Senator Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who has been trying in vain to give away money donated to him by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, may at last have found Indian tribes outside the state willing to take the cash.
Burns attempted to give the campaign contributions to local Native Americans earlier this week but the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council voted to reject the money, saying it was "tainted."
Now Burns hopes to give the $111,000 instead to tribes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Michigan who had contributed to a now-defunct Burns campaign account.
Carlos Hisa, lieutenant governor of the Tigua tribe of El Paso, Texas, which gave $20,000 to a now-defunct Burns account, told NBC, "We are not asking for the money back, but if he returns it, we won’t refuse it."
"Our money isn't tainted in any way,” Hisa added, saying that the Tigua gave the money in good faith. "It's Abramoff that misled us and conned us."
Recent reports show that Abramoff secretly pitted the Tigua against another client tribe — helping the Coushatta Indian Tribe in Louisiana get the Tigua's Texas casino closed with help from conservative anti-gambling activist Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition.
The Tigua hired Abramoff in 2002 to help them fight for their gambling operation, the Speaking Rock Casino, which once brought the reservation $65 million a year but was shut down after Texas authorities said it violated the state`s gambling laws.
The Tiguas paid Abramoff and his former business partner Michael Scanlon $4.2 million to lobby lawmakers into allowing them to reopen the casino, which they had run for ten years. Abramoff also misled the tribe, according to accounts, by saying he would work for free, while he actually was taking half the net profits from Scanlon's public relations company, which he told the tribe to hire.
In addition, Abramoff tried to use the Tigua to raise money for Rep. Bob Neys, R-Ohio, whose free golfing trip to Scotland became a symbol of the scandal. In pleading guilty, Abramoff said he told Ney in June 2002 that the tribe was raising money for the Scotland trip. In fact, the Tigua turned down Abramoff's request for the money.
Now that Abramoff has pleaded guilty and his agreement with prosecutors specifies that he must cooperate with investigators, Hisa says he is anxious to find out more about the scandal and where future investigations will lead, "The Tigua are patient,” he said, “but we can't wait to hear more about who Abramoff names."