FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Call Him Senator Con Job

by JOSHUA FRANK

I’ve met Senator Conrad Burns on two separate occasions: once during a visit to his plush office in Washington DC, and the other at an airport in Montana while he was campaigning for reelection. It wasn’t long into our first meeting when I realized the Republican couldn’t care less about the state he purportedly represented.

Yeah, I admit it – I was a bit of neophyte back in the day.

When I visited Sen. Burns in Washington I had a chance to chat awhile with a couple of his sprightly young interns. Both had thick southern accents. I remember how overly eager I was to ask them what they thought about some of the pressing issues that were facing my home state at the time. And I was surprised to find out that neither had ever even been to Big Sky Country. When I pointed this out to Burns he just chuckled, patted me on the back, and divulged in his raspy voice, “I don’t hire the cute ones for their brains, kid. I hire ’em cuz they are easy on the eyes.”

Like so many other sleazy politicians in DC, Burns is sullied by out-of-state (often time out of country) interests. He works for the fat cats that thicken his campaign coffers – not the Montanans who vote for him. And his assistants were a testament to his real motivations. It was just business. The senator’s high-ranking seats on the Appropriations Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have scored him hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry, while his seat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has landed him boo-coo bucks from the telecommunications sector. He pockets thousands from big timber, the NRA, the pro-Israel lobby, and even has connections to Jack Abramoff, the notorious DC lobbyist who has been accused of bilking millions out of his Native American clients.

Burns received over $150,000 from the tribes during the period Abramoff’s cartel was representing the tribe’s gaming interests. The senator’s seat on the Appropriations Committee, which oversees all federal funding to Native American tribes, is the reason why Abramoff’s clients handed over so much loot to the senator. The bang for their buck was worth it too, as Burns carried water on an important bill promoting the tribes’ gambling interests. He has never rocked the Republican boat during his time in Washington; he’s voted the party-line consistently for over seventeen years.

Yep, Burns is the worst of the worst.

My second encounter with old Conrad was even more telling than the first. We bumped into one another in small airport bathroom in Billings, Montana in 2000, right at the peak of his campaign swing through the state. He didn’t remember me. I was on my way back to Portland and Burns was on his way out to Butte to round up a few votes. His senate race was fast tightening and Brian Schweitzer, the current Democratic governor of Montana, was hot on his trail. Many thought Schweitzer had a solid chance of knocking off the crooked senator. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.
The funny thing about running into Burns at the airport was that only days earlier he had promised Montanans that he would be “driving around the state” to campaign, and assured us all that he’d wouldn’t be flying in no aero-plane. He wanted to prove he was one of us – a regular guy who only hopped on a jet when he had to. He wanted to show Montana he was more mud-covered cowboy than filthy politico.

I told Burns we’d met before in Washington. He seemed to vaguely remember. Suddenly I became an insider. Burns shot it to me straight how he had chartered a private plane, in fact, he’d done it all through his campaign. “That’s politics, boy,” he huffed, shaking his last drips into the urinal, “you’ve got to tell voters what they wanna hear. That’s how ya win.” Burns didn’t drive the four hours from Billings to Butte that day – he flew. I jotted down the carrier, leaked it to the press to no avail. Lies are nothing when up against popularity.

Dishonesty isn’t new for the senator, anyway. Lying is the Burns trademark. Back in the late-1980s when he was first running for the US Senate he told Montanans that he would only serve two terms in Washington. Now he’s seeking his fourth.

I suppose fabricating the truth isn’t quite as bad as poisoning someone, though. Just this past week it has been exposed that Senator Burns supports testing pesticides on human beings. The EPA is currently reviewing some its own egregious and deadly “experiments,” as a congressional report released on June 16, noted:

“In one experiment under EPA review, human subjects were exposed to MITC, a dangerous pesticide closely related to the chemical that killed thousands in Bhopal, India, in 1984. In another, human subjects — mostly college students and minorities paid $15 per hour — were placed in a chamber with chloropicrin, an active ingredient in tear gas, for up to one hour at a time for four consecutive days … The report also finds that the adverse health effects of these studies were downplayed. In one study, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, coughing, and rashes experienced by study participants dosed with azinphos-methyl for nearly a month were dismissed as having been caused by ‘viral illness,’ ‘ward conditions,’ or diet. Human subjects were often inadequately notified of about the health risks of participating in experiments.”

It’s hard to believe anyone could support such cruel tests on animals, let alone humans. But Burns apparently does. According to an article published by the Center for Health and Environmental Justice, Senator Burns

“will likely oppose a provision in the House version of the agency’s appropriations bill that bans the agency’s use of data from pesticide testing on humans … CropLife America, the pesticide industry trade group, issued a statement after the House vote, calling on the Senate to `overturn’ the provision.’ Since 2000, Burns has accepted $10,000 from political action committees set up by some of the pesticide industries top producers. In total, Burns has accepted $5,000 from DuPont, $3,000 from the American Crop Protection Association, $1,000 from Bayer Crop Science and $1,000 from Monsanto.”

Indeed, Conrad Burns is as shady as they come. So let us hope that Montana voters serve the ol’ stooge his eviction notice in 2006. He deserves it more than most.

JOSHUA FRANK is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be published by Common Courage Press. You can pre-order a copy at discounted rate at www.BrickBurner.org. Josh can be reached at: Joshua@BrickBurner.org.

 

 

 

 

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brickburner

May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail