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Keeping Tabs on Burris’ Tale: A New Timeline

 As the truth behind the Roland Burris saga drips out, we continue to fill-in our “Burris Timeline,” detailing his contacts with allies of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Since we first posted the timeline last week, two investigations have been launched into Burris and yet another Blagojevich administration official admitted to talking with Burris about the Senate seat before the former governor appointed him. Burris has not disclosed these conversations, despite being offered numerous opportunities by reporters and state lawmakers.

At first, Burris claimed he’d had no contact with Blagojevich or his representatives before being offered the seat in late December. But he later admitted to sharing his interest in the Senate job in August or September with Blagojevich’s former chief of staff.

Then, courtesy of an affidavit (PDF) Burris quietly filed in early February, we had a new revelation last week: Before Blagojevich appointed Burris to the Senate, Blagojevich’s brother on three occasions asked Burris to raise money for the governor. In the affidavit, Burris claimed he rejected Blagojevich’s fundraising request so as to not give the impression of a quid pro quo. But just last week, Burris made another important disclosure to reporters: While actively seeking appointment to the Senate, Burris attempted (unsuccessfully) to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich.

In a previous sworn affidavit and in testimony before an Illinois House of Representatives panel, Burris did not disclose these conversations with Blagojevich’s brother or contacts he had with several other Blagojevich associates. These omissions came even though one state lawmaker specifically asked Burris whether he spoke to Blagojevich’s brother and the other associates.

At a press conference on Feb. 15, Burris said, “At no time did I ever make any inconsistent statement.”

Is Illinois’ newest senator telling the truth?

We’ve assembled the timeline of Burris’ conversations with Blagojevich’s allies – and Burris’ evolving acknowledgements of those conversations – so you can decide for yourself:

June 27, 2008: Burris attends a Blagojevich fundraiser and donates $1,000 to the governor—his last contribution to Blagojevich. (As we documented earlier, Burris, his lobbying firm and his law firm have donated more than $20,000 to Blagojevich since 2002.) At the fundraiser, Burris asked Doug Scofield, Blagojevich’s former deputy governor, and John Wyma, a longtime Blagojevich adviser turned lobbyist, to tell the governor that he was interested in being appointed to replace Barack Obama in the Senate. (Burris’ Feb. 4, 2009 affidavit).

Burris did not disclose this conversation in his first affidavit or before the House panel.

Early October 2008: Blagojevich’s brother, Rob Blagojevich, asks Burris to help raise funds for the governor. Burris then asks Rob Blagojevich “what was going on with the selection of a successor if then-Senator Obama were elected president?” (Burris’ Feb. 4, 2009 affidavit).

(Rob Blagojevich, according to his lawyer, did not know about Burris’ interest in the Senate seat until after this conversation).

Burris’ attorney, Timothy Wright, acknowledged at the Feb. 15 press conference that the FBI may have secretly recorded one of Burris’ conversations with Rob Blagojevich.

Burris did not disclose this conversation in his first affidavit or before the House panel.

November 2008: Rob Blagojevich calls Burris twice more about raising money for the governor. Burris told Rob Blagojevich that he could not contribute to his brother, “because it could be viewed as an attempt to curry favor with him regarding his decision to appoint a successor to President Obama.” (Burris’ Feb. 4, 2009 affidavit).

But in talking to reporters last week, Burris said he had “talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fund-raiser on. Nobody was—they said we aren’t giving money to the governor.”

Rob Blagojevich, Burris said, had asked him to raise $10,000 or $15,000.

“So when the 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 fund-raiser in the law office, nobody going to show up. We’ll probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect.’”

Burris never held that fundraiser or made any such contributions.

October/November 2008: Burris talks to John Harris, Blagojevich’s chief of staff. (Harris is now Blagojevich’s co-defendant in a federal corruption case.) Burris had called Harris to recommend his nephew for a state job. At the end of the conversation, Burris broached the subject of the vacant Senate seat. Harris told Burris there was no news to report. (Burris’ Feb. 4, 2009 affidavit).

Burris did not disclose this conversation in his first affidavit or before the House panel.

And this was only one of four conversations Burris had with Harris, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report. The FBI likely recorded one of these conversations on a secret wiretap, the Sun-Times reported. In the Feb. 4 affidavit, Burris acknowledged only one conversation with Harris.

Dec. 16: Burris asks a former top Blagojevich administration official, John Filan, to put in a “good word” with then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who eventually replaced Blagojevich as governor. Filan, who’s a longtime friend of Quinn, said he never made the call. (Chicago Tribune report).

(Burris and Filan also had an earlier conversation in the fall, Filan told the Tribune. Burris called to give Filan a “heads-up” that he was going to announce his interest in the Senate job.)

Burris has failed to acknowledge to lawmakers or the public any contact he had with Filan.

December 30, 2008: Blagojevich appoints Burris to the Senate.

January 5, 2009: Burris sends his original affidavit (PDF) to the Illinois House panel. Burris’ affidavit said that prior to late December, “there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Gov. Blagojevich or any of his representatives regarding my appointment to the United States Senate.”  (Burris’ Jan. 4, 2009 affidavit).

January 6, 2009: Senate leaders refuse to seat Burris. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Burris must testify before the House panel before being seated.

January 8, 2009: Burris testifies (PDF) under oath before the panel.

A member of the panel, Republican state Rep. Jim Durkin, asked Burris whether he talked to any Blagojevich staffers or anyone closely related to the governor, including family members or lobbyists connected with him. Durkin then specified Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, John Wyma, Lon Monk and John Harris.

After conferring with his attorney off-mic, Burris said, “I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes.” Burris went on to say that he had expressed interest in the Senate seat to Blagojevich’s former chief of staff, Lon Monk, in July or September. At the time, Monk was a state lobbyist.

Burris did not mention any of his conversations with Rob Blagojevich, Scofield, Wyma Harris or Filan. (For the full exchange, see here.)

As we reported last week, Republican state Rep. Jil Tracy later asked Burris: “So you don’t recall that there was anybody else besides Lon Monk that you expressed that interest to at that point?

“No, I can’t recall,” Burris replied.

Tracy gave Burris one last chance to come clean at the January hearing, asking him, “Is there anybody that comes to mind in that light?”

Burris recalled that a man from New Jersey contacted him, but didn’t specify anyone else. “I can certainly give you a few names, but I can’t give you the thousands of people who were involved in this.”

January 15, 2009: Dick Cheney swears in Burris as Illinois’ junior senator. 

February 4, 2009: Burris files another affidavit with the panel. He now admits to talking to Rob Blagojevich, Wyma, Scofield and Harris before being appointed to the Senate. Asked later why he filed a second affidavit, Burris told reporters that he’d realized his testimony before the House panel was incomplete after reading a transcript of it.

February 14, 2009: The Chicago Sun-Times nabs a Valentine’s Day exclusive, revealing the existence of Burris’ new affidavit. The document had not previously been made public because Barbara Flynn Currie, the chairwoman of the impeachment panel and a Democrat, said she received the affidavit but had not read it or shared it with the committee.

February 15, 2009: Burris holds a press conference to say he never lied about his conversations with Blagojevich’s allies. “Throughout my career, I’ve always conducted myself with honesty and integrity.”

Burris also acknowledged, however, that federal agents have contacted his lawyers to discuss his appointment to the Senate. “They want to meet with me,” Burris said.

Illinois Republican leaders call for a criminal investigation into whether Burris perjured himself before the House panel.

February 17, 2009: The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee launched a preliminary ethics inquiry into Burris after a local state’s attorney opened a criminal perjury investigation.

February 20, 2009: Burris’ recently chosen chief of staff quits, and Gov. Quinn calls for him to resign. All in all, it was a rough day for Burris.

February 21, 2009: Federal authorities interview Burris for several hours as part of the ongoing Blagojevich investigation. He has been informed he is not a target of the probe, sources told the Tribune.