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Dan Burton

Danny "Dan" Lee Burton (born June 21 1938), American politician, is a member of the United States House of Representatives for , which includes most of the northern suburbs of Indianapolis as well as the southern fringe of the Fort Wayne area. A Republican, his first term in the United States Congress began in January 1983. He was elected to his twelfth term in November 2006.

Burton's district includes Tipton, Grant, Miami, Wabash, Huntington, Hamilton, and Hancock counties, and parts of Marion, Shelby, Howard and Johnson counties.

In 2008, he faced a challenger in the Republican primary, Dr. John McGoff. Burton defeated McGoff 52% to 45% in the closest race of his career.

Early years, education, and career prior to Congress

Burton was born in Indianapolis. His father, a former policeman who was abusive to his mother, never held a job for very long; the family moved constantly, living in trailer parks, cabins, and motels. In June 1950, some years after the couple divorced, his mother went to the police and got a restraining order against his father. He responded by kidnapping Burton's mother. Burton and his younger brother and sister were briefly sent to the Marion County Children's Guardian Home. After his mother escaped, Burton's father went to jail for two years. Burton's mother remarried, and Burton and his younger brother and sister had happier teenage years.

Burton worked as a caddy at a local country club in order to make ends meet, where he learned the golf skills that lead to his winning a statewide golf championship in high school. He graduated from Shortridge High School in 1957, and attended Indiana University (1958–59) and the Cincinnati Bible Seminary (now known as Cincinnati Christian University) (1959–60). He served in the United States Army from 1956 to 1957, before leaving active duty to return to college but remained in the Army Reserves from 1957 to 1962. After school, Burton became a real estate broker and he founded the Dan Burton Insurance Agency in 1968.

Burton was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 1967 to 1968 and again from 1977 to 1980 and the Indiana State Senate from 1969 to 1970 and again from 1981 to 1982.

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections to the House

Burton first ran for Congress in 1970, losing to incumbent Democrat Andrew Jacobs, Jr. Burton ran again in 1972, losing in the Republican primary to William Hudnut.

After the 1980 census, the Republican-controlled state legislature created a new 6th District, representing the mostly Republican-leaning counties surrounding Indianapolis. Burton ran in 1982, defeating Bruce Melchart in the GOP primary and Democrat George Grabianowski in the general election. Burton has won every election since 1982, usually getting well above 60 percent of the vote. His district was renumbered as the 5th District after the 2000 census.

Committees

Actions in Congress

Helms-Burton Legislation

In 1995, Burton authored legislation targeting foreign companies that did business with Cuba. The bill allowed foreign companies to be sued in American courts if, in dealings with the regime of Fidel Castro, they acquired assets formerly owned by Americans. In February 1996, Cuba shot down two small Brothers to the Rescue planes piloted by anti-Castro Cuban-Americans. As part of the White House response to crack down on Cuba, President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act into law.

Conservative voting record

Burton is a consistent Conservative vote in the US House. In the 109th Congress, he had a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee . He also has an A rating with the Gun Owners of America .

Burton has received a number of awards from conservative groups, including a Friend of the Farm Bureau award in 2004 from the American Farm Bureau Federation, a True Blue award in 2006 the Family Research Council, eight Guardian of Small Business Awards from the National Federation of Independent Business and twenty-two Spirit of Enterprise awards from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,

The Government Performance and Results Act

Burton was the primary sponsor for a 1998 effort , opposed by the Clinton administration , to require federal government agencies to do more strategic planning, establish more accountability measurements, and do more reporting on their performance. H.R. 2883, the "Government Performance and Results Act Amendments", was not enacted into law.

Republican Study Committee

The Republican Study Committee (RSC) was founded in 1973. The group functioned as a Legislative Service Organization until such groups were abolished under House rules in the first days of the 104th Congress (1995). Burton was its last Chairman. Shortly thereafter, the group was restarted as the Conservative Action Team, with representatives Burton, John Doolittle (R-CA), Ernest Istook (R-OK), and Sam Johnson (R-TX) as co-founders. In 2001 the group renamed itself as the Republican Study Committee.

Vaccines and autism

Burton has been an outspoken critic of what he terms the failure of government to determine the cause of an alleged autism epidemic. He claims that his grandson became autistic a few days after receiving nine inoculations. "My only grandson became autistic right before my eyes – shortly after receiving his federally recommended and state-mandated vaccines.

In an October 25, 2000, letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, acting in his role as Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, Burton asked the agency's director to get the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recall all vaccines containing the preservative Thimerosal. "We all know and accept that mercury is a neurotoxin, and yet the FDA has failed to recall the 50 vaccines that contain Thimerosal," Burton wrote, adding "Every day that mercury-containing vaccines remain on the market is another day HHS is putting 8,000 children at risk.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most other medical institutions did not agree that vaccines containing mercury caused autism, and the US FDA refused to ban the vaccines. Most manufacturers removed the preservatives from their vaccines anyway, with no resulting decrease in autism rates.

As of early 2008, Burton continued to maintain a page on his Congressional website called House.gov "Wellness Information" which included his speeches, transcripts from hearings, and newspaper articles on the relationship of autism and vaccines; the most recent posting was from June 2005.

Controversies

Vincent Foster

Burton was one of the most ardent opponents of President Bill Clinton. Rep. Burton led the House inquiry into the death of Vincent Foster; he was convinced that Foster was murdered and urged extensive investigation into the possible involvement of the Clintons. Burton gained attention for re-enacting the alleged crime in his backyard with his own pistol and a pumpkin standing in for Foster's head. After hearings into Democratic fundraising (see section below) began, a Democratic National Committee staffer appeared in a pumpkin suit with a button that read, "Don't shoot. Burton's information during the Whitewater controversy was based on opposition research conducted by Floyd Brown, who founded Citizens United in 1988, to provide a cover of plausible deniability for the Bush-Quayle campaign's Willie Horton attack ad against Michael Dukakis. Because of the problems with the quality of Brown's research and testimony, the investigation was closed.

Drug Warrior

In 1990, Burton introduced legislation that would require the death penalty for drug dealers. "We must educate our children about the dangers of drugs," Burton said, "and impose tough new penalties on dealers." In 1994, son Dan Burton, Jr. (Danny) was arrested while transporting nearly eight pounds of marijuana from Louisiana to Indiana. Just five months later, while awaiting trial in that case, police raided his Indianapolis apartment and Danny was arrested again for growing thirty marijuana plants. Police also found a shotgun in the apartment. Under federal law, Danny faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison just for the gun, plus up to three years in prison under state law for all the marijuana. Federal charges were never filed, and Indiana prosecutors got his charges dismissed. In Louisiana, he wound up receiving a mild sanction: a term of community service, probation and house arrest.

Golfing

In 1990, the New York Times reported that in 1989, Burton had been a "celebrity player" at the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., the Kemper Open in Potomac, Md., the Larry Bird Golf Classic in Indianapolis, the Danny Thompson Memorial tournament in Sun Valley, Idaho, the Sugarloaf Invitational tournament in Maine and the Arte Johnson tournament in Chicago. Such players received free airline flights, free meals, and free lodging from tournament sponsors and, often, free merchandise.

In November 1995, the House voted to prohibit members and their staffs from receiving gifts, including free meals and free travel to charity sports events. Burton, who led the effort to exempt charity trips, said that he played in two golf tournaments each year, and, "We get more of these lobbyists in our office than we do on the golf course.

In January 1997, Burton played in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, at the invitation of AT&T, the tournament sponsor. The day before the tournament, he played a practice round with Robert E. Allen, AT&T's chairman and chief executive, at a nearby country club. AT&T also hosted a campaign fund-raising dinner for Burton at a local restaurant. Three weeks earlier, Burton had become the chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, which had jurisdiction over the legislative agency scheduled to soon award at least $5 billion in long-distance and local telephone and telecommunications contracts with the federal government. Burton defended his participation in the tournament, saying it would not affect his objectivity when dealing with telecommunications issues. He said that he had partially paid for the trip, with his re-election campaign funds paying as well because he attended three fund-raising events while in California.

In December 2004, Burton and two aides flew to the island of Guam. The trip was paid for by the Guam government and tourism industry. In addition to some official events, including touring a military facility, Burton played in a charity golf tournament. After he returned, he tried to help Guam's tourism industry get a sought-after change in visa rules.

In January 2007, the House passed a measure by a vote 430-1 that banned members from accepting gifts and free trips from lobbyists and discounted trips on private planes. Burton cast the sole nay vote.

In February 2007, a review by the Indianapolis Star of votes in the House of Representatives for the past decade showed that Burton had missed all votes during the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament for five years between 2001 and 2007. The tournament, the third event each season on the PGA Tour, pairs celebrities with golf professionals for four of the five days of play. Since 2004, Burton has played in a guest spot of the Eisenhower Medical Center, the primary charitable beneficiary of the event. The slot carries with it a commitment to donate $10,000 to the event; Burton has made arrangements with the hospital to do this over a period of time. Burton's campaign committee reported donating $1,500 to the medical center in December 2004 and $6,353 in January 2006.

The Indianapolis Star review also found that in 2006, Burton ranked last in voting among members of Congress from Indiana, missing 11 percent of the 541 recorded votes.

"... off the coast of Bolivia"

On March 29, 1995, during congressional hearings on the US War on Drugs, Burton proclaimed that the US military "should place an aircraft carrier off the coast of Bolivia and crop dust the coca fields." It was later pointed out to him that a) Bolivia is landlocked and has no coast (Burton was chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee); b) the Bolivian coca fields (in the yungas and Amazon lowlands) are beyond the reach of any carrier-borne crop-duster, being separated from the nearest coastline (the Pacific coast of Peru and Chile) by the 20,000+ feet high peaks of the Andes; and c) F-18s cannot crop-dust. While criticism of this mis-statement was muted in Washington, it sparked a major anti-American backlash in Bolivia, derailing the same War on Drugs that Burton purported to be speaking for.

Investigation of Democratic Party fund-raising

In 1997, Burton headed an investigation into possible Democratic Party campaign finance abuse, focusing on the 1996 Presidential election. The committee investigation ran for several years and issued over 1,000 subpoenas of Clinton administration officials and cost over $7 million.. The committee, and Burton's leadership, were labeled a "farce", a "travesty", a "parody", and "its own cartoon, a joke, and a deserved embarrassment".

In March 1997, as the investigation began, Burton was accused of demanding a $5,000 contribution from a Pakistani lobbyist. The lobbyist said that when he was unable to raise the funds, Burton complained to the Pakistani ambassador and threatened to make sure "none of his friends or colleagues" would meet with the lobbyist or his associates.

In May 1998, Burton apologized for releasing edited transcripts of prison audiotapes of Webster Hubbell, a former associate of President Bill Clinton. The edited transcripts omitted substantial information and differed significantly from the original recordings. Burton was harshly criticized by members of his own party, including Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who called the investigation a "circus", and chided Burton for initially refusing to admit any error..

David Bossie, the staff member who arranged the editing and release of the tapes, resigned on Burton's request. Noting that Burton had personally released the tapes and had supported Bossie's plans over the objections of other committee staffers and attorneys, Democrats urged Burton to step down as well. Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt said, "A committee staff member should not be made the scapegoat for Chairman Burton's mistakes, missteps, and misdeeds." Burton said, "I take responsibility for those mistakes," but never resigned nor faced any consequences for his actions.

In President Clinton's final year in office, Burton was mentioned in a short film for the White House Correspondent's Dinner. President Clinton: Final Days, which depicted Clinton as a lonely man closing down a nearly-deserted White House. Clinton is shown hitting golf balls from the South Lawn, and gets excited when he hits a car parked in a spot near the U.S. Capitol that says "Reserved for Chairman Burton."

Personal

Burton's first wife, Barbara (Logan) Burton, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 at the age of 56. She died on in 2002 after battling breast and colon cancer. They had three children: Kelly, Danielle and Danny. His brother, Woody Burton, is a member of the Indiana House of Representatives.

In September 1998, Burton admitted to fathering a son, born in 1983, with a former state employee. After the admission, one report claimed, "During part of the 1970s and '80s, Dan Burton was known as the biggest skirt-chaser in the Indiana legislature ... Privately, some of his fellow Republicans expressed embarrassment. Lobbyists whispered about the stories of Burton's escapades. Statehouse reporters joked about him. Yet no one ever wrote about, or probably thought about writing anything. To the people who sent him first to the legislature and then to Congress, Burton was Mr. Conservative, the devout husband and father who espoused family values."

In August 2006, Burton remarried to Dr. Samia Tawil in Park City, Utah. She was the internist who cared for Burton's wife, Barbara, during her battle with cancer. Tawil and her first husband had divorced in 2005.

In June 2007, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reported that during the 2001-2006 period, Burton's campaign fund had paid $143,900 to his daughter Danielle Sarkins. It is not illegal for federal candidates to pay family members for political work, as long as they are paid fair market value, the Federal Election Commission has ruled.

References

External links

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