another question and did not mention anyone else."
The affidavit marks the third version of events offered by Burris.
In an earlier affidavit filed in January, before his testimony, Burris said that he had had no contact "with the Governor or any of his representatives" before late December.
Franks said he will request that Burris return to the Illinois House for questioning.
"It will get bigger until he comes clean and tells us everything," Franks said.
"I was sitting right in the front row, looking right at him. If I had known he'd spoken to each of these people after President Obama had been elected, or around that time, I would have asked a lot more questions."