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Abramoff Scandal
Sen. Burns having a hard time shaking Abramoff

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Montana) is having a hard time distancing himself from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a lot of it has to do with Burns' own actions.

Burns blamed the media for reporting that he is part of the federal investigation into Abramoff. But a former staffer confirmed that he has been contacted by the Department of Justice and Burns said he has no way of knowing whether he is or isn't being scrutinized.

Burns stayed in the news last week after Jodi Rave of The Missoulian and other outlets reported that he was throwing a birthday bash/fundraiser at a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. The firm -- Cassidy & Associates -- happens to be the one that hired Abramoff after he was forced to resign from Greenberg Traurig. Abramoff no longer works there and Burns has decided to move his celebration.

But Burns ties to lobbyists and Abramoff remain. His campaign manager is Mark Baker, a former staffer who is now a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry. Baker's clients also include the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the S&K Technologies, a tribal enterprise.

As part of his re-election campaign, Burns sent out a packet of information detailing his work for Montana. But the packet included a column by Peter Ferrara, a writer who admitted he was paid by Abramoff to write favorable columns about Abramoff's clients and interests.

The column was about the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory and former client of Abramoff's. Burns met with a Marianas official and changed his position about a bill affecting the islands around the same time as he accepted a $5,000 donation, the Associated Press reported.

Get the Story:
Burns packet includes column by paid-off writer (The Billings Gazette 1/21)
Island official tied to lobbyist met with Burns (The Billings Gazette 1/21)
Burns' campaign chairman also a telecom lobbyist (The Great Falls Tribune 1/22)
Senator faces battle in Montana over Abramoff ties (AP 1/22)

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

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