New scrutiny over Burris Senate nomination

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Roland Burris came under fresh scrutiny on Tuesday after disclosing he tried to raise money for the disgraced former Illinois governor who named him to the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) speaks on the phone while waiting for a Democratic caucus meeting about a compromise deal on President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill at the US Capitol in Washington, February 6, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Michael Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, said he had turned over testimony and records to a county prosecutor in Springfield, the state capital, for review following a series of new disclosures from Burris.

In the latest of those admissions, Burris said he looked into mounting a fundraiser for Rod Blagojevich -- later charged with trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat -- at the same time he was expressing interest to the then-governor’s aides about his desire to be appointed.

Burris said the governor’s brother suggested the fundraiser but Burris told him after the November election that he dropped the idea because he couldn’t find willing donors.

The governor was later accused of trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder, impeached by the legislature and driven from office. Obama, Burris, Blagojevich and Madigan are all Democrats.

Burris has said he neither paid nor promised Blagojevich anything for the appointment. Blagojevich named Burris to succeed Obama on December 30, about three weeks after he was arrested and charged with scheming to try to profit from the seat.

The appointment of Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, was controversial because Blagojevich, facing impeachment, was under pressure by leading fellow Democrats to let his successor make the choice.

The second-term governor was ousted from office on January 29. He has denied wrongdoing and has not been formally indicted.

The Illinois House committee that brought the impeachment charges quizzed Burris extensively about his dealings with Blagojevich, a session demanded by U.S. Senate leaders before they belatedly agreed to seat Burris.

Burris later filed an affidavit with the impeachment committee, made public last weekend, in which he said the governor’s brother had asked him for fundraising help, and detailing other contacts he made with the governor’s aides.

“It’s evident that he wasn’t forthcoming and didn’t tell the whole truth as required by the committee,” State Representative Jack Franks, a Democrat, told Reuters. “I don’t think he ever should have taken the appointment. I think he was complicit with Governor Blagojevich in perpetrating this fraud.

“Now, with these revelations, I think he needs to resign,” Franks said, adding he called on the U.S. Senate to launch an ethics committee investigation of Burris.

Speaking to reporters Monday night, Burris said “I’d talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fundraiser on” after the governor’s brother, Rob, asked him the month before to see if he could raise $10,000 to $15,000.

But, he said people he contacted “aren’t giving any money to the governor” and he told that to the governor’s brother.

Editing by David Wiessler