Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana is a different kind of hard core right-winger. Like any loyal Republican, he has the consistent record against abortion and for guns. But Burton takes things a step further, into crazy-land. In 1990, Burton introduced legislation that would impose the death penalty on drug dealers. (He’s lucky it didn’t pass, because Burton’s son would later be arrested for transporting multiple pounds of marijuana across state lines.) When the House passed a measure prohibiting members from accepting gifts and free trips from lobbyists, the vote was 430-1. Burton was the one. Time once reported that Burton thought the Clinton White House bugged his phones, and that he was “so afraid of catching AIDS that he brings his own scissors to the House barbershop and refuses to eat soup at public restaurants.”
But his conservativism and his nuttiness aren’t what he’s known for. Burton is best known as one of the most vicious attack dogs in Congress when Bill Clinton was president. He led the investigation into Democratic fundraising abuse, even though he has his own questions about fundraising ethics. He called the president a “scumbag” and said “no one, regardless of what branch of government they serve, should be allowed to get away with these alleged sexual improprieties,” even though he has fathered a child out of wedlock. In 1998, he released edited transcripts of prison audiotape from Webster Hubbell, an act so partisan and sloppy that it brought rebuke from even Newt Gingrich. And the coup de grâce: Burton was so dogged in his pursuit of the Vince Foster allegations that he shot a pumpkin in his backyard with a pistol, to mimic the alleged murder.
And now, finally, it appears Burton may get the boot. The 13-term Congressman, who routinely wins reelection by wide margins, is facing a Republican primary challenger named John McGoff, who, as a member of the National Guard, flew missions into Iraq and Afghanistan as a flight surgeon. McGoff says that he was once an active Burton supporter, but now he’s simply had enough. According to the Indianopolis Star, McGoff’s plan to put ethics at the center of his campaign is making serious headway among Indiana voters. It helps that Burton, who has drastically outspent his opponent, has more less validated the strategy by spending $190,000 in taxpayers’ dollars on constituent mailings that look suspiciously like campaign advertisements.
Perhaps instead of running a pro-ethics campaign, McGoff can run an anti-blockhead campaign.