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Good Old Boy has Memory Loss

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Faster Horses - Heres more on the continuing saga of old Conrad we were talking about- starting to look like he's worn his boots too long in DC-- learned too much--even about memory loss :wink: :lol: ......Up here on the rez, his support of the Michigans tribes has become quite a joke- since he seldom supported any in his home state....

Burns changed position after donation
By JENNIFER McKEE
Gazette State Bureau

HELENA - U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns took a stance in opposition to a bill in 2001 after he received a $5,000 donation from a Jack Abramoff client opposing the bill, records show.

The client hired Abramoff as a lobbyist specifically to defeat the kind of bill Burns voted against. Before receiving the payment, Burns did not oppose an identical bill that unanimously passed the Senate in 2000, Senate documents show.

Burns, a Republican who is up for re-election next year, told the Gazette State Bureau on Friday that the campaign contribution had nothing to do with his later opposition to the bill. He said the vote happened so long ago, he couldn't remember why he opposed the measure. Burns said he initially may not have opposed the bill, which passed unanimously, because it was politically more expedient not to stand in the way of a popular bill.


"Anytime you put a hold on a bill, you expend political capital," Burns said.

The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post both have reported that Burns is among four lawmakers involved in a U.S. Justice Department investigation into Abramoff and his lobbying activities. The papers cited anonymous sources. Burns representatives have said the Justice Department has never contacted the senator.

The 2001 bill dealt with labor and immigration controls in the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands, a group of 14 islands between Hawaii and the Philippines controlled by the United States. The bill grew out of reports that many workers in the islands' garment industry were Chinese immigrants earning less than the U.S. minimum wage. Because the islands are a U.S. territory, their products can be sold in the United States with a "Made in U.S.A." label.

In 2000, records show, the U.S. Senate took up a bill that would have broadened federal oversight of immigration and labor rules on the islands. The bill came before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Burns is a member. The bill passed out of committee, records show. Because of the way the vote was recorded, it is impossible to tell how any individual senator, including Burns, voted on the measure.

On the floor, the bill faced no resistance, passing by unanimous consent. The Senate's action did not constitute a vote, however. Senators agreed to its passage without taking a vote. Any one senator, including Burns, could have opposed the measure.

Burns said Friday that because there was not a recorded vote on the bill, it's impossible to say that he definitely supported the measure.

"Not always can it be assumed that a piece of legislation that passes on unanimous consent can you definitely say, 'That's a yes vote,' " Burns said.

The bill then went to the House, where it died in committee.

Senators proposed an identical bill in 2001.


That year, the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association hired Abramoff as a lobbyist, records show. Saipan is one of the larger islands in the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands.

Abramoff's lobby registration shows the association hired him to "prevent enactment of legislation to impose federal control over local labor and immigration rules."

The same document lists Shawn Vassell, Burns' former state staff director, as a lobbyist on the issue. Vassell worked for Abramoff at the Greenberg Traurig lobbying firm.

The association paid Abramoff $460,000 that year to defeat the bill, records show.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands also hired Abramoff in 2001 to defeat the bill. The Commonwealth paid Abramoff $1.1 million. Vassell was also listed as a lobbyist on the issue.

On April 20, 2001, Eloy Inos of Saipan donated $5,000 to Friends of the Big Sky, Burns' political action committee, federal campaign finance records show. Inos listed his employer as Tan Holdings.

Tan Holdings owns, among other things, garment manufacturing facilities on the Marianas Islands. It is a member of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association, according to the company's Web site.

On May 23, 2001, the bill again came before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for a vote. In an unusual move, Burns requested that each member's vote be recorded - a so-called roll call vote. Often, committee votes are voice votes, in which there is no record of how each member voted.

Burns' roll call request meant that his vote would be a part of the public record.

This time, Burns voted against the bill. He was one of four committee members to do so.

The vote came one month and three days after the Burns PAC received the $5,000 donation.

Burns said he doesn't remember why he requested a roll call vote.

"I haven't a clue why," he said. "You're talking four or five years ago."

The bill passed out of committee, but the full Senate never acted on the measure, records show. The bill has not become law.

"Burns actually voted for the bill before he voted against it," said Matt McKenna, a spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party. "The only thing that happened in between is he got paid."

The Montana Democratic Party already has run two television ads linking Burns to Abramoff in anticipation of his 2006 re-election campaign.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee also has been investigating whether Abramoff swindled American Indian tribal clients out of millions of dollars.

In 2003, Burns helped one of Abramoff's tribal clients, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan, obtain a $3 million congressional grant to build a school. Because of its Indian gambling, the tribe is one of the richest nationally and makes annual payments of $70,000 to each member.

The Montana senator has denied any wrongdoing. Burns, who headed a Senate subcommittee overseeing the grants, said he pushed for the grant to the Saginaw Chippewa tribe at the urging of Michigan's two U.S. senators, both Democrats.

Burns received $136,500, more than any other lawmaker, from Abramoff's tribal clients from 2001 to 2004, a Bloomberg News database shows.
 

Liberty Belle

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How about if you get to investigate yourself like Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) does?

WASHINGTON: Tribes obtain school dollars

Lawmakers helped Abramoff-aided tribes get money, collected donations


By John Solomon and Sharon Theimer

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - More than a dozen members of Congress intervened to help Indian tribes win federal school construction money while accepting political donations from the tribes, their lobbyist Jack Abramoff or his firm.

The lawmakers hailed from both parties, including House Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Charles Taylor, R-N.C., and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Abramoff.

Most wrote letters that pressed a reluctant Bush administration to renew a program that provided tribes federal money for building schools. Others worked the congressional budget process to ensure it happened, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

And most received donations, ranging from $1,000 to more than $74,000, in the weeks just before or after their intervention. One used Abramoff's restaurant for a fund-raiser a month after a letter.

As a group, they collected more than $440,000 from Abramoff, his firm or his tribal clients between 2001 and 2004, when Abramoff represented the tribes.

In Washington, special interests with business before Congress commonly provide donations to lawmakers as they lobby.

But ethics rules require lawmakers to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest while performing official duties, a requirement that became famous a decade ago during the Keating Five scandal when several got in trouble for pressuring regulators on behalf of Charles Keating while taking donations from the savings and loan operator.

Lawmakers said their letters had nothing to do with Abramoff and instead were prompted by their desire to keep the government's Indian school building program alive so tribes in their own states might one day benefit. The timing of donations, they said, were a coincidence.

"It really had nothing to do with Jack Abramoff. Senator Dorgan had a personal interest in the program and how it benefits tribes at large and the Three Affiliated Tribes in his state," Dorgan chief of staff Bernie Toon said, echoing comments from many lawmakers.

A former federal prosecutor said the size of the donations and their close proximity to official actions could impact the current Justice Department investigation of Abramoff. The lobbyist has been charged with fraud in a Florida case, and an associate has pleaded guilty in Washington and is cooperating with investigators.

Dorgan, along with Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., signed a Feb. 11, 2002, letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee for a "long-term extension" of funding for the Indian school building program.

One of Abramoff's client tribes, the Mississippi Choctaw, was using the program, and his team was lobbying furiously to extend it for other tribal clients, including the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan. The Saginaw prevailed the next year. The Burns-Dorgan letter specifically mentions the Choctaw.

Nine days later, Dorgan's campaign got $2,000 from the Choctaw, and by late spring had received $17,000 more from three other Abramoff tribes and his firm. In all, Dorgan got nearly $95,000 in Abramoff-related money between 2001 and 2004.

Asked whether Dorgan should have disqualified himself from the Senate investigation of Abramoff, Toon said the senator had pursued the investigation in an "aggressive and bipartisan way" and didn't need to step aside.

Burns also benefited handsomely. In the quarter he sent the 2002 letter with Dorgan, Burns collected $70,000 in Abramoff tribal donations to one of his political groups, Friends of the Big Sky PAC, and an additional $2,000 to his campaign.
November 25, 2005
http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/news/13253177.htm
 

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