U.S. Rep. Dan Burton skipped 19 House votes, including measures to reduce college costs and cut oil industry tax breaks, so he could play in a golf tournament last month in Palm Springs, Calif.
Burton also missed hearings on Iraq and North Korea to play in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, which pairs top golfers with politicians and celebrities such as actor and director Clint Eastwood.
A review of House votes for the past decade shows the Indianapolis Republican has been absent every year votes coincided with the tournament: 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2001. This year in January, he missed a total of 20 out of 73 votes.
Only U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., has missed more votes than Burton among Indiana lawmakers since Congress returned to Washington last month. Buyer requested a medical leave of absence for much of the session so far to have surgery and physical therapy after a skiing injury.
Burton ranked last in voting among Indiana lawmakers in 2006, casting ballots in 89 percent of the 541 recorded votes.
The congressman declined several requests for comment.
Although House rules allow for docking the pay of members of Congress for unexcused absences, it is not enforced according to Groppe. There are pretty hefty fees for participating in the Bob Hope fundraising event. Groppe says special arrangements have been worked out to allow Burton to continue participating in the event after they cut back the number of free slots a few years ago, but the arrangement allows him to pay the fee over the course of the year. Based on campaign disclosure statements, Burton apparently uses campaign funds to pay for at least part of the fee.
You would thinks Republicans in Burton's district would wise up and organize an effort to oust Burton, who has become somewhat of an embarrassment in Indiana politics. A gerrymandered district keeps him safe from a general election challenge. If he is to be defeated, it must happen in the primary.