Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana, facing another serious primary challenger, announced this morning that he will not seek re-election.
Burton’s lengthy career – the right-wing Hoosier is currently in his 15th term – has at least been memorable. The lawmaker has been accused of some highly suspicious fundraising and ties to unsavory international thugs, as well as having a scandalous personal life. He’s also known for having odd habits, including avoiding soup in restaurants because of a fear of AIDS.
But it was Burton’s wildly unhealthy hatred for President Clinton that will be hard to forget.
Burton was at his most famous in the 1990’s, when he led many of the investigations against President Bill Clinton. “If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he’d [Clinton] be gone,” Burton declared in 1998. “This guy’s a scumbag. That’s why I’m after him.”
Over the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Burton led the House Government Reform Committee and unilaterally issued 1,089 subpoenas to investigate allegations of misconduct.
Burton handed out subpoenas like candy, targeting 141 different Clinton administration officials. He once held hearings – for 10 days – on the Clintons’ Christmas card list. In one instance, Burton was so reckless, he subpoenaed the wrong man (looking for someone with a similar name).
In the most famous instance, Burton fired a bullet into a “head-like object” – reportedly a melon – in his backyard to test the theory that former White House counsel Vincent Foster was murdered.
Burton, of course, wasn’t just some shock-jock or publicity-hungry provocateur; he was the chairman of a congressional committee with oversight authority over the White House. And he wielded that gavel as if he were a fringe activist with a chip on his shoulder.
So long, congressman. We knew you all too well.