By Associate Press Writer
updated 5/6/2008 7:29:11 PM ET 2008-05-06T23:29:11

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick tells audiences a funny story about donating to Barack Obama as an Illinois state Senate candidate, yet after a media inquiry, he said Tuesday he can't find proof of any such contribution.

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An Associated Press check of records on file in Springfield, Ill., where Obama served in the Legislature for six years and his campaign committee filed its finance reports, didn't find a donation, and a separate search by Patrick and his campaign staff since last week failed to find any evidence of it.

Nonetheless, Patrick said he remembers writing a $5,000 check to Obama in the mid-1990s, a hefty sum that would have jibed with the punch line of his story, most recently — and most publicly — recounted in a four-paragraph testimonial he penned for Obama in last week's Time magazine. The issue proffered a list of the world's 100 most influential people, including Obama.

"When at last he decided to run for the Illinois Senate, he called to ask for my help and I was eager to give it," Patrick wrote. "'I'll contribute at the max,' I pledged. 'Deval,' he said, 'in Illinois there is no max.' I said, 'Brother, I'm sorry, there has to be a max.'"

The undocumented donation is not the first contribution controversy involving Patrick.

In 2006, the Democrat acknowledged helping to pay for a DNA test for a convicted rapist after previously saying his only involvement in Benjamin LaGuer's bid for freedom was writing supportive letters to the state Parole Board. Patrick, then a wealthy corporate attorney, said he couldn't always remember which causes he supported financially.

Patrick, 51, is an ardent Obama supporter, donating to his presidential campaign and campaigning for him in battleground states. The two black leaders share Illinois ties and use the same Chicago-based political consultant, David Axelrod.

The similarities between them caused a ruffle in February, when the 46-year-old Obama conceded using clauses from speeches Patrick delivered during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign to, as did Patrick, rebut charges his oratorical skills masked a lack of substance or experience.

Patrick later said the two had talked about how to handle the issue.

In a statement about the undocumented state Senate donation, Patrick spokesman Steve Crawford said: "The governor remembers making a donation to Barack Obama's first political campaign. He does not have the canceled check from 15 years ago to document it. Who would?"

The AP inquired about the purported donation last Friday, after failing to find it in a search of online records at the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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