Just days before being booted from office, Blagojevich ignored recommendations from state and federal leaders, and named former state Comptroller and Attorney General Roland Burris, 71, to Illinois' vacant U.S. Senate seat.
U.S. District Chief Judge James Holderman approved the release of the federal wiretap Tuesday. The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee, which is investigating Burris, requested the tape and will be able to review it.
The conversation took place before the impeached Illinois governor named Burris to the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama.
Burris testified before the Blagojevich impeachment committee that he didn't promise Blagojevich anything in return for the seat. However, Burris' lawyer told the Sun-Times that despite the promise to write a check to the Blagojevich campaign, he never followed through.
“Sen. Burris, as he said, decided he couldn’t send a check because it wouldn’t look good,” attorney Timothy Wright told the Sun-Times.
Burris has been under intense scrutiny because of the circumstances of his appointment by the disgraced former governor and for changing his story multiple times about whether he promised anything in exchange.
The Senate Ethics Committee has begun a preliminary investigation. The Sangamon County State's Attorney is determining whether perjury charges are warranted.
The material consists of a conversation between Burris and the impeached governor's brother, businessman Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund.
Rod Blagojevich is charged with scheming to trade or sell the seat and using the political muscle of his office to squeeze people for campaign money. Robert Blagojevich is under indictment along with his brother and a number of other members of the ousted governor's inner circle.
Both Blagojevichs have denied any wrongdoing.
A political consultant for Burris didn't seem fazed by the tape's release.
"We welcome the (release of the) tape," said Delmarie Cobb.
Cobb said making the tape public will show that Burris did not offer to raise money for the scandal-plagued ex-governor, and that he did not change his story regarding his efforts to be appointed to the Senate.
Burris' lawyer agreed.
"The truth is coming out. We think it helps to vindicate the senator," Wright said, according to Trib reporter Jeff Coen.