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Mont. Senate: Burns Ad Responds to Ethics Issue

After months being pummeled by Democrats and the media over his ties to fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) is fighting back with a new television ad aimed at clearing the air.

"I'm not going to stand here and let the Democratic Party of Montana play politics with my reputation," says Burns directly to the camera.  "I've worked in and around stockyards all my life, those attack ads are just a big bunch of you know what." (Watch the ad below.)

As for Abramoff and his vast influence peddling schemes, Burns says in the ad that the lobbyist lied to "anybody and everybody," adding: "I don't know who Abramoff influenced but he never influenced me."

Burns was one of the leading beneficiaries of cash contributions from Abramoff and his tribal clients, but the three-term senator has repeatedly insisted he did nothing untoward in exchange for these dollars.  Democrats have already run two ads in the state seeking to tie Abramoff to Burns, commercials that Burns alleges were paid for by groups that also took money from Abramoff clients.  In this, Burns is mimicking the approach adopted by top Republicans who have sought to paint the Abramoff scandal as a bipartisan affair. Abramoff's clients -- particularly Indian tribes -- donated heavily to both Democrats and Republicans, but Abramoff donated only to Republicans, however.

The Burns ad, which was produced by media consultant Larry McCarthy, is an unusual admission that the spate of news stories and Democratic attacks have taken their toll. Politicians speaking directly to the camera -- as Burns does for the entirety of this ad -- is something of a rarity this early in a campaign and is typically used by consultants attempting to reconnect their client politicians with a state's voters.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), the chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said yesterday that Burns has been "battered and battered" by Democrats in the state based on nothing more than "rumor and innuendo." Dole added that Burns is on the rebound with a new campaign manager -- Tom Bunnell -- and has been meeting with editorial boards around the state to set the record straight on his relationship with Abramoff.

Nonetheless, polling has shown that the drumbeat on Abramoff has taken its toll on Burns's reelection prospects.  An independent survey released on Christmas Day showed his leads over state Auditor John Morrison (D) and state Sen. Jon Tester (D) had shrunk considerably over the last few months. It also found that nearly six-in-ten voters said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned about Burns's relationship with Abramoff.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Phil Singer dismissed the new Burns ad. "No matter how much Burns spends on campaign commercials, one fact remains the same: He did more for Jack Abramoff than he has done for Montana," he said.

Click below to watch the Burns ad:

Ad courtesy Burns Campaign

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 24, 2006; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party , Senate  
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Comments

I just watched Conrad Burns campaign ad. He looked into the camera and told the viewer that Jack Abramoff donated the money to the Democrats to fund their attack ads.
Hellllooo.

Posted by: robert chapman | January 25, 2006 6:28 PM | Report abuse

As deep throat says "Follow the money". Then check the record. Burns has done more for those exploiting semi-slave labor in the Mariana Islands and Indians in Michigan than the people of Montana. The deeper you dig the more it stinks.

Posted by: Frontal Lobe | January 25, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I have not heard anything about the Indian Tribes that gave money to Abramoff and other politicians in exchange for favors from said politicians. Is that not a bribe?

Posted by: kathy isbister | January 25, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

When Burns ran for the senate the first time he said he would only stay for one 6 year term in office. This is Burns' 4th run for office. Did he lie then and now? Why should we believe what he says about money and favors. He is dead meat here in Montana.

Posted by: Eric Schneider Livingston MT | January 24, 2006 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Now it turns out that Senator Burns changed his position on U.S. oversight of Mariana Islands labor laws after receiving a $5,000 contribution from an associate of the territory governor through Abramoff.

http://www.politicaltaoist.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Tao Te Schmooze (Politicaltaoist.blogspot.com) | January 24, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

If the Republican campaign committee thinks that ad will work, they're stupider than I think. Montanans won't be fooled by Sen. Burns folksy style anymore after the next election. They are on to him.

Posted by: Jason | January 24, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Thought it might be nice to provide a little background; the info below certainly has an Abramoff-like stink to it. When will we hear more about what Jackie-boy is singing to the Feds?

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 17, 2005

"The Washington Post has reported that, under pressure from Burns, a $3 million grant from a federal program intended for impoverished Indian tribal schools went to one of the richest tribes in the country. The tribe that received the money in 2004 was at the time a client of Abramoff.

Burns said he did not champion the funding because of Abramoff. He has also asserted that the Abramoff contributions to him were legal and fully disclosed. At the same time, however, he said that he wanted his constituents to know that he was maintaining "the highest integrity in public office.""

Posted by: A little background music | January 24, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

We need to toss ANY official who took the money and drank the kool aid REGARDLESS OF PARTY AFFILIATION.

Vote against the ethically challenged - regardless of their party - its the only way to warn the others that selling America's best interests for a round of golf, or for a campaign contribution is UNAMERICAN

Posted by: Taking Back America | January 24, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"...who have sought to paint the Abramoff scandal as a bipartisan affair. Abramoff's clients -- particularly Indian tribes -- donated heavily to both Democrats and Republicans, but Abramoff donated only to Republicans, however."

--This is sort of inaccurate, to say the least. Compare with the Post's reporting in February of 2004: "Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes -- Michigan's Saginaw Chippewas, the Agua Caliente of California, the Mississippi Choctaws and the Louisiana Coushattas... have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show..."

Check out http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2006/1/23/12534/0111. I'd appreciate your comments, Chris. Not trying to be confrontational, but what's your response to DeLong's contention?

Posted by: Dan Miller | January 24, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Burns says he was not influenced by Jack Abramoff and his money. He just took the money, and told Abramoff to kiss off, I guess. That is, he just took the money, the money, the money.

Posted by: Gerald Forshey | January 24, 2006 12:20 PM | Report abuse

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