His links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff helped cost him his Senate seat in 2006, when he lost to Democrat Jon Tester.
Burns was well-known for his Montana signifiers, including big belt buckles, folksy speech, and pastoral scenes hanging on his office walls. He secured large amounts of money for his state from his seat on the Appropriations Committee, where he was chairman of the Interior Subcommittee. He worked to increase rural internet and broadband access, as well as working on anti-email spam legislation.
Born in Gallatin, Mo., in 1935, Burns moved to Montana in 1962 and married Phyllis Kuhlmann in 1967. He worked at the intersection of agriculture and media, working at an agricultural magazine, the Billings Livestock Commission, and founded the Northern Agricultural Network, which began with four radio stations.
He was a Yellowstone County commissioner for two years before running for Senate in 1988, defeating incumbent Democrat John Melcher. He became the first Republican senator from Montana in history to be reelected in 1994.
He served in the Marines in Japan and Korea as a small arms instructor.