Friday, December 16, 2005

Sen. Burns to Return Abramoff-Linked Money

I think it is time for another exciting episode of The Jack Abramoff Show! This is from Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Retreating under fire, Republican Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana said he will return about $150,000 in donations that he received from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his clients and associates.

Democrats have criticized Burns, who is up for re-election next year, for his connection to the lobbyist at the center of a federal probe that has entangled at least a half dozen lawmakers and Bush administration officials. Earlier this week, a spokesman for Burns said the senator would not return the money because it had already been spent.

"The contributions given to my political committees by Jack Abramoff and his clients, while legal and fully disclosed, have served to undermine the public's confidence in its government," Burns said.

Burns' link to Abramoff has created a flurry of headlines in his home state. Burns had a 48 percent approval rating in a November poll conducted by Montana State University-Billings, one of his lowest approval ratings since the university started asking the question.

Senator Conrad Burns, Rep. Montana

Oh dear! It appears that Senator Burns is glowing neon-green from Abramoff's radioactive presence. At first, Burns didn't want to give back the money--would you want to give $150,000 back? That's a nice chunk of change there. But now since Burns is tainted by the Abramoff scandal, his own poll numbers have been dropping in red-state Montana, making him vulnerable to Democratic charges of Republican cronyism. Burns is trying to come clean to save his political skin.

The problem here is that Burns is so entwined in the Abramoff scandal. Continuing on:

In 2001, Burns served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which was considering legislation the Marianas opposed.

On May 23 of that year, Burns voted against a bill in the Senate Energy Committee that would have phased out a nonresident contract worker program benefiting the Marianas' garment industry. The committee approved the bill, but it never saw action on the Senate floor. In 1999, it had moved through the same committee by voice vote without objections from Burns.

Burns' office told The Associated Press that he could not recall why he didn't object to the bill in 1999 but that his opposition in 2001 was prompted by a report indicating changes to immigration laws could hurt the islands' economy. He said it wasn't influenced by Abramoff or any donations.

He also ran a Senate appropriations subcommittee that controlled spending for the Interior Department, which regulates U.S. territories, including the islands, and American Indian programs.

I find it interesting that in 1999, Burns didn't object to the bill, phasing out nonresident contract worker program in the Marianas, but that two years later, his is opposed to the bill. Burns objected to the bill in 2001 due to a report claiming the immigration laws could hurt the island's economy--gee Burns, was that report provided to you by Abramoff and his clients? Where did you get the report, and what did it specifically say to make you object to the bill? Of course, Burns claims his decisions wasn't influenced by Abramoff's campaign contributions. I just have to laugh every time a congressional representative makes that claim. Not only has Burns returned monies back to Abramoff, but also North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan has returned $67,000 in donations to Abramoff.

More to come.

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