House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., is under fire for playing in a Pebble Beach, CA, golf tournament sponsored by AT&T last month.
Burton's committee will oversee the award of the next FTS 2000 government-wide phone contract, worth at least $10 billion. Phone companies "have been lobbying" over the contract's provisions "for several months." AT&T did not pay for Burton's travel expenses, "but held a fund- raiser" at the tournament and contributed $2,000. Burton, "an avid golfer," played in a four-some that included AT&T chair Robert Allen and pro golfer Mark O'Meara. Burton spokesman Kevin Binger said Burton "was not influenced in any way" and "was not lobbied" by Allen on the phone contract (Barr/Mills, W. POST, 3/8).
Burton: "I tell you right now, I would not sell my vote for anything and second, I would not sell it for a couple rounds of golf." More Burton: "Over the past several years, whenever I talked to anybody at AT&T, I told them that if they ever had a chance, I'd like to play in that tournament. Since I was a kid, I've always watched it and wanted to play in it."
The golf invitation to Burton "was part of a larger effort" by AT&T "to cultivate an array" of gov't officials involved in controlling the phone contracts. Democracy 21 president. Fred Wertheimer: "Burton is supposed to be investigating the use of political money to buy White House access and influence and, at the same time, he is out playing the influence-money game himself." Wertheimer said "this not only undermines his credibility" but "it also may explain" why the GOP leadership is opposing investigations into congressional uses of political money (Van Natta/Drew, N.Y. TIMES, 3/9).
Burton is profiled by the N.Y. TIMES' Clines (3/9) and the STANDARD's Rees (3/17 issue).