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Abramoff Scandal
Jodi Rave: Sen. Burns ignored Cobell, tribal issues

"Now, some of Montana's prominent tribal leaders are using the same language to describe Burns' role in representing their tribes and thousands of individual American Indian landowners.

"The senator is from Montana, but has never taken an interest in it," said Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in a case in which a half-million Indian landowners have sued the Interior Department for mismanaging money owed them for natural resource development.

The lawsuit is nearing 10 years of litigation.

The three-term senator, who sits on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, has refused to talk with Cobell on several occasions, she said.

"I've not seen a request from her," Burns said, adding that he generally avoids discussing ongoing litigation.

Even though he once sat next to her on a flight between Minneapolis and Great Falls, the senator told Cobell he didn't want to talk about her case in which the Interior Department has acknowledged more than a century's worth of account mismanagement, according to Cobell.

Burns spent the rest of the flight working on a crossword puzzle, Cobell said.

"If she'd call me and say, 'I want an appointment,' she'd get it," Burns said Monday.

But when Cobell scheduled an appointment in 2003, he sent a staff person in his place, Cobell said. She had hoped to inform Burns about the significance of appropriations legislation that included several anti-Indian riders related to the lawsuit. She was disappointed when she was forced to meet with an aide to the senator.

"This young person was so ignorant to us, it was so bad," Cobell said. "He told me, 'We ought to be charging you for the handling of this money.' I almost jumped across the table.""

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Tribal leaders question Burns' priorities (The Missoulian 1/17)

Relevant Links:
Sen. Conard Burns -
Montana Republican Party -
Montana Democratic Party -

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