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The Taint of the New House Majority Leader (Updated)

Representative John Boehner is taking over Tom DeLay's old job. Is he really the best the Republicans can come up with?
 
 
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Representative John Boehner (Ohio) upset Roy Blunt (Missouri) in the race to replace Tom DeLay as the House Republican's new "hammer."

He won on the second ballot. Early reports that more votes were cast than there were GOP members brought chuckles from the left - they even cheat in their own internal elections! -- but it turns out that it was a misunderstanding about whether the representative from Puerto Rico gets a vote or not (he does).

Boehner's been tasked with cleaning up the ethics mess in the House. That's going to be a tough task, as he's in it up to his neck.

Boehner's ties to the shadier side of the lobbying community run long and deep. The Carpetbagger Report notes:

As Republican Conference chair from 1995 to 1998, Boehner himself initiated the formalized, semi-official marriage of lobbyists and GOP lawmakers now commonly associated with DeLay: in the words of David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf in their history of the Gingrich years, Boehner served as the leadership's "liaison to business," conceiving of and hosting the Thursday Group, a "weekly strategy session with business and trade association leaders." In 2004 Jeff Birnbaum described Boehner's Thursday Group as "the granddaddy of all [the] mutual-back-scratching sessions" between lawmakers and lobbyists that now occur on a daily, regularly scheduled basis.

They also point out that Boehner got $32,500 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients, more than DeLay hauled in. In 1997, Boehner tried to get Jim McDermott (D-WA) kicked off the House Ethics Committee for pursuing Newt Gingrich's ethics violations too hard.

More recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that Boehner was critical of House Speaker Denny Hastert's ethics proposal: "Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) questioned Hastert's call for a ban on travel by House members and their staffs paid for by private groups, indicating he considered such a proposal 'childish.'"

According to the WaPo:

Two controversial industries -- for-profit colleges and trade schools, and private student lenders -- have been the major sources of financing for Rep. John A. Boehner's bid to become House majority leader. Boehner has been an outspoken advocate for each interest, and has used his chairmanship to push legislation that would boost profits by millions of dollars.

Boehner's in Big Tobacco's pocket. Check out this brazen bit of "reform," via ThinkProgress:

In 1996 Bob Herbert wrote:

One day last summer Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Conference, decided to play Santa Claus. … In any event, Mr. Boehner took it upon himself to begin handing out money from tobacco lobbyists to certain of his colleagues on the House floor.

Boehner stopped handing out the checks only "after being questioned about the practice by two freshmen who'd heard about the handoff on the House floor"

Clearly, the GOP is in trouble if this is the best they could come up with. And remember, this guy beat Blunt because of Blunt's ethical lapses.

What a bunch.

Update: As if things weren't shady enough, it looks like Boehner bought off some of his colleagues. This just in from the good folks at Campaign for America's Future:

The Hill today reported that Rep. Boehner gave $150,000 to 30 Republican colleagues on Dec. 15, according to his filing for his leadership committee, the Freedom Project. More than a dozen Republicans receiving money from Rep. Boehner declared their intention to vote for him ahead of today's vote...

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at AlterNet.