Hackles were likely raised last week when the Whitefish Pilot and the Hungry Horse News published a story on Conrad Burns in which Burns states, “[Jack] Abramoff only gave my campaign $5,000, that’s all.”
The $5,000 figure seems a bit low considering it has been widely reported that Burns received $150,000 in donations from Jack Abramoff, more than any other congressman. Burns eventually gave the $150,000 away.
So where does the $5,000 figure come from?
Jason Klindt, a spokesman for Burns, tells the Independent that “for Jack Abramoff himself, it’s just $5,000.” The $150,000 figure includes donations from Abramoff, his associates and clients.
This fine distinction was apparently all Monty Warner could stand. Warner, a Republican media consultant who claims to be a friend of Abramoff’s, has fired off a letter to the Whitefish Pilot chastising Burns for his general derision of Abramoff, as well as the $5,000 statement.
The Pilot is expected to print the letter on Nov. 2. Editor Richard Hanners could not be reached for comment.
According to a story in Helena’s Independent Record, Warner’s letter reads, in part, “I understand [Burns] is in a campaign and I am a Republican, but the nastiness and the manner in which he’s gone about trashing my friend is repugnant.”
The letter then goes on to state that Abramoff and Burns had close ties, which Burns has denied.
In response to the letter, Klindt told the Independent, “This guy sounds like he’s carrying out a vendetta. It’s a week before an election.”
Klindt then referred the Independent to David Horowitz, Warner’s former employer at the Center for the Study of Pop Culture, who in turn questioned Warner’s credibility and said that, according to his contacts, Warner never knew Abramoff.
“I have no idea why he’s doing this,” Horowitz said.
The Independent was unable to reach Warner for comment.
At this point, it seems that Burns’ efforts to minimize his ties to Abramoff have only revealed more of the tangled web spun by the former lobbyist.