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Home / Hall of Shame / Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)

 Conrad Burns

  • Received substantial contributions from admitted felon and former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Burns received $137,000 in campaign contributions and PAC contributions from Abramoff, his lobbying firm and his Indian clients from 2000 to 2002. These donors contributed 42 percent of the total money received by Burns’ soft-money political action committee over the period. [Washington Post, 3/1/2005]
  • Received substantial contributions from admitted felon and former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Burns received $137,000 in campaign contributions and PAC contributions from Abramoff, his lobbying firm and his Indian clients from 2000 to 2002. These donors contributed 42 percent of the total money received by Burns’ soft-money political action committee over the period. [Washington Post, 3/1/2005]
  • Went to extraordinary lengths to help an Abramoff client. Burns lobbied the Interior Department to allocate $3 million in federal funds set aside for poor tribal schools to the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan in 2003. The tribe, an Abramoff client, was among the wealthiest in the nation due to its casino revenue. Burns’ spokesman said the senator’s effort was to “help these tribes get a leg up and help the children get a good education.” The need for such government help was dubious for the wealthy Saginaw Chippewas, given that each member of the tribe receives an annual $70,000 check. The Interior Department rejected the request because the tribe was not eligible. Burns then performed an end-around the Interior Department’s decision by earmarking the funds in the 2004 appropriations bill. [Washington Post, 3/1/2005 and 3/5/2005]
  • Burns’ staffers received a free trip to the Super Bowl from Abramoff. A Burns’ appropriations subcommittee staffer and Burns’ chief of staff traveled, along with several staffers from the office of then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (T-Texas), to the 2001 Super Bowl in Miami on a SunCruz Casinos corporate jet, compliments of Abramoff. The trip was funded by the casino cruise line, which Abramoff co-owned, raising the specter that the trip violated the ban on lobbyist-funded travel. The appropriations subcommittee staffer, Ryan Thomas, subsequently took the lead in pushing for a $3 million appropriation for schools for the Saginaw Chippewas, Abramoff’s client. [Washington Post, 3/1/2005]
  • Team Abramoff lobbyist took spin through Burns’ revolving door. Shawn Vasell lobbied as part of Team Abramoff on the accounts of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and Coushatta Indian Tribe of Louisiana in 2001. He joined Burns’ staff in 2002, and then went back through the revolving door to rejoin Abramoff’s team as a lobbyist for the tribes in 2003. Vasell was joined by former Burns Chief of Staff Will Brooke as Burns’ alums who became Team Abramoff lobbyists. [Washington Post, 3/1/2005]
  • Earmarks flow through Burns’ revolving door. For nearly a decade, a group of former top aides to Sen. Conrad Burns have successfully used personal and professional connections to Burns, Montana State University’s Burns Technology Center and other institutions associated with him to secure more than $20 million in lobbying fees for themselves, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research contracts, tax breaks and subsidies for their clients. The clients who benefited from the earmarks secured through the Burns revolving door include Microsoft, Intelstat and Lockheed Martin. As chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on communications through the end of 2004 — and as an ongoing member of the Commerce and Appropriations committees — Burns holds significant sway over how the government regulates and aids the telecommunications industry. One such earmark involved a $1 million research grant Burns won for the software firm Compressus. Not only was a former Burns staffer the lobbyist for Compressus, but Burn’s daughter was named to its board of advisors two months later. [Roll Call, 3/8/2006; Congress Daily, 4/24/2006]
  • Mending his ways? After the Abramoff scandals broke, Burns declaed that he would return the Abramoff-related money to Abramoff’s clients or to charity.   In one case, Burns attempted to make a $111,000 donation to the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council but it was rejected by the tribe who said the money was tainted because it originally came from Abramoff and his clients. In Dec. 2005, Burns also signed onto Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) lobbying disclosure reform bill (S. 2128) as the lead cosponsor. [San Jose Mercury News, 1/19/2006]

To keep up to date on these stories and other corruption news, go to our Watchdog Blog.

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