News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

KTVQ asks democrats to change controversial ad -

Associated Press

HELENA -- At least one TV station is asking the Montana Democratic Party to change its ad criticizing Republican Sen. Conrad Burns for what the party called an "improper relationship" with a GOP lobbyist under federal investigation.

Monty Wallis, president and general manager of KTVQ-TV in Billings, said Tuesday he's asked Democrats to change a line referring to $136,000 they claimed Burns received from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The ad may be pulled if they do not, he said.

Wallis said Federal Election Commission records show the money, donated to Burns' campaign, came from a number of sources, not just from Abramoff. He said he wants the record set straight.

"We want to make sure we're not disseminating information that's written in such way that it really is not correct," Wallis said.

The Montana Broadcasters Association voiced similar concerns and told members in an e-mail they were not obligated to run the TV spot, which began airing statewide Monday.

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

Dennis McDonald, chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, said Tuesday he had heard rumors that a TV station was asking the ad be changed, but had not "seen anything in writing and nothing official."

Democratic Party officials stood by the TV spot and said its central premise remained unchallenged.

"Whether it says 'associates' or not, the fact is that Jack Abramoff -- who is embroiled in a criminal probe -- drove $136,000 into Conrad Burns' campaign coffers and got Burns to work for special interests in Michigan when he should have been working for Montana's families," Montana Democratic Party spokesman Tim Tatarka said.

The ad criticized 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 Abramoff's, who is now under investigation for possibly bilking his Indian clients.

The ad urged voters to call Burns and "tell him to start working for Montana."

Burns has said the aid to the Michigan tribe was requested by that state's congressional delegation as part of the 2004 Interior Appropriations Bill. The legislation received bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, passing 87-2, Republican Party officials said.

Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises

Local News - guampdn - Watchdog urges probe of attorney's demotion

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
An ethics watchdog organization in Washington, D.C., sent a letter yesterday to Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine requesting an investigation into the demotion of Frederick Black, former acting U.S. attorney on Guam.

Black had been supervising a grand jury investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff's secret arrangement with Guam Superior Court officials to lobby against a court revision bill then pending in the U.S. Congress, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, referring to an Aug. 7 Los Angeles Times report about the lobbying.

Black still is an assistant U.S. attorney on Guam and has declined to comment.

The nonprofit watchdog stated it sent copies of the request for an investigation to U.S. senators and congressmen who lead the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, which have oversight of the Justice Department and the federal courts.

"The demotion of ... Black looks political and should be investigated," Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said in a press release.

"The fact that Mr. Black's demotion apparently resulted in the termination of a serious public corruption investigation into a friend of the White House, makes the situation all the more egregious," according to Sloan. "This administration needs to be held accountable for its actions. An investigation by the Department of Justice Inspector General would be a good first step."

Black was demoted a day after a Nov. 18, 2002 federal grand jury subpoena directed at Anthony Sanchez, administrative director of the local court at the time the payments to Abramoff were made through a California attorney, according to the watchdog's letter to the Justice Department inspector general.

Sanchez declined to comment when reached by phone yesterday.

The organization further wrote, in part based on the Times report, that Guam Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks is reviewing 36 payments of $9,000, totaling $324,000, made to Abramoff and paid through a middleman, California lawyer Howard Hills.

Brooks said to the Pacific Daily News yesterday that she could not comment on the specifics of an ongoing audit.

The island's elected public auditor did confirm that her office has an ongoing audit of the local Judicial Building Fund, and Vicente Pangelinan requested the audit when he was the speaker of the Guam Legislature.

"It's in the mill," Brooks said of the audit of the Judicial Building Fund. "We do want to get it out sooner than later."

According to Pacific Daily News files, Pangelinan had raised concern over the Superior Court's payments of as much as $600,000 for lobbying.

Sanchez, the former court administrative director, is acting director of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans under Gov. Felix Camacho's administration.

At the time of Black's demotion, he was directing a long-term investigation into allegations of public corruption in the administration of then-Gov. Carl Gutierrez, according to the Times, which added that supporters of Gutierrez had lobbied for Black's demotion.

But attorney Randall Cunliffe, speaking for Gutierrez, told the Pacific Daily News Monday that Abramoff was not a Gutierrez ally.

In fact, Cunliffe said, Abramoff had worked to undermine Gutierrez's re-election campaign in 1998 and had worked for the gubernatorial campaign of now Gov. Felix Camacho, who won the race for governor in 2002.

Camacho administration spokeswoman Erica Perez said Monday Abramoff had not worked for Camacho's gubernatorial campaign and has not been paid for lobbying under the Camacho administration.

Cunliffe also said it was Camacho who nominated Black's replacement, Lenny Rapadas, as the U.S. Attorney on Guam.

Copies of the watchdog's request for an investigation into Black's demotion were sent to Sens. John McCain, Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy.

McCain, R-Arizona, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and serves on the Armed Services, and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees.

Specter, R-Pennsylvania, is chairman of the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee, while Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, is a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

Congressmen James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisconsin; and Rep. John Conyers Jr., R-Michigan, also were provided copies of the request for a Justice Department Inspector General investigation into Black's demotion.

Sensenbrenner is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Conyers leads the Democratic side of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington describes itself as a group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.

According to the group, it drafted the ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, filed by former Congressman Chris Bell, for which DeLay was admonished last year.

Helena News - TV ad ties controversial lobbyist to Burns

By CHARLES S. JOHNSON - IR State Bureau - 08/09/05

HELENA - In the opening salvo in the 2006 U.S. Senate race, the Montana Democratic Party launched a TV advertisement Monday that links Republican Sen. Conrad Burns to "notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now under federal investigation."

In response, the National Republican Senatorial Committee called Montana TV stations to demand the ad be yanked from the air because it is "riddled with false, misleading and defamatory statements."

It is the first advertising in the 2006 Senate race in which Burns is seeking a fourth six-year term. Democrats have called Burns vulnerable, and Burns has said he will raise up to $10 million to retain his seat. Four Democrats are challenging him: state Auditor John Morrison of Helena, state Senate President Jon Tester of Big Sandy, former state Rep. Paul Richards of Boulder and Clint Wilkes, an Internet businessman from Bozeman.

The TV ad, which Democrats said is running statewide for a week, questions Burns' ties to Abramoff, a controversial lobbyist whose representation of American Indian tribes has come under increasing scrutiny. Abramoff and his partner, public relations entrepreneur Michael Scanlon, face a congressional probe and criminal investigations involving five federal agencies over their representation of 11 wealthy Indian tribes that run casinos, the Washington Post reported.

Here's what the announcer says in the Democrats' 15-second spot aimed at Burns:

"Is Conrad Burns looking out for Montana? In Washington, he takes $136,000 from notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff - now under federal investigation. Then Burns fights for and passes legislation to give Abramoff's client - a wealthy Michigan Indian tribe - $3 million. The Billings Gazette says Burns' legislation 'doesn't pass the smell test.' Call Conrad Burns: tell him to start working for Montana. The Montana Democratic Party is responsible for the content of this ad."

The ad refers to reporting earlier this year about how Burns, as an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee chairman in 2003, helped steer a $3 million government grant to build a school to one of Abramoff's clients and one of the nation's wealthiest Indian tribes, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan.

Former Montana Democratic Chairman Bob Ream filed a pending complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee in March against Burns over this issue, suggesting the donations amounted to a bribe.

"Conrad Burns has forgotten that he works for the people of Montana, not the high-powered lobbyists trying to win his favor with campaign contributions," said Montana Democratic Chairman Dennis McDonald of Melville.

In response, Burns' campaign spokesman Mark Baker of Helena said, "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 through illegal, negative lies and mudslinging."

A rebuttal to the ad issued by the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Democrats erroneously claimed Abramoff gave Burns $136,000 in campaign donations. In fact, Abramoff has given no money to Burns' campaign committee, the GOP said, but in 2001 did donate $5,000 to Burns's leadership political action committee, Friends of the Big Sky.

The $136,000 in donations actually were made to Burns by the Indian tribes that hired Abramoff as their lobbyist, Republican spokesman Brian Nick said. One California tribe donated $5,000 to Burns' Big Sky PAC in October 2002, and 10 days later gave the same amount to the Montana Democratic Party.

The Republicans said Burns supported funding for the tribal school in Michigan at the urging of Michigan's congressional delegation, including its two Democratic senators, and the bill passed 87-2.

A letter from William J. McGinley, general counsel for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, demanded that TV stations pull the Democrats' ad and threatened legal action if they didn't.

In response, McDonald defended the Democrats' TV spot, saying, "I'm very comfortable with it."


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