Burris visits campus, speaks with Chancellor

Amidst controversy surrounding his communications with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, U.S. Senator Roland Burris visited campus Wednesday for the first stop in his two-day downstate tour.

While controversy spread surrounding his communications with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Sen. Roland Burris visited campus Wednesday for the first stop in his two-day downstate tour.

While at the University, Burris met with Chancellor Richard Herman at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts before touring the Soybean Research Laboratory and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, said Mike Lillich, the assistant director for the Office of University Relations.

Burris ended his tour of campus with a mini-press conference, before departing for Decatur.

“It was a pretty busy scene up there,” Lillich said. The Senator answered questions about the Nov. 13 phone transcript of a conversation between he and Rob Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother.

The press conference was the second time that day Burris had to answer questions about the phone transcript, as he had spoken to WGN on Wednesday morning before leaving Chicago. Burris used the opportunity to assert his innocence after the transcript was revealed on Tuesday.

“If you look at my whole record and my ethics, what I come to the conclusion was that I could not raise any money for the governor,” Burris said to WGN Wednesday morning. “But I also was supportive of the governor and you could see in my conversation … that, you know, I did not want to do anything that would give the implication of impropriety.”

The transcripts indicated that Burris was interested in both raising money for the former governor and being appointed to Obama’s then-vacant Senate seat. It Is not clear whether those two interests were related in a “pay-to-play” scandal.

Early in the conversation, Rob Blagojevich said that he and Burris already “had a number of conversations about anything you might be able to do … before the end of the year for Rod.”

Burris responded that since he was interested in the Senate seat, any fundraising for Blagojevich “would have so many negative connotations, that Burris is trying to buy an appointment from the Governor for the Senate seat.”

Burris then tossed around ideas of subtle ways he could “help the governor”, including writing a check in the name of his law partner and hooking on to fundraisers hosted by others.

At the end of the conversation, Burris said “Ok, Ok, well we, we, I, I will personally do something, and it’ll be done before the 15th of December.”

Though he had donated $1,000 to Gov. Blagojevich in June, Burris denied ever having given the former governor anything after the Nov. 13 conversation.

“After I hung up the phone I said I can’t even do that,” Burris said to WGN. “That was on November 13th. I didn’t give him any money and I didn’t raise any money.”

However, pay-to-play is not the only allegation against Burris’, as he also faces a perjury investigation.

His sworn affidavit to the Illinois House impeachment committee stated that prior to Dec. 26, he hadn’t spoken to a Blagojevich representative about being appointed to the Senate. Also, when asked by the committee if he had contact with any Blagojevich representative he failed to mention the Nov. 13 phone call.

Cullen Manning, senior in psychology and political science at the University, wasn’t thrilled with Burris’ visit to campus this soon after the allegations against him.

“I think that it’s probably a poor choice for the University to have somebody who could possibly have those type of allegations charged against them,” Manning said. “To be fraternizing with them it seems quite inappropriate I would guess.”

Burris told The Associated Press on Thursday that he will reveal whether or not he will run for a full Senate term in the “very near future”.