From OpenCongress Wiki
Conrad Burns was born January 25, 1935 on a farm near Gallatin, Missouri. Graduating from Gallatin High School in 1952, Senator Burns enrolled in the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri. Two years later Burns enlisted in the Marine Corps and was posted in East Asia.
Following his military service Burns began working for TWA and Ozark airlines until 1962, when he became a field representative for Polled Hereford World magazine in Billings, Montana. Named the first manager of the Northern International Livestock Expo in 1968, Burns began his career in radio and television broadcasting, reporting on agricultural market news.
In 1975, Burns founded four radio stations known as the Northern Ag Network, which grew to serve 31 radio and TV stations across Montana and Wyoming when he sold it in 1986.
Burns began his career in politics when he was elected to the Yellowstone County Commission, serving for two years before deciding to run for the U.S. Senate.
In 1988 Burns ran successfully for his U.S. Senate. He campaigned initially on the promise of being a two term senator, but ignored questions about the issue while campaigning for his third term.
Burns was reelected in 2000 when he beat now-Governor Brian Schweitzer 51%-48%.
Burns had a legislative history of supporting measures and bills which would reduce Native American tribal sovereignty, including a bill, co-sponsored with then-Washington Republican Senator Slade Gorton, that would require tribes to waive sovereignty rights such as immunity from lawsuits, in addition to meeting means testing, before they could receive federal funds. He also sponsored legislation that some say would overturn treaties by eliminating Indian jurisdiction of reservation land owned by non-Indians.
In February 2006 Burns voiced opposition to a Bush Administration plan to sell off 300,000 acres of federal land - 14,000 acres coming from Montana. Burns, who chairs the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee of the Senate Energy Committee, stated, "I have no interest in including the administration's proposal in my Interior bill. It's dead in the water."
Burns voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.
In 2006, the Democrats nominated Jon Tester to face Burns in his November 2006 bid for reelection. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006)  In a widely watched and closely fought race, Tester defeated Burns by less than three thousand votes. 
Meet the Cash Constituents
|Links to more campaign contribution information for Conrad Burns
from the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org site.
|Fundraising profile:||2008 election cycle||Career totals|
|Top contributors by organization/corporation:||2008 election cycle||Career totals|
|Top contributors by industry:||2008 election cycle||Career totals|
Jack Abramoff, Indian Tribes, and the Northern Marianas Islands
The Wall Street Journal reported November 25, 2005, that the Justice Department's "investigation into possible influence-peddling by prominent Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is examining his dealings with four lawmakers, more than a dozen current and former congressional aides and two former Bush administration officials, lawyers and others involved in the case. ... "[Namely] House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Rep. Bob Ney (R., Ohio), Rep. John Doolittle (R., Calif.) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R., Mont.), according to several people close to the investigation."
As the chair of the Interior subcommittee on Apropriations, Burns received approximately $146,000 in campaign contributions through Abramoff and then directed $3 million to the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, an Abramoff client and one of the wealthiest tribes in the country from a program intended to help the neediest tribes fix delapidated schools.  On April 7th, 2006 the Washington Post reported that the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe would return the $3 million earmark obtained by Abramoff, "After careful consideration, our tribal council has decided not to move forward with the construction of the school, because it is not financially prudent to pursue this project at this time." The money will be sent back to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be dispersed to other tribes.
(According to the Washington Post, Burns received $146,590 from Jack Abramoff and his clients. The Center for Responsive Politics completed a study that showed Burns receiving $52,340 from Abramoff and his clients.)
E-mails revealed in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation into Abramoff's bilking of Indian tribes showed that Abramoff was discussing getting Burns to call Interior Secretary Gale Norton in support of the grant:
- "(Griles) told me to have Burns call Norton and I asked Will to get that done, and he will," read an e-mail Abramoff sent to co-worker Todd Boulanger on Sept. 15, 2003.
That "Will" may be then chief of staff Will Brooke. On December 14th, 2005 The Missoulian reported that Burns' onetime chief of staff Will Brooke was talking to federal investigators about the Abramoff scandal. Brooke left Burns' office, after a 2000-2003 stint, to work at Abramoff's lobbying firm in December of 2003. According to The Missoulian, the hiring "occurred shortly after Burns helped secure a controversial $3 million grant for one of Abramoff's tribal clients, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan." Brooke was one of many congressional staffers on an Abramoff sponsored flight to the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. During that trip "Abramoff allegedly offered" $500 in poker chips to be used by the staffers at his recently acquired casino boat line, Sun Cruz Casinos. A second Burns staffer, Ryan Thomas, went on the Tampa trip as well. On February 8th Roll Call reported that Thomas had resigned from his position on the Interior Department staff.
After initially claiming credit for the appropriation Burns subsequently denied knowledge of it, "A lot of things happened that I didn't know about. It shouldn't have happened, but it did."
In December 2005, a leader of a tribe which gave $22,000 in campaign contributions to Burns in 2002 stated that they had done so solely at the request of Abramoff and believed the senator was part of "Abramoff's group." 
Burns attempt to make a $111,000 donation to the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council was rejected by the tribe who said the money was tainted because it originally came from Abramoff and his clients. When possible, Burns returned contributions to the tribes where they originated.
On January 21, 2006 The Missoulian reported that Conrad Burns changed his vote on legislation regarding the minimum wage in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. protectorate and Abramoff client, after receiving a contribution from the head of a CNMI sweat shop, Tan Holdings.
- U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., met with a Marianas official [Gov. Benigno Fitial - a former Tan executive] who had close ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the weeks before Burns received an Abramoff-related $5,000 contribution from the Marianas and reversed his earlier position on a bill about the islands.
- Burns voted against a bill in May 2001 that would have strengthened U.S. oversight over the commonwealth's labor and immigration laws. A little more than a year before Burns had not opposed an identical measure.
- Burns has said the $5,000 donation from an Abramoff client had nothing to do with his 2001 change in stance on the bill. Rather, the senator told Lee Newspapers this month he was persuaded to vote against the measure after reading two government reports about the islands and meeting with Fitial, who was then speaker of the Marianas House of Representatives.
The CNMI government, at the behest of Gov. Fitial, paid Abramoff's lobbying firm $1.1 million to defeat the bill that Burns switched his vote on.
In an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair, Jack Abramoff made damning statements about Conrad Burns and his office:
- Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns's committee] we got. ... Our staffs were as close as they could be. They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria. I mean, it's a little difficult for him to run from that record."
Burns had previously issued his own condemnation of Abramoff saying, "This Abramoff guy is a bad guy. And he's indicted, and I hope he goes to jail and we never see him again. I wish he'd never been born, to be right honest with you. Because he's done a terrible, terrible thing to our Native American community."
The April 17, 2006 issue of Newsweek highlights the possibility that Burns may wind up the next member of Congress to fall from the ongoing Abramoff inquiry. On April 4th, Rep. Tom DeLay announced that he would resign his seat in Congrees only three days after his former deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy pled guilty to fraud and other charges. Bob Ney, known as "Representative #1" in three seperate plea agreements was forced out of his role as chairman of the House Administration Committee and is still under investigation. Burns is viewed as the next member to come under heightened scrutiny both from the media, as the existence of the Newsweek article suggests, and from federal prosecutors following up on the information obtained through plea deals.
Principally as a result of this scandal, Burns was named in 2006 by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the twenty most corrupt US legislators.
Telecom: Revolving Door
In March 2006 Roll Call reported that former aides to Burns have used their connections to the Senator and institutions connected to him to reap some $20 million in lobbying fees and secure Burns-authored earmarks for their clients. "[M]ore than a dozen companies in the telecommunications and high-tech sector ... have paid lobbying retainers to former Burns aides ... As chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on communications through the end of 2004 — and as an ongoing member of the Commerce and Appropriations committees — Burns holds significant sway over how the government regulates and aids the telecommunications industry." Burns consistently backed legislation and pushed for tax breaks for companies that employed his former staffers as lobbyists.
An investigation by correspondents for Internet news site Wikinews linked Burns' office to changes in an article about Burns in Internet-based encyclopedia Wikipedia. In particular, references, citations, and descriptions of Sentator Burns' use of the word "ragheads" were removed, as was mention of legislation, co-sponsored by Burns, that would reduce Native American tribal sovereignty. Also, a glowing paragraph was added describing Burns as a 'Voice for the farmer'.
After a member of Burns' staff changed the article's content, Burns' spokesman, James Pendleton, dismissed the allegations when asked about it on Wednesday, February 8, 2006, pointing to the site's open-source nature. Said Pendleton, "They have exactly zero credibility." And, "I don't know why this is a story. There is no sanctity in Wikipedia. Somebody will always come and change it." 
In 1991, Burns shocked lobbyists when he invited them to a slave auction after voting for a civil rights bill. Burns said his comments had been misinterpreted because he was talking about a charity fundraising event known as a "slave auction."
In 1994, Burns told the editorial board of the Bozeman Chronicle that when asked by a constituent, "How can you live back there Washington, DC with all those niggers?" he replied, "[It's] a hell of a challenge." About the use of the racial slur: "I never gave it much thought."
On February 17, 1999, while at a meeting of the Montana Implement Dealers Association in Billings, Montana, Burns referred to Arabs as "ragheads". Burns later apologized.
In 2000, he offended a Billings woman when he pointed to her nose ring and asked her what tribe she was from.
Two women have accused Burns of sexism, alleging that he told one of the women she could stay at home and be a mother if she lost her job to outsourcing.
On December 21, 2005, Burns stated that "We've got to remember that the people who first hit us in 9/11 entered this country through Canada." This claim, which is false and contradicted by the findings of the 9-11 Commission, drew criticism from those questioning Burns' grasp of domestic security. Canadian ambassador Frank McKenna demanded an apology from Burns. Source
- 'Women accuse Burns of sexism', Great Falls Tribune, October 26, 2005
- 'Canada Fights Myth It Was 9/11 Conduit', Washington Post, April 8, 2005
On July 23, 2006, Burns criticized members of a firefighting unit in Billings, Montana for their performance battling a 143-square-mile wildfire near Pompeys Pillar National Monument. The firefighters said Burns told them they had done a "poor job" and should have listened to the concerns of ranchers.
On July 27, 2006, Burns apologized, stating, "In retrospect, I wish I had chosen my words more carefully...My criticism of the way the fire was handled should not have been directed at those who were working hard to put it out." Burns was also surprised to learn that the firefighters earn only between $8-$12 an hour.
Pokes fun at immigrants
In mid-August 2006, Burns' opponent in the 2006 Senate race, Jon Tester, released a video showing the senator joking to a crowd about how a "nice little Guatemalan man" fixing up his house may be an illegal immigrant. In the video, Burns follows the remark by telling the crowd how he scared the man by asking to see his green card. One week later, Burns said in a debate that after watching an interview of an illegal immigrant headed to Virginia for work, "I told my roofer, you better go out and get your help, or you won't get my house roofed."
The Tester campaign sent both statements to reporters. Jason Klindt, a spokesman for Burns, defended the immigrant remarks, noting that they were accurate and not mean-spirited. 
Burns made another controversial comment regarding foreign-born individuals in the weeks that followed. On August 30, First Lady Laura Bush attended a fundraiser for Burns in Montana. During his speech, Burns said that the United States is battling a faceless enemy of terrorists who "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night." 
Aide accused of securities fraud
On August 25, 2006, Montana officials accused Pat Davison, a recently-departed fundraising chief for Burns’ re-election campaign, with securities fraud. Montana State Auditor John Morrison said that Davison defrauded two families of $1.2 million by convincing them to withdraw the money from investment accounts and place them into “fake” investments.
Burns named Davison his state finance director in January. According to Burns spokesman Jason Klindt, Davison resigned on July 27, 2006. A search of the campaign’s web site following the announcement found no news releases noting his departure from the campaign. 
On September 15, 2006, state regulators announced that they had uncovered seven additional entities defrauded by Davison, with the investments in question totaling up to six million dollars. Davison is accused of running a Ponzi scheme and hiding his illicit gains in a variety of fake investments, including the entirely ficticious St. Labre Indian School Trust. 
Use of campaign funds for legal fees
In 2006, Burns retained a white collar defense lawyer for matters relating to the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, to which he has been frequently linked. In the first three quarters of 2006, he spent over $90,000 in campaign funds on legal counsel. 
Committees and Affiliations
Committees in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)
- Senate Special Committee on Aging
- Senate Committee on Appropriations
- Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Defense
- Subcommittee on Energy and Water
- Subcommittee on Interior - Chair
- Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
- Subcommittee on Transportation Treasury the Judiciary and Housing and Urban Development
- Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- Subcommittee on Aviation - Chair
- Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs Product Safety and Insurance
- Subcommittee on Science and Space
- Subcommittee on Technology Innovation and Competitiveness
- Subcommittee on Trade Tourism and Economic Development
- Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine
- Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
- Subcommittee on Energy
- Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests
- Subcommittee on Water and Power
- Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
More Background Data
Articles and Resources
- Official website
- Campaign website
- Technorati Search: Conrad Burns
- Google News Search: Conrad Burns
- Yahoo! News Search: Conrad Burns
- Power Trips: How much does Conrad Burns travel?
- GovTrack Statistics: Conrad Burns
- Open Secrets - 2006 congressional races database
- Profile: "Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)," Beyond DeLay.org.
- Profile: Conrad Burns, JackInTheHouse.org.
- Conrad Burns On the Issues.
- Differences on the issues between Conrad Burns and Jon Tester at whereIstand.com
- The Story Behind the Burns Amendment, WildHorsePreservation.com, undated.
- "There You Go Again, Conrad," Montana Human Rights Network News, May 1999: "On February 17, U.S. Senator Conrad Burns referred to Arabs as rag heads in a speech to the Montana Implement Dealers Association at the Northern Hotel in Billings."
- Nick Shulz, "Beyond Kowtowing. The future of American foreign and energy policy," National Review, September 13, 2002.
- "2006: Retiring Conrad Burns," From The Roots, December 31, 2004.
- Bob Brigham, "MT-Sen: Conrad Burns and Jack Abramoff Staff Scandal," Swing State Project, April 25, 2005.
- Joshua Frank, "Conrad Burns: A Senator and a Liar," Dissident Voice, June 27, 2005.
- "MT-Sen: Conrad Burns pesticide efforts succeed," Daily Kos, June 29, 2005: "Common sense did not win out, thanks to Conrad Burns' efforts on behalf of the pesticide industry to allow for testing of pesticides on humans."
- Josh Marshall, "Burns and Abramoff ... The Early Days," TPM Cafe, August 11, 2005.
- Walt Williams, "Group names Burns one of Washington's 'most corrupt' politicians," Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Montana), October 1, 2005.
- Bob Brigham, "MT-Sen: Conrad Burns Declares Bush's Record 'Isn't That Bad'," Swing State Project, October 29, 2005.
- Blake de Pastino and Ken Picard, "Worst of Missoula," Missoula Independent, November 24, 2005: "Worst No-Show in Montana Politics: U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns."
- David Sirota, "Will Conrad Burns Retire?" Sirotablog, November 30, 2005.
- Walt Williams, "Burns' Office May Have Tampered With Wikipedia Entry," Bozeman Daily Chronicle, February 9, 2006.
- John Stanton, "Links to Burns Paid Off," Roll Call, March 8, 2006: "For nearly a decade, a group of former top aides to Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) have successfully used personal and professional connections to Burns, Montana State University's Burns Technology Center and other institutions associated with him to secure more than $20 million in lobbying fees for themselves, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research contracts, tax breaks and subsidies for their clients."
- John Nichols, "'Tester Time' in Montana," The Nation, June 1, 2006 (post); June 19, 2006 (issue). re Jon Tester
- Jim VandeHei, "Corruption Issue Comes to Fore. Reed Is Seen as First Casualty, and Parties Brace for More," Washington Post, July 20, 2006.
- John MacDonald, "Senator sorry for criticizing firefighters," Associated Press (delivered by yahoo.com), July 28, 2006.
- Mary Clare Jalonik, "Senator Jokes About House Painter," Associated Press, August 22, 2006: Burns "referred to his house painter as 'a nice little Guatemalan man' and suggested that worker as well employees of a roofing company he hired might be in the country illegally."
- Jim VandeHei, "Comments Haunt Another Senator," Washington Post, August 23, 2006.
- Justin Rood, "Former Burns Finance Official Accused of Fraud," TPM Muckraker, August 25, 2006.
- Matt Gouras, "Burns Says Terrorists Drive Taxis by Day," Associated Press (delivered by Guardian Unlimited), August 31, 2006.
- Matt Gouras, "More fraud allegations against Davison," Associated Press (delivered by Montana Standard), September 15, 2006.
- "CREW releases second annual most corrupt members of Congress report," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, September 20, 2006.
- Joe Sudbay, "Conrad Burns says Bush has a 'secret plan' for Iraq," AMERICAblog, October 18, 2006.
- Noelle Straub, "Former Senator Conrad Burns focuses passion on business," Billings Gazette (Montana), May 17, 2007.
- Susan Schmidt, "Senator Who Had Ties to Abramoff, Pushed for Award," Washington Post, March 1, 2005.
- "Chairman: Montana tribes support Senator Burns," Indianz.com, March 18, 2005.
- Walt Williams, "Democrats demand Burns return contributions from lobbyist," Bozeman Daily Chronicle, March 29, 2005.
- Faith Bremner, "Democrats decry Burns' link to lobbyist," Great Falls Tribune, April 2, 2005.
- "Gazette opinion: Burns must uphold higher ethical standards," Billings Gazette, April 17, 2005.
- "Burns Part of Abramoff Probe," The Missoulian, November 26, 2005.
- Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi, "Lawmakers Under Scrutiny in Probe of Lobbyist. Ney and DeLay Among the Members of Congress Said to Be a Focus of Abramoff Investigation," Washington Post, November 26, 2005.
- Mary Clare Jalonik, "Records Show Burns' Abramoff Meetings," News Journal, December 7, 2005.
- Jennifer McKee, "Abramoff 'is a bad guy,' says Burns," Billings Gazette, December 9, 2005.
- "Burns not giving money back to lobbyist," Associated Press, December 14, 2005.
- Jennifer McKee, "Feds interview Burns' former top aide," The Missoulian, December 14, 2005.
- "Burns helped Indian school plan; tribes gave $75K," Billings Gazette, December 17, 2005.
- "Burns Aide's Super Bowl Trip Part of Abramoff Probe," Billings Gazette, January 18, 2006.
- Jodi Rave, "Burns Holds Birthday at Lobbying Firm," Missoulian, January 19, 2006.
- Jennifer McKee, "Burns Changed Vote on Marianas Islands," The Missoulian, January 21, 2006.
- Paul Kane, "Justice Department Pulls Members Files," Roll Call, March 13, 2006.
- "Tracie Small: First Montanans ignored by Sen. Burns," Indianz.com, March 30, 2006.
- Susan Schmidt, "Tribe Returns $3 Million Grant Linked to Burns," Washington Post, April 7, 2006.
- Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey, "Path of the Storm," Newsweek, April 17, 2006.
- "Sen. Burns misrepresented Montanans," Missoulian.com, July 31, 2006.
- John Amato, "Cafferty: Racist Republican Remarks," Crooks and Liars, August 23, 2006.
- Michael Abramowitz, "GOP Candidates Claim Degrees Of Separation From President," Washington Post, September 5, 2006.
- "Conrad Burns - My Summer Vacation," YouTube, added September 8, 2006. Numerous other video links on page.
- "Disclose constituency funds," Helena IR, September 12, 2006.
- Holly Martins, "America's Dumbest Congressmen. Radar ranks the 10 biggest fools on the Hill," Radar, October 13, 2006.
- Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi, "Ney Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges. Lawmaker's Conviction Is 8th in Abramoff Probe," Washington Post, October 14, 2006: "A federal task force that includes a dozen Justice Department prosecutors is investigating Abramoff's dealings with other congressional offices, including those of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), according to lawyers and witnesses involved in the probe."
- Paul Kiel, "Burns' Legal Fees Top $90,000," TPMmuckraker, October 23, 2006.
- blogswarm, "Justice Delayed: John Doolittle and Conrad Burns," House of Labor/TPM Cafe, October 26, 2006.
- "Montana incumbent concedes tight Senate race," CNN, November 9, 2006.
Local blogs and discussion sites
- "The Last Best Place"
- BuyingBurns.com, a.k.a. The Fudge Report. Scroll down to link on righthand side of front page.
- Left in the West
- Touchstone 033
- Billings Blog
- Snakes on a Senate, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee website.
- NewWest.net -- A Refreshing, new kind of journalism.
- Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal
- Bush administration cronyism and incompetence
- Bush administration scandals
- Michael Scanlon
- Ralph E. Reed, Jr.
- Republican 'culture of corruption'
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