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Sunday, April 17, 2005

MT-Sen: Burns Spins Out of Control

Posted by Bob Brigham

It can be a beautiful thing to read a good writer thoroughly smackdown a United States Senator.

Embattled Montana Senator Conrad Burns published an Op-Ed in this morning's Billings Gazette. A few hours later, columnist Ed Kemmick posted his response on the Billing's Gazette's City Lights Blog:

[H]is opinion piece is a textbook example of political B.S. It’s not a particularly skillful or polished piece of B.S., but it is a fine example of all the little tricks of the trade that politicians employ when they want to dodge an issue. This one starts with a good-old-boy “Old West” line, with Burns just wishing he could settle his feud with Montana Democratic Chairman Bob Ream out in the street at high noon, with, you know, real guns and stuff, instead of this damned pussyfooting bang-out-your-thoughts-on-a-computer malarkey.

Luckily, the Gazette decided that reprinting he said/she said would not accurately show what was going on. So the Gazette took it a step further with some truth says:

Fortunately, just above Burns’ guest opinion, we have the Gazette’s editorial on the same subject. It fills in the many holes deliberately left in Burns’ piece. The editorial points out that the Washington Post reported that Burns “pressured the Interior Department to put the Saginaw Chippewa project in the school program, even though it didn’t meet requirements.” It didn’t meet the requirements because the tribe is filthy rich, thanks to its casino operations. Ream, and others, see some connection between the fact that Abramoff was a lobbyist for the tribe and also donated $130,000 to a political action committee formed by Burns. Nor did it seem a coincidence to some that Abramoff, or some of his clients, paid for things like trips to the Super Bowl for aides to powerful lawmakers. Anyway, the Post reported that when Burns’ efforts on behalf of the Michigan tribe were unsuccessful, “Burns earmarked $3 million for the Saginaw Chippewa school anyway.”

You’d never know any of this from reading Burns’ piece. He makes it sound as though he was simply doing a favor, for reasons of his own, for the Democratic senators from Michigan.

He plays the same selective game with the subject of the Super Bowl junket. He says the trip was perfectly allowable because it was thought at the time that it was paid for by a tribal government, and Senate Ethics Committee rules allow the acceptance of gifts from sovereign nations. He acknowledges, however, that given Abramoff’s misleading statements, “the staff have subsequently been unable to determine who actually paid for the trip.”

In other words, they found a loophole, so what’s the problem? The problem is that “the good people of Montana” don’t think a senator’s staffers should be accepting expensive junkets from anybody — not from lobbyists, not from sovereign nations, not from connected fat cats. Burns’ willful blindness on this is the result of living in D.C. for too long.

Way too long.

Via Left in the West.

Posted at 10:32 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati