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Burris Tried to Raise Funds for Blagojevich; Investigation Launched

A state's attorney in Illinois is investigating whether U.S. Sen. Roland Burris lied in testimony he gave to the state legislature before it impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"The matter is under review by this office," the office of the state's attorney in Sangamon County, Ill., said in a two-line statement Tuesday that noted it had received panel documents from Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.

The news comes after the senator again disclosed fundraising conversations.with the ex-governor's brother. Speaking to reporters in Illinois on Monday night, Burris said the brother, Rob Blagojevich, called him in October on "a routine fundraising call" and asked him if he'd be willing to help the governor raise cash.

Burris said that he asked how much cash he wanted raised and was told $10,000 to $15,000, according to a transcript of Burris' remarks to reporters printed by The Chicago Tribune.

Burris said he couldn't help at the time but told Rob Blagojevich to get in touch later. After President Obama's election, Blagojevich called back and asked again. Burris said he told him no one wanted to contribute to the governor. 

Though Burris insists he never raised money for Blagojevich while the governor was considering whom to appoint to the seat President Obama vacated, the revelation that he had attempted to do so is likely to increase calls for Burris' resignation and an investigation into whether he committed perjury before the panel.

"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 fundraiser in the law office, nobody going to show up. We'll probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect,'" reads the transcript.

Burris then goes on to say that during the October conversation he raised a question about the Senate seat with the governor's brother, but at no other time did they discuss it. 

But right after that, Burris said that in a later conversation, he told him that he and his law partner assessed the situation and Burris told him, "Look, you know, I'm interested in the Senate seat. I can't raise any money for him." 

Those remarks and additional statements by Burris over the last few days have prompted a Democratic state representative to call for the committee that recommended Blagojevich's ouster to reconvene so it can ask Burris to shed more light on his talks with Blagojevich aides. 

Rep. Jack Franks told FOX News he is also asking the U.S. Senate ethics committee to review Burris' less-than-complete testimony to the Illinois House panel and has called on the junior senator to resign in light of a recent admission he spoke with former Blagojevich's aides about his appointment to the seat.

"By not telling us those issues, and by waiting almost a month to file an affidavit, I think he's really opened up more questions than he has answered, and I want him back at our committee so we can ask those questions," Franks said. "I don't think he should have ever accepted the appointment, and I think he should resign."

The idea of the panel reconvening has not picked up steam, however, as Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said any further meeting by the House or any committee on the subject of Burris' testimony "would be inappropriate."

The Senate ethics committee investigates every inquiry. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog, called on the Senate to expel Burris if the committee finds that he lied to Senate leaders when they were considering whether to seat him..

"The evidence suggests Sen. Burris lied under oath when he failed to disclose these contacts earlier. As a result, prosecutors should investigate and see if Sen. Burris can be prosecuted for perjury," the group's executive director, Melanie Sloan, said in a statement.

On Monday, Burris denied that he was trying to dupe the panel when he testified on Jan. 8 about contacts he had with Blagojevich's office over the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Burris filed an affidavit on Feb. 5 amending his testimony and noting that he spoke with six of the former governor's aides and allies, including Rob Blagojevich, who on three different occasions asked him to fundraise for the governor. Burris has said in each instance that he refused. 

Burris explained the omission in his original testimony as a byproduct of his limited time to answer questions. 

The senator has said he welcomes investigations by prosecutors and the Senate ethics panel and has already been in touch with the state's attorney in Springfield.

A reading of the testimony shows Burris had several opportunities to offer Rep. Jim Durkin, the top Illinois House Republican on the panel, an elaboration of his comments. Rep. Jil Tracy also questioned Burris after Durkin and got no additional information despite pointed inquiries.

Franks and Durkin say Burris deliberately misled the committee to ensure that he would be appointed to the Senate seat. He was sworn in Jan. 15. They speculated that the only reason why Burris came clean a month later is that he realized that federal prosecutors had him on tape talking to Blagojevich's brother, Rob.

"His affidavit two days ago said that 'I spoke with Rob Blagojevich because he called me up about raising money, but I would not do it because it was inappropriate.' Now he's even changed from his affidavit," Durkin said. "He should resign, resign, do it quick, let's get this over."

"When I see it in retrospect, there's no reasonable explanation for what Senator Burris did. He knew exactly why he was coming to our committee. He knew what was expected of him and what we wanted to hear," Franks said.

Durkin said he disagrees with Franks' call for Burris to be brought before the impeachment panel, saying that under the Illinois Perjury Statute, individuals who are brought in on a continuing hearing or trial are absolved of criminal prosecution if they admit to a prior false statement.

"I've heard as much as I want to hear from Roland Burris," Durkin said. "Bringing him in ... this gives him an out and that's wrong. We should stop this right now."

Franks said he has sent a request for an ethics committee review to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid's spokesman said no referral has been made to the ethics panel, and the senator was waiting for the Illinois Legislature to look into Burris' testimony. 

FOX News' Steve Brown and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

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