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The History of Jack Abramoff and Montana US Senator Conrad Burns--Election Donations, Senate Bills and Pacific Islands

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Whitefish, MT--Breaking up is so hard to do.

First Montana Republican US Senator Conrad Burns said he didn't much remember Jack Abramoff, but Burns did seem to remember Abramoff well enough to wish that Abramoff had never been born. [2]

Then, Abramoff, in a Vanity Fair Magazine article said, "..."Any important Republican who comes out and says they didn't know me is almost certainly lying." [5]

That was followed with a volley aimed directly at Burns: "Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns's committee] we got. Our staffs were as close as they could be. They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria. I mean, it's a little difficult for him to run from that record." [6]

With such startling differences in stories, it reads like a National Examiner expose. However, it has now gotten even more convoluted, because now Jack Abramoff's friends are starting to jump in. The Whitefish, Montana Pilot on November 1, 2006 published a letter from Monty Warner, who says he's a friend of convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff. In the letter Warner says that Abramoff was widely said in Washington, D.C. to "exhibit implicit control" over Conrad Burns and his staff on matters Abramoff wished to push through the Senate. [4] When fully confirmed, it will be an interesting additional data point, but it's not nearly the most important information, because it only confirms what is already very well known. [18] What is important is that a huge body of previously published evidence supports citizens' concerns about the links between Conrad Burns [1] and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff [2], and the Whitefish Pilot letter does mirror the Jack Abramoff Vanity Fair statement. [Story list number is shown in brackets.]




For a chronology of the Burns/Abramoff connection, complete with a summary of news stories and the links to those stories, please follow the rest of the article below:


Major News Story Threads
Links and summaries are found below in the Numbered Sections below:

1. Boston College Jurist News and Legal Research:
Abramoff felony sentencing and other law related reports

2. New York Times:
Abramoff/Burns Archive: New York Times articles that reference both Abramoff and Burns.

3. Billings Gazette:
Abramoff friend describes Burns staff's ties to lobbyist.

4. Whitefish Pilot:
November 1, 2006: Letter from Monty Warner: GOP media consultant.

5. Seattle Times:
Lobbyist [Abramoff] tells magazine that top Republicans who deny knowing him aren't being truthful.

6. Vanity Fair:
Jack Abramoff "Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns' committee] we got. Our staffs were as close as they could be. They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria. I mean, it's a little difficult for him to run from that record."

7. FoxNews.com:
Senator Burns to Return $150,000 from Lobbyist Abramoff

8. USNews.com:
Tester Claims Burns directed favors to those who hired former staffers

9. Missoulian: Review unearths more problems at UM space program:
Program staffers said expected to contribute to Burns reelection campaign

10. Seattle Times:
Montana is unlikely front in battle for the Senate

11. Missoulian:
Marianas / Burns voted against bill to strengthen immigration oversight after receiving donation

12. International and Comparative Law Review, Boston College School of Law: SOLVING WORKER ABUSE PROBLEMS IN THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS

13. Alternet.org:
Destroying Paradise for Profit

14. Ms. Magazine:
Paradise Lost:
Greed, Sex Slavery, Forced Abortions and Right-Wing Moralists

15. Washington Post:
A 'Petri dish' in the Pacific; Conservative Network Aligned with DeLay Makes Marianas a Profitable Course Washington Times: Abramoff-linked probe focuses on 5 lawmakers

16. Washington Times:
Abramoff-linked probe focuses on 5 lawmakers

17. Washington Post:
Unraveling Abramoff: Key Players in the Investigation of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff

18. Revenge served cold? Mad blogger? Karl Rove two-step? Most likely it is, as confirmed by the Billings Gazette and as Warner states, a serving of cold revenge for Conrad's statement that he wished Abramoff had never been born. Warner goes on to say that he feels that shows what kind of a human being Conrad Burns really is and says that, in spite of his being a Republican, that Burns's seat is one he will not be sorry to see change parties.

19. FireBurns.info:
Conrad Burns, Abramoff, and other Lobbyists:
A Timeline....2000-2006



1. Record of News Stories about Abramoff Legal Woes and His Multiple Convictions in March 2006.

Lobbyist Abramoff sentenced to almost 6 years prison for fraud
March 29, 2006 [JURIST] Wire services are reporting that a federal judge in Florida has sentenced former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] to five years and 10 months in prison on two conspiracy and fraud charges stemming from falsification of....


2. New York Times stories referencing both Abramoff and Burns

click here


3. Abramoff friend describes Burns staff's ties to lobbyist
Billings Gazette, October 31, 2006-10-31

Record of News Stories about Abramoff Legal Woes and His Multiple Convictions in March 2006


Gazette State Bureau
HELENA - A Republican media consultant and friend of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff recently wrote a letter to a Montana newspaper saying Burns' staff ate so many free meals at Abramoff's restaurant, people joked they would have "starved to death" without the lobbyist.

"Frankly, it was widely viewed in D.C. that Mr. Abramoff effectively exerted implicit control over Mr. Burns whenever he and his team needed to get something accomplished," reads the letter, which was sent to the Whitefish Pilot last week.

The letter is expected to run in the Pilot's Thursday edition....

Warner said he is a friend of Abramoff's,... [and]... said he is disturbed by Burns' consistent portrayal that Abramoff and his staff were far removed from Burns and his Senate employees.

"To sit there and rewrite the entire context of what occurred," Warren said. "How is it that you received the money you received and the favors you received? He's just not being honest."


4. Letter to the Editor from Mark Warner, Abramoff Friend and Republican Media Consultant
Whitefish Pilot, November 1, 2006

"I am a good friend of the now universally known lobbyist Jack Abramoff and worked with him on occasion in Washington.

"I have seen some of the comments your Sen. Conrad Burns has offered about Mr. Abramoff and feel compelled to set the record straight so the people of Montana know the truth.

"First, Mr. Abramoff always went out of his way to be accommodating and supportive of Mr. Burns. Mr. Burns gladly and readily welcomed Mr. Abramoff's support in this regard, and it was clear he often encouraged it.

"Mr. Burns' staff -- and perhaps Mr. Burns -- were known to eat free sushi/meals often at Mr. Abramoff's D.C. restaurant, Signatures, and the joke was if they didn't, they would have starved to death.

"Frankly, it was widely viewed in D.C. that Mr. Abramoff effectively exerted implicit control over Mr. Burns whenever he and his team needed to get something accomplished.



5. Lobbyist tells magazine that top Republicans who deny knowing him aren't being truthful
Seattle Times, March 9, 2006, By Reuters and The Associated Press
Abramoff also says Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., was particularly cooperative.
"Every appropriation we wanted we got," Abramoff says. "Our staffs were as close as they could be."

6. 'Vanity Fair' Interviews Abramoff


NPR.org March 8, 2006-

On Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), who received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and associates:

"They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria. I mean, it's a little difficult for him to run from that record."

Signatures is a D.C. restaurant that Abramoff owns. Burns took out TV ads in January, saying he was never influenced by Abramoff. He has returned the contributions.

7. Senator Burns to Return $150,000 from Lobbyist Abramoff

Friday, December 16, 2005, Associated Press


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 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 Associated Press has reported that in 2001 the Montana Republican and his staff met Abramoff's lobbying team on at least eight occasions and collected $12,000 in donations around the time that Burns took legislative action favorable to Abramoff's clients in the Northern Mariana Islands.

8. Tester claims Burns directed favors to those who hired former staffers

click here

USNews.com: September 28, 2006

"The report, which is based largely on published media reports, alleges that Burns has supported legislative favors and directed hundreds of millions of dollars to companies that paid his former staffers more than 20 million dollars in lobbying fees during the same period.

9. Review unearths more problems at UM space program


By BETSY COHEN of the Missoulian, October 24, 2006

"Controversy continues for a Missoula space group with ties to Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.

"A new accounting review shows, among other things, the organization's chief executive received three different salaries at the same time. And one of the company's former employees said in a Missoulian interview that staff members were expected to contribute to Burns' re-election campaign.


10. Montana is unlikely front in battle for the Senate

By Andrew Garber, Seattle Times staff reporter, October 25, 2006
In July, Burns apologized after criticizing firefighters for their efforts battling local wildfires, saying they'd done a "piss-poor job."
In 2000, he apologized for querying a woman about a nose ring and asking, "What tribe are you from?"
In 1999, he apologized for referring to Arabs as "ragheads" during a speech while commenting on oil prices.
And in 1994 he apologized after saying that living with blacks in the nation's capital is "a hell of a challenge."

11. Marianas / Burns voted against bill to strengthen immigration oversight after receiving donation


By JENNIFER McKEE Missoulian State Bureau, June 9, 2006
"Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., voted against expanding federal controls over the territory's immigration and labor standards in a controversial 2001 vote that came after he received a $5,000 donation from a client of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
"Burns had not opposed an identical measure the year before. Democrats have criticized Burns for switching his position on the bill after accepting an Abramoff-directed campaign contribution.



International & Comparative Law Review Vol. 24, Number 2, 2001
Karen M. Smith*

The economic explosion has been triumphantly welcomed by some; however, such growth has come at the expense of those less fortunate.60 Recently, substantial attention has been drawn to the methods used by CNMI factory employers to reach these sky-rocketing export dollars.61 Manufacturers on Saipan have been sharply criticized for horrific working conditions,62 failure to pay wages owed to employees,63 forcing female workers to have abortions,64 and refusing to allow workers to attend religious services.65
See also: http://www.dallasobserver.com/Issues/2000-04-20/news/news.html
[*PG388] One researcher for the Global Survival Network (GSN), an international human rights advocacy group, went undercover into several factories.66 He witnessed "squalid" working conditions, fire hazards, air unfit for breathing, and unsanitary water conditions.67 Other observers warn that there are "serious concerns regarding the CNMI's ability to protect the workers against crimes such as battery, rape, and forced prostitution."68 These concerns have caused several foreign governments to complain to the U.S. about how their citizens are treated while working in the CNMI.69
61 See generally Northern Mariana Islands: Before the House Comm. on Energy and Natural Resources, 105th Cong. (1999) (statement of Steven Galster, Executive Director, Global Survival Network) [hereinafter Galster Statement].....
.... In 1973, 27% of all workers were aliens; by 1982, that number had risen to 39%.85 At that time, alien workers were employed mainly [*PG390] as construction workers, entertainers and house cleaners.86 As of 1999, that number had jumped to 77% of all workers, and 90% of private sector workers. 87 This dramatic increase directly correlates with the rapid expansion of the industry as a whole.88
To entice immigrants to the CNMI, "recruiters" allegedly exaggerate tales of going to America.89 They collect large sums of money from prospective workers (ranging from $1,500 to $12,000) to pay for transportation and to essentially buy their jobs.90 Usually, this results in workers arriving in the CNMI burdened by huge loans (at interest rates of up to 30%); in order to repay these loans, workers enter a sort of debt-bondage relationship.91 Often it is an employer who loans the money to the worker, and repayment is taken directly from the employee's paycheck.92 Under this arrangement, the worker must remain with the same employer, no matter what the conditions of employment, until the debt is entirely repaid.93 At the CNMI minimum wage of $3.15 an hour, repayment usually takes years.94 Moreover, certain contracts between employers and workers ("shadow contracts") frequently include clauses under which workers waive basic rights, such as the freedom to date or marry, have children, and practice a religion.95
The effective result of the CNMI's demographics is a large pool of impoverished, unskilled workers who rarely enjoy the same rights as CNMI residents.96 Few aliens step forward to report crimes, and [*PG391] aliens especially do not report labor abuses for fear of losing their jobs-which they simply cannot afford to do.97
The lack of control exercised by the CNMI in the area of immigration has taken a significant toll on law enforcement there in two ways.143 First, many immigrants to the islands arrive as victims of fraud.144 As discussed earlier, those who are swindled by recruiters or enter into "shadow contracts" with employers are forced to stay on the islands, working for at best $20 to $30 per day, in a place where the [*PG396] cost of living is comparable to that of Hawaii.145 The dire situations in which they live, as well as the fear of losing their jobs, often cause them to "shun law enforcement."146 Additionally, several come from countries where law enforcement is not trusted, leading to distrust of CNMI law enforcement as well.147
Second, CNMI immigration policies directly facilitate the entry of criminals.148 The U.S. uses a "double-check" system of immigration, which means that arriving aliens are screened twice by trained officers (once abroad, and once at port-of-entry).149 The officers have access to both international and American "lookout information."150 That is, they have access to information from law enforcement agencies that helps them to weed out dangerous criminals.151
Without these safeguards, however, the CNMI continually allows convicted criminals to enter and to create problems on the islands.152 The CNMI has no comparable database to screen immigrants and does most of its screening upon arrival.153 The islands cannot expect to stop the flow of drugs, guns, or trafficking in women and forced prostitution unless at least the known criminals are kept out.154
For footnotes see: http://www.bc.edu/schools/law/lawreviews/meta-elements/journals/bciclr/24_2/06_FMS.htm

13. Destroying Paradise for Profit

Alternet.org: By Rebecca Clarren, Posted April 26, 2006.
But the dark underbelly of DeLay's "shining light" is right across a busy Saipan street and a few yards down a dirt road. That's where garment workers live in tiny, corrugated-tin-roofed homes, with three women sharing a queen-size bed. Their "kitchen" is a few hot plates and water-filled plastic buckets set outside on a concrete counter. Nine people share one toilet.


14. Paradise Lost
Greed, Sex Slavery, Forced Abortions and Right-Wing Moralists
Ms. Magazine
Spring 2006, photos by Martin Von Krogh
If they get pregnant while working in Saipan, workers face another nightmare. According to a 1998 investigation by the Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs, a number of Chinese garment workers reported that if they became pregnant, they were "forced to return to China to have an abortion, or forced to have an illegal abortion" in the Marianas. These days, many pregnant workers still feel they have little choice but to visit one of Saipan's underground abortion clinics -- or else lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, the garment industry on Saipan has begun to decline with the expiration of worldwide quotas on apparel exports to the United States. Garment makers are moving off Saipan to even lower-wage countries such as China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Desperate to earn money and pay back their recruitment fees, some unemployed garment workers have found themselves turning to another lucrative industry on Saipan: sex tourism. There are no reliable statistics, but an estimated 90 percent of the island's prostitutes are former garment workers.


15. A 'Petri dish' in the Pacific; Conservative Network Aligned with DeLay Makes Marianas a Profitable Course
Juliet Eilperin, Wash. Post, July 26, 2000, at A10 find at:


16. Abramoff-linked probe focuses on 5 lawmakers
By Jerry Seper and Audrey Hudson
January 11, 2006
Anti-sweatshop leaders and some members of Congress have long sought to increase wages and protect the islands' garment workers, most of whom are women, from what amounts to indentured servitude. But their efforts were repeatedly stalled in Congress. And who was among the biggest opponents of reform? None other than the notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose tentacles reached deep into House Republican leadership.
The Tigua Indian Tribe in El Paso, Texas, said it donated $22,000 to Mr. Burns in 2002 at Abramoff's request, thinking the Montana Republican was part of "Abramoff's group." The tribe hired Abramoff to lobby on its behalf to reopen a casino. FBI agents have interviewed tribal leaders about the donations, the sources said.
Mr. Burns has said the money had no bearing on any of his congressional actions.


17. Unraveling Abramoff: Key Players in the Investigation of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Washington Post.com, Updated Oct. 13, 2006

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.): Burns, chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee, pressured the Bureau of Indian Affairs to award a $3 million grant to the Saginaw Chippewas of Michigan a client of Abramoff's despite objections from Interior Department officials. On Dec. 17, 2005, the senator returned $150,000 in contributions he received during the past five years from Abramoff, his associates and their tribal clients. Two of his staffers left to work as lobbyists with Abramoff during that same time period. Burns, who has said his actions were consistent with his support for Indian tribes, was first elected to the Senate in 1988.


18. http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/transcripts_060404_roving.html


http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/9/16/111237.shtml 18. Conrad Burns, Abramoff, and other Lobbyists:
A Timeline.... 2000-2006 (with news story links)

19. FireBurns.info: Timeline of the Burns/Abramoff Connection



Story presented by Citizens for a Scandal Free Montana
Pat Tucker, Treasurer/Editor
Bruce Weide, Communications Director
Call: 406-363-7291 (preferred) or 406-360-5427

Website: http://www.FireBurns.info
Email: Change@FireBurns.info

Presented by Citizens for a Scandal Free Montana,
P.O. Box 172, Hamilton, MT 59840, Pat Tucker, treasurer

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Pat Tucker lives in Western Montana and has traveled all over the US teaching students about the lives of wolves. Along with Bruce Weide, she founded Citizens for a Scandal Free Government to try and rid Montana of politicians who spend too much (more...)

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The History of Jack Abramoff and Montana US Senator Conrad Burns--Election Donations, Senate Bills and Pacific Islands