U.S. Senate appointee Roland Burris told the House Impeachment Committee on Thursday there was absolutely no kind of deal between him and Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Burris was subpoenaed to testify Wednesday, but delayed his appearance until after he traveled to Washington to try to be seated as Illinois' newest senator. In a scene of pure political theater, he was turned away, but the mood later turned more conciliatory, after he met with Democratic leaders.
After he was sworn in before the committee, Burris was asked if he'd read the federal corruption complaint against Blagojevich. Burris said he had not, and added that he hasn't had a conversation with Blagojevich since the press conference announcing his appointment on Dec. 30.
With frequent whispers in his ear from his attorney, Burris answered most of the questions put to him, sometimes referring to the affidavit he filed with the committee earlier this week, and other times artfully dodging them.
Many of the questions centered around his work as a lobbyist and consulting firm, which had some contract work with the state. Burris told the committee he has resigned all of his lobbying registrations, and only ever had "small contracts" with Illinois.
Rep. Jim Durkin said Burris was the recipient of the single largest contribution that was made to a campaign in Illinois history, and the company that made it also contributed to Blagojevich.
"Telephone USA Investments made a $1.2 million contribution to Burris in the 2002 campaign. The only other person to receive a contribution from Telephone USA Investments ever was Rod Blagojevich," Durkin said.
Durkin said the company was run by a man named Robert Stroud. Burris countered, saying Stroud made a loan and not a contribution to the Burris campaign, and that loan is still outstanding.
"I have no other relationship with what Mr. Stroud does with his money," Burris said.
Burris said the campaign committee no longer exists, and he has no way to repay the money. He said he hasn't heard "a word" from Mr. Stroud about the money.
After Burris was dismissed, the committee took a short break and immediately began voting on whether to recommend impeaching the governor.