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Abramoff Scandal
Abramoff still an issue for Montana politicians


Montana is a long way from Washington, D.C., and the scandal involving Jack Abramoff but the disgraced lobbyist is still playing a role in Montana politics.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Montana) returned $150,000 in Abramoff-related donations after being hammered by Democrats and the press. One in-state newspaper called for him not to seek re-election this year.

The Montana Democratic Party has now asked the Senate Ethics Committee to clarify whether Burns is part of the Department of Justice's investigation of Abramoff. If not, the Democrats want the committee to investigate Burns.

But Montana Republicans are seizing on connections that Democrats have to Abramoff. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) and the Montana Democratic Party returned $24,000 in Abramoff-related donations earlier this week as did Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Montana). Baucus is also reimbursing the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a former Abramoff client, for a fundraiser.

The lawmakers returned the money they received from former tribal clients of Abramoff to the tribes. Burns gave the money he received from Abramoff to an unnamed Native charity. Baucus is giving his Abramoff cash to the seven tribal colleges in Montana. Rehberg is donating his Abramoff money to domestic violence centers on the Fort Peck Reservation and the Fort Belknap Reservation.

Meanwhile, Burns has signed on as a co-sponsor to lobbying reform legislation that was introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, last week.

Get the Story:
Abramoff gifts gone, but debate remains (The Great Falls Tribune 12/21)
Baucus, Demos giving Abramoff funds to charity (The Helena Independent Record 12/20)
Burns signs on to McCain lobbying legislation (AP 12/20)

Relevant Links:
Sen. Conard Burns - http://burns.senate.gov
Montana Democratic Party - http://www.montanademocrats.org

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Another Republican returns Abramoff donations (12/19)
Burns to return $150K in Abramoff donations (12/16)
Editorial: Burns should return Abramoff donations (12/15)
Burns already spent donations from Abramoff (12/14)
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