Mystery Solved

Posted February 6, 2007 at 6:45pm

It had been one of the best little puzzles of the 110th Congress so far: Why did Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) miss 19 House votes over four days in mid-January? Where was he? [IMGCAP(1)]

Burton’s office hadn’t returned several calls from HOH over the past couple of weeks on this subject, nor did it respond to inquiries from the local press. No one in the Republican leadership seemed to know, either.

Now, when HOH finally learned Tuesday where Burton had been — courtesy of a report in The Indianapolis Star — he kicked himself for not figuring it out earlier. As anyone who has followed Burton over the years should have known, he was playing golf.

Specifically, Burton was at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in lovely Palm Springs, Calif., where he played in the pro-am event at four local golf courses over four days.

Keeping with tradition, Burton’s office did not respond to HOH’s request for comment Tuesday, and his staff didn’t return the Star’s calls, either.

And really, why should they? Why should an elected official like Burton have to explain his whereabouts to anyone? So what if he just decided not to go to work for a week? Can’t you do that at your job? How important was it really to vote on stem-cell research funding, the minimum wage or energy policy when he had the chance to play golf with celebrities such as Yogi Berra, George Lopez, Michael Bolton, Huey Lewis and Maury Povich? This whole story is working HOH into a Lou Dobbs-style populist lather.

Anyway, Burton has been playing in the annual Bob Hope event for several years and often has missed House votes to do so. Sometimes, however, Burton has been able to make his tee time without missing any House work.

HOH’s favorite example came in 2000, when Burton, at the time still the chairman of what was then known as the Government Reform Committee, scheduled a panel field hearing in nearby Los Angeles the same week as the Bob Hope event.

The purpose of the hearing — HOH is not making this up — was to study whether Soviet agents had ever hidden secret stashes of weapons in the United States in case World War III broke out. The hearing was definitely NOT an excuse for Burton to fly out to sunny Southern California in the dead of winter on the taxpayers’ dime.

“It’s my understanding that there are many potential targets for Russian sabotage in California,” Burton said at the time. “If there are hidden caches of explosives in the state, that’s very dangerous. … That’s why we are here.”

Then in 2005, HOH told you about Burton missing an important International Relations Committee vote on UN reform because he was playing at the Booz Allen Hamilton pro-am golf tournament over at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. That probably didn’t do much for Burton in the race for the top GOP slot on the International Relations Committee, a contest he ended up losing to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.).

As for the Bob Hope tournament, the Star reported that Burton may have paid at least part of his annual entry fee — this year’s was $12,000 — to the charitable event out of his campaign account, which may not be acceptable given that Federal Election Commission rules allow Members to give campaign funds to charity only if they don’t get anything in return.

And the donations Burton did make from his campaign account to Eisenhower Medical Center, the main charity involved with the Bob Hope event, apparently were part of Burton’s pledge to give away contributions he had received from incarcerated lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Of course, Burton probably thinks all those rules are kind of overblown anyway. Back on Jan. 4, the House voted 430-1 to sharply restrict gifts and privately funded travel for Members; Burton, of course, was the lone “no” vote.

Maybe HOH is being too cynical about Burton. All this week, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is going on out in scenic Monterey, Calif., and yet the Indiana lawmaker has been right here on Capitol Hill, voting on the House floor. Maybe by skipping the event, Burton is showing that he’s changed his ways.

Or maybe he just didn’t get an invite.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Normally, HOH makes a point of noting when celebrities are coming to Capitol Hill. In the case of an event today, however, he’ll just settle for telling you which celebrities are going to be taken to the woodshed.

At 10 a.m. in 1116 Longworth, Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) will join Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society, to reveal details of that group’s investigation into the ongoing use of cat and dog fur in fur products sold in the United States.

Apparently the Humane Society’s tests have shown that fur coats from some high-end designers have at least some dog and/or cat fur in them. Yuck.

What’s the celebrity angle? One issue that is expected to come up at the event is the fact that, according to the Humane Society, two of the designers who may be mixing some Fido and Fluffy into their products are none other than Jay-Z, proprietor of Rocawear, and Sean “Diddy” Combs, designer of Sean John (though Diddy has reportedly pledged to pull the offending garments off the shelves).

Tempted as he’s been, HOH remains pleased with his recent decision not to buy any of Jay-Z’s fur coats.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.