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Corruption Chronicles

Blame It On The Media

Feeling the heat and dip in the polls for his strong connection to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) has conveniently blamed the “Eastern liberal press” for all of his troubles as he seeks a fourth term.

As next week’s primary approaches, the 71-year-old veteran Republican senator finds his popularity slipping quickly in a variety of state polls that show him trailing either of the Democratic hopefuls. One poll reveals that only 40% of Montana respondents approved of Burns’ job performance while 56% disapproved, leading a Republican blog to write that you know it’s a sign that something has gone wrong when a Montana U.S. Senate seat is in jeopardy for the Republicans.

Burns supposedly gave all Abramoff-connected donations – about $150,000 – to charity, but has yet to explain a few ties to the convicted lobbyist who is in prison for federal corruption. For instance, some of his former aides worked for Abramoff and two current aides took a trip to the 2001 Super Bowl in the lobbyist’s jet.

Additionally, in 2003 Burns got the Interior Department to make a $3 million grant to a rich, Michigan-based tribal client of Abramoff’s and the lobbyist has said that, over the years, he got every appropriation that he wanted from Burns’ committee.

These incriminating details have perhaps driven Burns to be on good behavior. He recently returned an electronic gift – worth about $300 – from a Political Action Committee (PAC) that represents voters, even though most of his campaign contributions come from the electronic and communications industries.

Burns is a member of a Senate technology committee that regularly deals with legislation concerning information policy issues such as copyright. So, a PAC called Intellectual Property Action Committee sent 12 senators an electronic device as a way to get technology impacted by information policy into the hands of lawmakers creating those policies. The gift was allowed under Senate rules, but a Burns’ spokesman said “it’s just not a donation that we want.

Apparently, the senator prefers cash.


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