CHICAGO — Illinois' embattled governor complained through his spokesman Saturday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is guilty of a conflict of interest in that Reid telephoned him in early December to discuss the seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.
Lucio Guerrero, spokesman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said he didn't know firsthand which candidates the Nevada Democrat supported during the call, but said he knows Reid's candidates did not include Roland Burris, the man the governor recently picked for Obama's seat.
Senate leaders have vowed to oppose the appointment of Burris.
"I think the governor believes there is a conflict of interest — that Reid showed he has a horse in the race and Roland Burris wasn't one of them," Guerrero said.
In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Reid spokesman Jim Manley confirmed the majority leader called Blagojevich on Dec. 3 — six days before the governor's arrest on federal corruption charges — to talk about the vacancy. Prosecutors say Blagojevich at the time was trying to peddle Obama's seat in exchange for money or a job in Obama's cabinet.
Manley declined to name the candidates discussed, saying there was "no need to embarrass the people that were subject of the conversation."
Manley added that Reid also spoke to the New York and Colorado governors about openings created when senators from those states accepted Obama administration jobs.
"It is part of his job as majority leader to share his thoughts about candidates who have the qualities needed to succeed in the Senate," Manley said.
Manley said the claim that Reid has a conflict of interest regarding Burris was "absolutely ridiculous."
Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, is expected to be in Washington on Tuesday to ask to be sworn in along with the rest of the Senate. The Democratic leadership is expected to defer the matter to a rules panel until impeachment proceedings against Blagojevich are settled, apparently in hopes that a new governor will appoint someone else.