By Ken de la Bastide
For the past three decades, Republican Dan Burton has represented large portions of central Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A staunch conservative, Burton had the ability to attract controversy during his 30 years in Washington, from the investigation of campaign finance, to vaccines and the administration of President Bill Clinton.
First elected in 1982 in the old 5th Congressional District, Burton was viewed as a long-shot in the Republican Party primary when he challenged former party chairman Bruce Melchert for the nomination.
“When I ran against Melchert, he drew the district for himself,” Burton said during a recent interview with the Kokomo Tribune. “I thought whoever won would serve for at least ten years, I never imagined serving for 30 years.”
Burton said in the 1980 redistricting, Indiana lost a seat in the House and he thought his chances to win had disappeared.
“[Melchert] took parts of five districts,” he laughed. “I was in the new district by a mile. I thought I might be able to beat him if I worked real hard. The [Indianapolis] Star said I ran a kitchen campaign and didn’t have a chance.”
Melchert relied on the political machine and Burton counted on knocking on doors and meeting people, he said. A third candidate was put in the race by the name of Ricky Bartle to be first on the ballot.
Burton said he went home on election night believing he lost the election.
“I got a call that we were winning in Hancock County by a five to one margin,” Burton recalled. “The Star had already declared Melchert the winner. We carried Tipton and Clinton counties.
“They beat us in Indianapolis, but we beat them in the sticks,’ he said. “It was the happiest political night of my career.”
Burton said the highlight of his political career was getting mercury removed from all but ten vaccines, believing it caused autism in children.
He is working now with a Florida doctor who believes chelation, putting minerals and vitamins directly into the blood stream clears arteries.
“I worked through the [Food and Drug Administration] on a blind study,” Burton said. “They tried to shut it down, we kept the study going.”
He said conventional cardiologists don’t want to accept chelation treatment and there is a still a long way to go and further studies are needed.
In his role as chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, Burton helped expose FBI corruption that led to the wrongful conviction of Joseph Salvati, Peter Limone, Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco for the murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan. Burton investigated the case for three years before the four were eventually found innocent and were awarded $102 million.
Burton said he got President George W. Bush to release documents in the case after agreeing to vote in favor of fast track approval of trade with Central America.
“Some of my regrets, I’ve been a hard-nosed guy when I thought I was right,” Burton said. “I took on the House leadership, I took on Newt Gingrich many times, he threatened to take away my chairmanship.”
Burton said there are things that took place behind the scenes that most people don’t know about - like when he battled the FDA, FBI and Justice Department.
“I was a fighter,” he said.
Burton said when he was first elected, Democrat Tip O’Neill was the speaker of the House, who he called the consummate politician.
“The first time I went down to the floor to raise hell, Tip was in the chair,” he laughs. “He controlled the place. Tip got mad about a freshman raising hell about spending. He had someone else take the chair and came down to the floor to raise hell with me.”
Burton said there was a congeniality among House members when he first took office.
“The leaders got together and solved the problems we had, like Social Security at the time,” he said. “Today it is a very caustic attitude toward one another.
“It’s not like it used to be. We used to go out and play in golf tournaments for charity. We knew each other, today it’s not that way. There is a lot of animosity toward one another, that’s why there is the loggerhead.”
Burton was known for his investigation into the suicide of Vincent Foster, a top aide to President Clinton.
“I will always believe until the day I die that we would find evidence that he was killed in that park,” he said. “He either committed suicide someplace else and was moved there, or that he was shot there.”
Burton had a police officer shoot at a pumpkin that was meant to represent Foster’s head and contends that guards at the Saudi Arabian ambassador’s residence across the street from the location would have heard any gun shot.
He was also known for referring to Clinton as a “scumbag” during an interview with the Star.
“I was at an editorial meeting and a reporter said I believed he was a scumbag. I never used that term, but I agreed that he was. They said I called him a scumbag, which I never did.”
Without a doubt Ronald Reagan was the best president that served during Burton’s three decades in office.
Burton said he doesn’t want to become a lobbyist when he retires Dec. 31, but is hoping to represent some companies that do international business or represent a foreign country providing advice and counsel on dealing with Americans.
“I’m 74 years old,” he said. “I want to make a little money and spend time with my beautiful wife. I know I only have another 10 or 15 years, so I want to smell the roses a little bit.
“It’s been a good ride, I have no regrets,” Burton smiled.