Archive for the ‘Jack Abramoff’ Category

by Jay Stevens

Hey, everybody! I thought I’d drop in and say hello and give shouts out to old friends that did well in their election bids yesterday. Jhwygirl and I chatted on the phone the other day, and she said I should post every once in a while, and why the heck not? I miss Montana politics and the hubub of election day in Missoula.

So, anyhoo. Congrats go out to Jon Tester and Steve Bullock, who won very close and extremely important races. Congrats, too, to Linda McCulloch for destroying Brad Johnson, again. (Who will ever forget Johnson botching the 2006 election? Not Montana, apparently.) And to Monica Lindeen in defeating the reality-challenged Derek Skees. (Who won 46 percent of the vote?) Tim Fox‘ win in the attorney general race, and the nearly neck-and-neck OPI race should remind us how nuts and frustrating Montana election results can be. Do folks really like Fox’ dirty politicking? And why would anyone support Juneau’s excellence in public office with a vote for Welch? (Please speculate freely in the comments!)

Congrats, too, to old friends JP Pomnichowski, Bryce Bennett, and Ellie Hill for winning their races. And my sympathies for Richard Turner — a great guy and good friend who deserves a seat in Helena, even if his neighbors don’t see it. I wish someone had written more about the state races this year — I used to do it, and enjoyed it. Anybody want to analyze this year’s results?

What I really came here to talk about, though — me and everyone else, apparently — is Nate Silver. Yes, we all know about the punditry backlash, the dust-up with Joe Scarborough, and the fact that Silver nailed it. (I’m with Conor Friedersdorf: I trust Silver more because of the bet.) Okay, Silver might have destroyed punditry (um, no), but he’s not perfect: He muffed Montana.

Read it again: Nate Silver got Montana’s US Senate race wrong. 

Actually, he missed it by quite a bit. Silver projected that Dennis Rehberg would win the race, 49.9 percent to 48.4. Tester, according to the unofficial results, won 48.5 percent to 44.9. That’s a swing from a +1.5 Rehberg win to a -3.6 Rehberg loss, over five percentage points off from his projection. The odd thing is that recent polls showed Tester with a small lead — even Rasmussen, which tended to overestimate Republican support. How did Silver interpret those results with a “lean Republican” projection?

The big factor in his analysis was an adjustment he called “state fundamentals,” which, according to the blog, is “an alternative forecast of the outcome that avoids polls and instead looks at the partisan environment of a state, public fundraising totals, statistical measures of left-right ideology and candidate quality, and other quantifiable factors.” According to that measure, Rehberg had a 50.7 to 42.2 percent lead. 

That was egregiously wrong.

Why? For starters — and I’d need to check other states’ election results over the years to confirm this — Montana is notorious for splitting its ballots. Montana’s perfectly comfortable, for example, in voting for a Republican president, whisking in Democrats to all the statewide seats, and increasing the number of seats Republicans hold in the state legislature — all in the same election, which happened in 2008. This year, Montanans went for a Republican president, Democratic governor, and Democratic Senator, while dividing the statewide seats.

For another, Silver apparently didn’t calculate the effect of a third-party candidate. This election Libertarian Dan Cox won a whopping 29,979 votes, good for 6.52 percent of the vote, which is nearly double Tester’s margin of victory. That’s reminiscent of 2006, when Libertarian Stan Jones’ vote haul (10,377) was more than Tester’s margin of victory over Conrad Burns (~3,500). Tester, after all, won a smaller percentage of the electorate in 2012 than he did in 2006. It’s just that Montanans apparently dislike Dennis Rehberg even more than they did Conrad Burns — after his disgrace for his involvement in the Abramoff corruption scandals.

Either way, Silver’s election projection model is good, but it ain’t perfect.

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by Pete Talbot

(Here are some tidbits gleaned from weekend newspapers, a magazine, some websites and emails. This post’s headline is to be sung to the tune of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” as performed by Johnny Cash.)

First, a little humor from Sunday’s Pearls Before Swine comic strip. It’s for all of us bloggers who sometimes take ourselves a little too seriously.

Both Jay at LiTW and jhwygirl here at 4&20 are promoting an ActBlue site via this link. Your donations in these critical Montana House races can make all the difference. For example, I received this email from a progressive friend in Miles City (yes, there are progressives in Miles City): “We need to raise more money for Bill McChesney…his opponent is a wealthy ranch/real estater with ambitions akin to Taylor Brown.” This race in HD 40 pits incumbent Democrat McChesney against Republican Jeff Harding.

Missoula County Democrats are holding their summer picnic. Here’s the skinny: “Tuesday, July 15, 6:00 p.m. in Bonner Park in Missoula and all are invited. This is great opportunity to get together with your fellow Democrats over a burger and a beverage, hear some short political speeches and generally have a good time. Local and statewide candidates will all be taking part in the festivities. The Democrats are providing the main course of grilled meat or vegi. Wayne Fairchild of Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures (www.trailadventures.com) is providing the equipment and his guides will be doing the grilling. We are asking attendees to bring a side dish if their last name starts A – K. A salad if name starts with L – R and a desert for those whose names start with S – Z. We will be providing the rest. If you don’t have time to bring a dish to pass, come on anyway. We’ll have plenty of food. This is not a fundraiser although a donation of 5 – 10 dollars would be appreciated to cover the costs of food and beverages.”

Right below the pop-up food ad on the Missoulian’s website, there’s a story about Mayor John Engen, headlined: “Svelte mayor kisses 102 pounds goodbye.” I’m not sure if “svelte” is the word but congratulations, Mr. Mayor. Keep up the good work.

Harper’s magazine has a superb article called “The Wrecking Crew” with the subtitle “How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a killing.” It stars our old friend Jack Abramhoff and is a litany of malfeasance and corruption. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go to the library or buy a copy of Harper’s because you can’t read the story online, but it’s well worth the effort. Or, here’s a link if you want a subscription.

Sadly, there’s this news out of Afghanistan. The op-eds, letters and pundits say we’re winning the war in Iraq — that remains to be seen. For now, we’re losing ground in Afghanistan, which was our first mission. We have international support in Afghanistan yet there’s no solution in sight. The sooner we can disentangle from this mess, and let the locals decide their fate, the better. Our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have given their all.

by Pete Talbot

First, the plural of caucus is caucuses, not cauci. I guess that’s because the word isn’t Latin but an American-English bastardization of the Algonquian Indian word meaning “meeting of tribal leaders,” according to Wiktionary. The word first appeared in American politics in the 18th Century in the form of the Caucus Club, one of America’s first clubs, where the likes of John Adams decided the political fortunes of Boston.

But enough grammar and history. The three separate subjects below don’t deserve to be posted alone. Their roots are from various blog sites.

Caucuses
On a rare occasion, I glean something interesting from the conservative blogosphere.

There has been a lot of discussion, both pro and con, and from the left and the right, about the upcoming Montana Republican caucus.

Carol over at Missoulapolis added a new wrinkle. Apparently, there is money to be made by holding a caucus. There’s gold in them thar lists! From Missoulapolis:

State GOP chair Erik Iverson spoke to Pachyderm today and said selling lists of those eligible to vote has brought over $17,000 to the Montana GOP.

And in Wyoming, where the Republicans just held their caucus:

Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson spent $10,000 each to acquire a list of the names and contact information for party members who will help select the national delegates.

Money shouldn’t be the sole motivation for going to a caucus system rather than the primary election system that the Democrats are using this year. The caucus system also gets candidates participating in Montana politics and voters participating in party politics.

There have been comments, blog-wide, that the whole primary system as it now exists is a farce and should be scrapped. No one seems to have come up with the perfect alternative, yet.

The problem with the Montana Republican caucus, IMHO, is its exclusivity. Only precinct committeemen and women, and other local, regional and statewide elected officials, are allowed to vote. Basically, it’s the party elite.

One possibility, though, and again I quote Carol:

I do wish it were an open caucus like the (Montana) Democrats had in 1984. Anyone could come and vote.

Initiatives
As usual, the lefty blogosphere is chock full of interesting information.

This news is a little old but worth repeating. Cece over at Montana Netroots reminds us that the initiative season is kicking off. Here’s a thumbnail sketch:

There are already two referendums (referenda?) on the ballot that were advanced by the legislature. C-44, a Constitutional Amendment that would change how state funds are invested; and LR-118, which would continue the six-mill levy for the university system. (This is where the u-system gets most of its funding).

Two intitatives that might be headed for the ballot are: CI-99, which would restrict residential property tax increases; and CI-100, which is basically a right-to-life (anti-choice) issue.

Both of these initiatives would change the Montana Constitution.

And there could be more. An initiative that could limit the amount of interest charged on (predatory) loans and one which deals with the children’s health care fund.

This is important stuff so stay tuned.

Conrad Burns
Montana Republicans are just giddy over the fact that the Justice Department isn’t filing charges against former Republican Senator Conrad Burns and his association with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramhoff.

The main reason prosecution isn’t going forward is because of a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in another corruption case, that of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). Apparently, the search of Jefferson’s congressional office violated the “Speech and Debate Clause” in the U.S. Constitution. I’m not sure how but then again, I’m no lawyer.

But it wasn’t the legality of the contributions that bothered me or, apparently, a number of other Montana voters. It was the sleaze factor: giving $3 million to the rich Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan while stiffing poor Asian women working for Mariana Island textile industrialists. Both the tribe and the industrialists were clients of Abramoff’s.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane to an amusing story (yet sad comment on congressional politics) written by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone magazine. It sums up ol’ Conrad pretty well.

by Jay Stevens

A couple of juicy resignations today – which must be really, really bad, announced as they were on a Friday.

First, the fun one: a senior administration official, Randall L. Tobias, resigned his office today because he was outed as a customer of a prominent DC madam.

Wait, it gets better.

Tobias was the administration’s “AIDS Czar,” the official responsible for co-ordinating with world leaders on fighting the AIDS epidemic.

Wait, it gets better.

Tobias – surprise, surprise! — was toeing the Bush administration line of promoting abstinence over distributing condoms as a preventative. (Hat tip, AmericaBlog.

If the official promoting abstinence and monogamy can’t keep it in his pants, why would a rational person expect the entire third world to?

The second resignation falls a little closer to home. Senior Dept of Justice official, Robert Coughlin II, announced his resignation retroactive to April 6 “because he was relocating to Texas.”

Or, more likely, it was, as “a Justice Department official with knowledge of the case” said, he was “coming under scrutiny” over his friendship with Kevin Ring, an Abramoff associate connected to the Doolittle investigation, and an old friend of Dennis Rehberg.

Wait, it gets better:

Making the situation more awkward for the embattled Department, the official, Robert E. Coughlin II, was deputy chief of staff for the criminal division, which is overseeing the Department’s probe of Abramoff.

Hm. Aren’t some folks saying Carol Lam was fired because she busted Duke Cunningham over Abramoff-related corruption charges, and was following the case to Rep. Jerry Lewis, ex-CIAer Dusty Foggo, and defense contractor Brent Wilkes? And isn’t it for steering contracts to Wilkes that John Doolittle is facing heat?

So, Doolittle’s aide, Kevin Ring, and subsequent employee of Abramoff, involved in the Wilkes contracts, the investigation into which Carol Lam was likely fired…is the DoJ’s lead Abramoff investigator’s pal?

And you wonder why the Abramoff investigations dried up right around the elections?

Update: The Tobias story gets even better! Apparently during his tenure as “AIDS Czar,” he was pressuring international organizations to deny outreach to sex workers!

by Jay Stevens 

According to an ABC report, Jack Abramoff is giving up some information that might link Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to ethics violations.

As convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff reported to federal prison today, a source close to the investigation surrounding his activities told ABC News that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was one of the members of Congress Abramoff had allegedly implicated in his cooperation with federal prosecutors.

No doubt the quacking will start on the right about how corruption is only important to the Montana leftys when it applies to Republicans. I could link to some of Coobs’ comments and posts that claim all the Burns – Abramoff hubbub was largely a political maneuver since, if nothing had come of the accusations by now, there was obviously nothing there, and ape his rhetoric. But I won’t, because corruption actually matters to me.

Thoughts:

If Reid is guilty, fry him. I’ll be the first in line to applaud.

I’m holding judgment. Until there’s ample evidence of Reid’s misdoings – like in Burns’ case – I’ll just wait to see what happens. It’s not an election year, Reid isn’t Montanan. I’d prefer to focus on issues right now.

Even if Reid is guilty, the culture of current DC corruption is Republican. Abramoff-related convictions include Duke Cunningham, David Safavian, and Bob Ney. Tom Delay has been indicted. Prominently suspected Republicans include John Doolittle, Conrad Burns, Richard Pombo, Jerry Lewis, and Dennis Hastert. (And that’s just at the top of my head.) If Reid is really a suspect, that’s a ratio of 9 to 1. You do the math, but that doesn’t look like a bi-partisan scandal to me.

I’ve never been a big fan of the DC Democratic leadership. Democrats caved in on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and Samuel Alito, just to name a few. Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama et al. threw Ned Lamont under a bus. H*ll, the DC gang wanted John Morrison to be our Senate candidate.

Even if Democratic leaders are spineless and too political (a nasty habit with politicians), it is the GOP who created the Iraq mess, the Patriot Act, and Samuel Alito. They created the “culture war,” bitter partisanship, and the ugly rhetoric that drives most political discourse. To me, there’s no comparison.

Finally, it’s for all of these reasons that I started blogging and that I whole-heartedly supported Jon Tester’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate. That’s the thing; I want to change Washington DC, not contribute to it. I don’t expect it all to transform magically overnight, if ever, into an ideal body, but if we fight, seat-by-seat, to replace the out-of-touch ethically compromised technocrats with genuine, honest, and competent people interested in the electorate, well…maybe we can make a difference.

Replacing Conrad Burns with Jon Tester was a great beginning.

I had my mother look up the timeline for the Marianas Islands vote. She did a fantastic job. I’d polish it up, but I think the timeline speaks for itself. But before we dig into the facts, let’s lay a little background on why the Marianas Islands vote was important.

Here’s what was going on. The garment manufacturers of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) – a protectorate of the United States – were basically suckering poor Asians to the islands to stock their sweatshops:

This month PBS televised a special documentary by Bill Moyers showing the forced servitude of Asian women who arrive in the Northern Marianas after paying traffickers up to $7,000. They believed that they would end up instead on the mainland U.S. These guest workers constitute 58 percent of the population of Saipan.According to a May 2006 NPR “Fresh Air” show about Saipan, many of these workers are forced to work 20-hour days in the island’s $2 billion garment industry. Workers are fired for pregnancy or are forced to have abortions.

The problem of forced prostitution of these largely female guest workers is not new. Six years ago, Kwon Enterprises was prosecuted, according to ABC’s “20/20,” for forcing guest worker “waitresses” to become prostitutes.

A May 2006 article in Ms. Magazine described serious nutrition and substandard housing problems endured by these workers.

Four nations, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, have filed official complaints with the U.S. about working conditions in Saipan.

And for those of you who hate “causes” and are more worried about national security, the Marianas Islands provides a sort of loophole for immigrants to enter the United States. Basically, there’s no federal control of its border, despite it being a protectorate. The labor bill that Burns helped kill after a $5K contribution would have tightened our border.

The goon behind the garment industry is Willie Tan. He was a major client of Jack Abramoff.

A bill came before the Senate in 1998 and again in 2000 that would have extended federal oversight over the islands and strengthened labor and immigration laws that would have, in effect, ended sex slavery, forced abortions, and sweatshop conditions and would have strengthened the borders against illegal immigration, possible terrorists, and the importation of meth.

It didn’t happen, because of $5,000.

Here are the details:

1997: In December, Leo Giacometto, Burns’ chief of staff, visited CNMI on a trip paid by the host. The purpose of the trip, and other like trips of Congressional staffers and delegates, was part of “an aggressive campaign to educate,” according to Jack Abramoff. Golf was played.

1998: The Members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recommended adoption of the first Northern Mariana Islands Covenant Implementation Act (S. 1275). The bill targeted immigration and minimum wage in the CNMI. The recommendation was reported in the Senate, but no further action was taken.

In 1999, Representative John Doolittle, R-California, helped Abramoff secure a lobbying contract with CNMI. Abramoff donated $4,000 to Doolittle’s campaign and $10,000 to his PAC. Doolittle helped CNMI legislator Benigne Fetial win election as the Speaker of the House, and he, in turn, convinced CNMI legislators to hire Abramoff’s firm, Preston Galeis as its lobbying firm.

Also, in 1999, Senator Charles Murkowski of Alaska sponsored the second Northern Mariana Islands Implementation Act (S 1052) which asked for immigration reform, but omits any reference to increasing the minimum wage. The bill was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, only after several amendments. After being under consideration in the House Committee on Resources for a long time, it was killed. Representative Don Young, R-Arkansas, blocked the bill sponsored by House Democrats that would have made the garment industry in CNMI comply with federal labor laws, after he made a trip to the Mariana Islands.

The CNMI leadership, concerned about a crackdown on their island hired Jack Abramoff in 2001 for $1.36 million to stop legislation aimed at cracking down on sweatshops and sex shops in the American territory. The Western Pacific Economic Council was formed to flow funds to Abramoff . Abramoff secured a meeting with Conrad Burns.

In February of 2001, Abramoff donated $5,000 to Friends of the Big Sky, Senator Burns’ PAC. In March, Abramoff made another donation of $2,000.

In 2001, Burns who served on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee which was considering legislation that the CNMI opposed, also ran a Senate appropriations subcommittee which controlled spending for the Interior Department which regulates U.S. territories. On April 3, 2001, Burns had met with Rita Inos, commisioner of Education in the CNMI, and sister-in-law of Eloy Inos, an executive of Tan Holdings Company (Which owns garment manufacturing among other business in the Marianas, and is the largest employer in the island), and who was a client of Abramoff’s Benigno Fitial was also present at that meeting. In April, Burns received $5,000 donation from Inos. Burns and staff met with Abramoff’s lobbying team on at least 8 occasions, and collected $12,000 in donations.

On May 23, 2001, one month and three days after the $5,000 donations, Burns voted against the exact bill as he voted for in 2000 . He called for a roll-call vote so that his vote was recorded. Burns said that he didn’t remember why he voted the way he did the first time around, but that he voted against the the second bill after reading government reports that showed expanding federal immigration control would hurt the islands’ economy.

So there it is. For $5,000, Burns changed his vote and enabled sex slavery, importation of meth, forced abortions, illegal immigration, and sweatshop conditions to persist.

Burns has much to be ashamed with for these series of events. But the figure that keeps jumping out at me is this: five thousand dollars. He did all this for $5,000. That’s all it cost.

Have you no dignity, Senator?

Posted by touchstone

Meanwhile, Burns can’t even catch a break from his Senate buddies on the Senate Select Committee on Ethics (an oxymoron, if I’ve ever heard one):

Burns, who is in a tough reelection race and has been attacked for links to Abramoff, said he had asked the committee for a letter clearing him of wrongdoing in his dealings with Abramoff. The committee refused the request because of a Justice Department investigation, though there has been scant suggestion that Burns is a target.

(Where did this notion that Burns isn’t under investigation by the DoJ come from, anyway? What’s changed? This November report clearly suggests that Burns is under investigation. This January report has a Burns staffer admit that the DoJ is looking into the infamous Superbowl trip. When did these suggestions become “scant”?)

It looks like Burns isn’t out of the water, yet. If his buddies still don’t believe him, then you know he’s in trouble.

One of the more annoying things about this report – common to many DC pundits – is that it’s assumed Tester’s success is due largely – if not solely — to the Abramoff scandal. Um…when was the last time you heard Tester mention Abramoff? No, what’s truly remarkable about this Senate race is how little Abramoff comes up. And maybe that’s what makes this race all the more disturbing for Burns’ campaign. He’s getting walloped over his record and character. If the Abramoff scandal ever gains traction – with, say, an indictment against a staffer – you can kiss Burns good-bye, because even without Abramoff, he’s barely treading water.

And I didn’t even mention firefighters.

This article in Slate — "There's Not Enough Money in Politics" — seems based on logic that's woefully wrong, and has a skewed idea of how "markets" work. The premise is quite simple. Lobbying groups spend about $2 billion each year trying to influence Congress.

Assume for a moment that the most pessimistic hand-wringers are right, that every cent that candidates raise to win elections is some kind of bribe, and that government really is for sale. How much is it worth? Federal government spending is about $2.5 trillion a year—or very close to a nice round $10 trillion in a four-year election cycle. If anything, this is an underestimate of how much it would be worth to control the government, since, if I were an industrialist with the government in my pocket, I could order foreigners to be fended off with tariffs and domestic competitors to be bound fast with red tape.

So, how much would I pay to control the government for four years? In an auction, I would be willing to pay at least $10 trillion. And I would have to, since other people would be interested in spending the same. Lobbying is a more chaotic process than a simple auction, but fancy economic theorems suggest that the total spending by lobbyists shouldn't be influenced by whether it runs through an auction or not: It should simply be influenced by the size of the prize.

Like I said, I'm no econonmist familiar with fancy economic theories. But if I have my economic theory, if you're the only buyer, and the seller is desperate for cash and has lots of competition, then prices remain low, right? Let's take author Tim Harford's example:

the economist Thomas Stratmann has estimated that just $192,000 of contributions from the American sugar industry in 1985 made the difference between winning and losing a crucial House vote that delivered more than $5 billion of subsidies over the five subsequent years.

According to Harford, $192 million was too low to pay for the bill which saves many US companies loads of money. But who was the sugar industry competing against? Not other industries, but likely against reformers and nutrionists. I.e., folks with no bankroll.

And who were they buying from? A patient seller with time to kill, the security to haggle? Not on your life! Congressmen face brutal competition, not only with each other (several hundred other lawmakers), but from constant challenges for their seats. And to stay in Washington, Congressmen need to raise money. Millions of dollars. And yet with campaign finance laws, they are limited as to how much they can collect from each donor.

So…you have a desperate seller…who can accept only so much…who needs money fast and often…and a single buyer with a large bankroll.

Seems to me a recipe for low prices.

And that's not even considering that Congressmen receive yearly payments for continued service. So in effect, lobbyists aren't buying, they're renting. Low monthly payments. Long-term service.

 Take Conrad Burns, for example. For five thousand dollars — five thousand he changed his vote on a bill that would have put an end to child labor and forced prostitution on the Marianas Islands, a US territory. For five thousand bucks!

Why so low? Maybe he knew more would come. Maybe he knew Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay controlled most of the money that flowed in and out of Washington. Maybe Burns needed to sell low and prove his worth before earning larger sums.

Like I said, I'm no economist.

The Missoula Independent is featuring its cover story on the Burns-Abramoff scandal. There's little new in the article, but it's a nice summary of the maze of allegations and in-state hubbub generated by Conrad's close association with "Casino" Jack. If you feel like re-immersing yourself in the dreck that is Conrad Burns, check it out.

Here are some gems:

Last spring, when stories about Burns’ Abramoff connections began gaining traction, state Republican Party Executive Director Chuck Denowh predicted, “this whole thing is going to roll over relatively quickly.”

“It’s a pretty short-lived story,” Denowh said then.

Since then, Burns’ Abramoff dealings have been continually and widely reported in the national and state media, and according to Roll Call, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating his involvement with Abramoff.

Heh heh. Nice call, Denowh!

That's one interesting thing about the Abramoff affair: the GOP spin has been relentless…and completely ineffective. In fact, the rhetoric from Burns mouthpiece, Jason Klindt, has been so grotesque and divorced from reality, it might actually classify as comedy.

Blog-pal David Sirota gets in a good theory for the story (and a pic!) that might explain why Republican messages falter:

“The most dangerous scandals are the ones that confirm the suspicions the public already had,” says Helena author David Sirota…“People already suspected that Conrad Burns is a little bit of a shady character…now what we’re seeing is a full-blown scandal that simply confirms those suspicions.”

An interesting point the story makes is that the reason Democrats can be so aggressive in attacking Burns and keeping the story focused on Abramoff, and were able to start doing so nearly 14 months before the election, is that Montana, as a small state, is inexpensive for TV ads.

And Montana's size allows almost everybody who participates in the election this year to have a substantial role, whether they blog, do grassroots work for a candidate, or contribute financially to a race.

And, of course, this is an important race, not just for Montana, but for the United State, democracy, war, and peace:

“The stakes are high for Montana and for the country in this U.S. Senate race,” says the Dems’ [Jim] Farrell. “There are many scenarios this year under which the outcome of the race in Montana will determine [which party] controls the U.S. Senate next year. That’s big stuff for the country and certainly for Montana.”

There's already a lot of national attention on the Montana race, and as the summer winds down, the scrutiny will intensify.

Wheee!

In the Missoula Independent John Adams writes about a letter the paper's staff recieved from Chuck Denowh, executive director of the Montana Republican Party. It was a reprint of a letter printed in the Helena Independent Record that claimed "Most Democrats, 90 percent, took Abramoff-related cash."

The problem is, the letter’s numbers don’t seem to jibe with published reports. For instance, John Kerry is identified as the recipient of $98,550 in “Abramoff-related” booty; the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics puts the Kerry total at $500. The Center also puts Conrad Burns at $55,000, not the widely reported—by us, among other— $150,000. [snip] Denowh told the Independent he made no effort to verify the facts laid out in Baraby’s letter before circulating it. “I assumed that if the Helena Independent Record had printed it, that was good enough for me,” Denowh said Tuesday.

The author of the letter, Chuck Baraby, said

he got his information from a Jan. 6 article on NewsMax.com, a conservative news website. That article cited the Republican National Committee as the source of the information.

Got that? The Montana GOP is circulating false Abramoff statistics whose source is the GOP… Still, with Burns lagging in the polls behind Morrison and tied with Tester, it's pretty obvious that the Abramoff scandal is affecting him badly in the state. With tactics like these from the GOP, that shouldn't change any time soon.

In an effort to distance himself from the Abramoff scandals, Burns recently attempted to give $110,000 – “made up of contributions from Abramoff, his associates and his tribal clients” – to Native Americans in Montana.

They rejected the money.

In recognition that much of the money distributed by Abramoff had been siphoned from Native Americans, Burns had tried to give the money to Indians in his home state. However, a meeting Tuesday evening of the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council rejected Burns' donation…

…tribal officials familiar with last night's vote said that they did not want to appear to have "bailed out the senator." They described the offer from Burns as being "tainted money."

Burns' cozy relationship to Jack Abramoff is exemplified in his instrumental role in getting the Michigan Saginaw Chippewa tribe a 2002, $3-million-dollar construction grant – over the objections of the Department of the Interior and within two months of receiving $75,000 in campaign donations from Abramoff’s tribal clients.

The Saginaw Chippewa tribe is hardly a group that lacks resources: it is the financial beneficiary of Michigan gaming laws, and individual tribal members each earn $70,000 a year off the proceeds of gambling.

Oh yeah: at least two Montana tribal schools also qualified for the grants.

Burns’ justification for acquiring the grant for an out-of-state tribe over the needs of his own constituents?

Burns spokesman James Pendleton said…the senator pushed for the school program because he supports education. Even if Montana's two qualifying schools don't use the construction grants, they indirectly benefit because the grants free up more federal construction dollars for all tribal schools, he said.

Er…huh?

In the meantime, Burns needs to unload $110K fast. Readers, please help the Senator by making suggestions as to where he can put his money.

All hat and no cattle.




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