Montana Senator Under Fire

The Montana Democratic Party — aided by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — is airing a television ad criticizing Republican Sen. Conrad Burns for his dealings with a GOP lobbyist who is under federal investigation.

The DSCC contribution on the ad referring to lobbyist Jack Abramoff was its first salvo in the Senate ad wars that are just warming up. Republicans aired an ad criticizing West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd late last month.

Burns is running for his fourth term senator and four Democrats have entered the race. His seat is one of 33 Senate seats up for election in 2006.

The Burns campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee said the ad is false and asked TV stations to stop airing it.

The television spot, which was airing on TV stations statewide through the week, criticizes Burns for what it said was his vote to give one of the nation’s wealthiest American Indian tribes $3 million from a federal program intended for cash-strapped tribal schools.

The Michigan tribe was a client of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who donated money to Burns’ political action committee and is now under investigation, accused of bilking his Indian clients. The ad says the financial arrangements add up to an “improper relationship” between Burns and the lobbyist.

The ad is running through the week and is costing “tens of thousands of dollars,” said Tim Tatarka, spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dennis McDonald said Burns has forgotten that he’s not working “for high-powered lobbyists trying to win his favor with campaign contributions.”

Montana Republican Party Chairman Karl Ohs said the ad is inaccurate and “demonstrates Democrats don’t have anything real to talk about.”

“It’s a desperate start to a desperate campaign by the State Democrat Party to try and buy back a seat in the U.S. Senate,” said Mark Baker, chairman of Friends of Conrad Burns.


On the Net:

Montana Democratic Party:

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

Burns’ Senate Web site:

© 2005 The Associated Press