Oversight Chairman Burton Pledges Patience - for Now

Article excerpt

Rep. Dan Burton has earned a few monikers during his career, most alluding to his aggressiveness. However, he's keeping It all in check as leader of the committee investigating Democratic fund-raising.

Personal Bio

Home: Indianapolis

Born: June 21, 1938, Indianapolis

Family: Wife, Barbara. Children: Kelly, Danielle Lee and Daniel Lee II. Grandchildren: Christian and Alexandra. Protestant.

Education: Attended Indiana University, 1958-59; Cincinnati Bible Seminary, 1959-60; U.S. Army, 1956-57; U.S. Air Force Reserve, 1957-62.

Career: Founder, Dan Burton Insurance Agency, 1968; Indiana House of Representatives, 1966-68, 1976-80; Indiana Senate, 1968-70 and 1980-82.

Committees: Chairman, Government Reform and Oversight. International Relations Committee, serving in the International Operations and Human Rights and the Western Hemisphere sub-committees.

Favorite Movies: Chariots of Fire and Red River, but especially Casablanca.

One of his ancestors crossed the Delaware River with George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Like Washington and his forebear, Indiana Rep. Dan Burton doesn't have a readiness problem. He carries a cellular phone with him wherever he goes, "even on Saturdays and Sundays," he tells Insight. Burton is chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, charged with looking into the ever-expanding scandals involving the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton administration and their fund-raising activities.

"I guess I'm controversial," Burton says with a laugh. He's speaking about the too-partisan-even-for-politics labels Democrats, liberal Republicans and many in the media have stuck on him. In person, what comes out above all is his uncommon sincerity. He mentions waking up at 4 a.m., thinking about the committee s work. He means to be fair. "I want to investigate illegal activities -- if the Republicans did it or if the Democrats did it," Burton tells Insight. "Thus far' the vast majority of the problems are from the Democratic side."

Insight: What's on the front burner now with the committee hearings?

Dan Burton: One of the things we have to do is get immunity for some of the witnesses, because we now have 61 people who have taken the Fifth Amendment or left the country.

That's an extraordinary number. Not one or two or three or so, but 61. Many of these people are very close to the president. Web Hubbell. Mark Middleton. John Wong. Charlie Trie. They're all scared to death, I guess, so they're taking the Fifth. They've all hired lawyers, and I think before it's over the number will be up around 100 or more who take the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination -- which is quite a condemnation of the administration.

We're looking at the White House tapes. I sent a subpoena to the White House in March but they didn't remember they had those tapes, which I think is incredible. We want to find out who in the White House counsel's office was in charge of complying with the subpoena. Chuck Ruff? Or did he designate someone else to be in charge? We want to talk to those people to find out why we didn't get that information and why it's been coming so slowly.

As I understand it, we still don't have probably 30 or 40 of the tapes -- or more. If you look at the tapes the committee now has, you come to the conclusion that there's a possibility they have been altered, because some of them stop right in the middle of a sequence. In others, words are chopped off; some of them, you can't hear the words. They're not bleeped out, there's just no sound. All kinds of problems like that.

Insight: Some of your critics say you are too aggressive to head the committee.

DB: When I first became chairman, they said I would be a pit bull and I wouldn't be able to conduct hearings. Some people said I would be too aggressive, too partisan. …