Former Sen. Conrad Burns died of natural causes at his home in Billings, Montana, on Thursday, the state’s Republican Party Executive Director Jeff Essmann said. Burns was 81. The Republican senator leveraged his power on the Appropriations Committee to focus on energy development and public-lands management in the West. However, he left office in 2006 in the wake of a scandal linking him to “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff, who later went to prison for conspiracy and fraud. Before his election to the Senate, Burns worked as a livestock auctioneer and moved into broadcast radio in 1975. He founded four stations that became known as the Northern Ag Network, which later was expanded to serve 31 radio and television states across Montana and Wyoming. He sold the network in 1985.