So what to make of the transcript of that phone call, released earlier this week, between Roland Burris and Robert Blagojevich, brother of the disgraced former Illinois governor?
The crux of the conversation — which took place in mid November, before the then-governor’s arrest — involves Burris explaining to Blagojevich frere that he’d very much like to hold a fundraiser for the governor and otherwise help him politically, and is also interested in being named to Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. But he’s afraid of how things would look if he raised money for Blago, then got the Senate appointment. So he mulls organizing a fundraiser “in the name of” his law partner, for appearances’ sake.
Here’s the key excerpt from the transcript:
BURRIS: And I’m trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment.
BLAGOJEVICH: I hear ya. No, I hear ya.
BURRIS: And, and if I do that I guarantee you that, that will get out and people said, oh, Burris is doing a fundraiser and, and then Rod and I both gonna catch hell,
BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.
BURRIS: And if I do get appointed that means I bought it.
BURRIS: If I don’t get appointed then my people who I’m trying to raise money from are gonna look at me, yeah, what, what’s that all about Roland. I mean, so, Rob, I’m in a, I’m in a, a dilemma right now wanting to help the governor.
BURRIS: I mean I, you know I, I have been with him on all of the, all the issues and I’m now trying to figure out what the hell the best thing to do.
BURRIS: I know I could give him a check.
BURRIS: And, and my law partner we were gonna try to do something at the law firm. I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright.
BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.
BURRIS: Okay, ‘cause Tim is not looking for an appointment, okay.
In terms of the narrow conversation at hand, there are two ways to look at it: the more charitable one, which Burris himself has been putting out in recent days, is that the conversation shows Burris never made any explicit quid pro quo with Team Blago. Doing things like asking one’s law partner to hold a fundraiser for an elected official to whom you want to show support is just how politics works. And the fundraiser never happened.