Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner’s (R-OH) ability to corral his caucus into opposing reform is paying off dividends in his bid to become the next Speaker of the House. Roll Call reports this morning that lobbyists view Boehner as a “good investment,” and that Boehner has assembled a “kitchen cabinet” of lobbyists to organize his fundraising operation. According to the article, Boehner has leaned on these lobbyists to pressure their clients to increase their contributions to vulnerable Republican lawmakers. Already, Boehner’s outreach has helped his own campaign war chest swell to $3.2 million, while his leadership PAC had brought in $1.9 million by the end of March.
Boehner promised that if he becomes the next Speaker, he will create a more “open” and “transparent” Congress. But Boehner’s courtship of K Street undermines that claim, especially considering the fact he has consistently prioritized the interests of lobbyists over the public over the past year:
— In July of 2009, Boehner interrupted House proceedings so Republican lawmakers could attend his annual “Boehner Beach Party” fundraiser with corporate lobbyists. [Politico]
— In December of 2009, Boehner convened a meeting with 100 corporate lobbyists to plot strategy to defeat Wall Street reform. [Roll Call]
— In January of 2010, Boehner mobilized the House Republican retreat. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Boehner said he didn’t know if any corporate lobbyists would be there. However, ThinkProgress traveled to the retreat, and found lobbyists from Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and the health insurance industry not only in attendance, but helping fund the event. [ThinkProgress]
— In March of 2010, Boehner addressed the American Bankers Association, telling corporate lobbyists to fight financial reform. “Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you,” Boehner implored the bank lobbyists, encouraging them to stand up to Capitol Hill staffers. [MarketWatch]
Boehner has been known for his cozy relationship with K Street lobbyists ever since he handed out campaign contribution checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor in the mid-90s. When Republicans controlled Congress, Boehner and Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) were the point men for former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) in communicating with corporate lobbyists. And in 2006, he was caught living in a house owned by a lobbyist who had sought legislative favors from him.
Boehner’s track record suggests he is indeed a good investment for corporate lobbyists. But his promise of more transparency and open government fall flat given his relationship with influence peddlers.