Mont. Senate: Burns Ad Responds to Ethics Issue
"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:
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