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Friday, August 19, 2005

MT-Sen: Burns / Abramoff Link Charged with Poaching

Posted by Bob Brigham

Helena Independent Record:

HELENA — Shawn Vasell, a one-time aide to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and a former associate of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has been charged in Stillwater County with poaching.

Vasell, 32, of Arlington, Va., was charged in June with four counts of breaking state big game laws: illegally possessing big game, hunting on private property without permission, hunting with someone else's license and hunting without a license, better known as poaching. [...]

Vasell pleaded not guilty to all four crimes on June 18 in Stillwater County Justice Court. A Sept. 20 trial is scheduled. [...]

The crimes carry a variety of punishments, including fines up to $1,000, restitution of up to $8,000, six months in jail and a lifetime ban from hunting in Montana.

The missing link.

Vasell was Burns' state director for most of 2002. He quit in December of that year and ended up joining the lobbying firm of Greenberg Traurig, where he worked with Jack Abramoff, the embattled D.C. lobbyist.

Abramoff was arrested and charged with federal fraud and conspiracy charges earlier this month for allegedly duping investors into financing a $147 million fleet of gambling ships in Florida.

Abramoff's alleged mishandling of millions of dollars in lobbying fees charged to American Indian tribal clients was the subject a Senate Indian Affairs investigative hearing in June. Vasell was tapped to testify at the hearing, but cited his right not to incriminate himself and refused to answer any questions.

Abramoff lobbyists and his tribal clients gave $137,000 to Burns and his political action committee between 2001 and 2004, more than any other lawmaker, Bloomberg News reported this spring.

News reports on Abramoff's lobbying scandal have referred to Vasell as the link between the embattled former lobbyist and Burns. (emphasis mine)

Throw the book at him. This is the guy pleading the fifth in the corruption investigation. More here, here.

Hat-tip to Left in the West.

Posted at 05:49 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Culture of Corruption, Montana, Scandals | Technorati