WASHINGTON — Former Montana Sen. Conrad Burns is no longer part of a federal investigation of jailed Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Burns, a Republican, narrowly lost reelection to a fourth term in 2006 after Democrats made his relationship with Abramoff a key issue. Abramoff is at the center of a corruption investigation that has led to convictions of a former congressman, legislative aides, lobbyists and Bush administration officials.
Burns said in a statement that he "never doubted that the baseless and politically motivated charges leveled against me would be found to be without merit."
"My family has paid a great price during this three-year period, and we are thankful it is now over," he said.
Ralph Caccia, who has represented Burns in the political corruption probe, said the Justice Department notified him of Burns' status in the investigation. A Justice Department spokesman confirmed that Burns was no longer part of it.
Abramoff's sentencing in the Capitol Hill influence-peddling case has repeatedly been delayed because he is helping prosecutors. He is serving prison time for an unrelated fraudulent casino deal.
Burns had accepted about $150,000 in contributions from Abramoff, his clients and associates. He later gave that money away after Democrats criticized his connections to the lobbyist.
Some of Burns' staff also had connections to Abramoff. His former chief of staff, Will Brooke, left Burns' office to work for the lobbyist's firm after taking a trip to the 2001 Super Bowl in Abramoff's jet. Another employee worked for Abramoff before and after he worked for Burns' Senate office.
In the statement, Burns said he made nearly 10 years of records from his Senate office available to the government for review, including all electronic records. He said he was never interviewed as part of the investigation.
Burns works for Gage Business Consulting & Government Affairs, a lobbying firm founded by his former chief of staff Leo A. Giacometto.