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Sen. Conrad Burns should have known that $136,000 might come back to bite him. On Sept. 26 the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Burns one of Congress’ most ethically challenged members in a report titled “Beyond DeLay: The 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress.”

The group based its opinion of Burns on his ties to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the $136,000 donated to Burns’ political action committee by Abramoff and his associates and clients between 2000 and 2002. Abramoff, who’s facing criminal and congressional investigations, donated more to Burns than to any other member of Congress, the report says, and accounted for 42 percent of the contributions Burns’ PAC took in. Additionally, the report says two of Burns’ staff members were flown to the 2001 Super Bowl on a jet leased by Abramoff along with staffers from the office of House Majority Leader Tom Delay.

All that love wasn’t free, CREW says: In 2004, Burns helped direct a $3 million federal grant to a Michigan American Indian tribe that happens to be an Abramoff client.

And CREW isn’t the only group taking Burns to task for his Abramoff dealings. In August, the first major political ad of the 2006 congressional election season sponsored by the Montana Democratic Party made the same connection.

Criticism of Burns’ ties to Abramoff haven’t slowed him down one bit. We were the enthusiastic recipients Sept. 26 of a fund-raising letter sent by Friends of Conrad Burns, which reveals that Burns’ real opponent in his 2006 race for Senate isn’t Jon Tester or John Morrison, but instead the “powerful leftwing special interest groups from New York to Hollywood.” We also had our eyes opened to the fact that all those leftwingers want is to take away everything that Burns has given to this great state “in order to impose their pro-tax, anti-defense, pro-judicial tyranny, anti-family values on you and Big Sky Country.”

Yikes.

While we’re touched that Burns wants to save us from the special interest groups—and that he can keep liberal “pros” and “antis” so well sorted—we don’t quite buy it. Abramoff isn’t the only special interest that’s been kind to Burns. His July campaign finance report showed that he had raised nearly $1 million in the three months since April—that’s more than $10,000 a day—and about 41 cents of every dollar came from special interest groups.

Attacking opponents for their special interest leanings is a standard tactic, but it’s downright silly to see Burns—in the midst of public questioning of his own special interest record, and having just garnered a ranking as one of the most corrupt members of Congress—on the aggressors’ side.

Then again, big dogs most often bite when they’re cornered.

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