Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Tribal Leaders Reject Donation of Abramoff Money: Montana Tribal Colleges May Receive Funds

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Tribal Leaders Reject Donation of Abramoff Money: Montana Tribal Colleges May Receive Funds

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

The Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council has rejected a $111,000 donation from the campaign of Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, with some saying the money is tainted because it originally came from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients.

James Steele Jr., chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, says the council voted not to accept the donation, which was made up of contributions from Abramoff, his associates and his tribal clients.

Julia Doney, president of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Council, a member of the council, says some of the tribes are "tired of being used" and do not want to appear as if they are helping Burns with his political troubles.

In a statement, Burns' campaign chairman Mark Baker called the decision disappointing and said Burns would redirect most of the money to the tribes that originally donated the money.

Burns, a Republican, said in December that he would give away or return $146,700 in donations in order to avoid the appearance of improper connections to Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in early January.

Abramoff admitted to conspiring to defraud American Indian tribes, which he sometimes directed to make contributions to lawmakers. Since his plea agreement, many lawmakers have rushed to return any money connected to him and his clients.

"To us it's tainted money," Doney says. "If he wanted us to have extra money he would have given it to us in other ways."

Burns returned some of the funds directly to Abramoff's tribal clients. But according to Baker, Burns was not able to return some of the larger donations--$20,000 from the Tigua tribe of El Paso, Texas, for example--because the account where the money landed has since been closed. …

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