The Taint of the New House Majority Leader (Updated)
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[Note: This was cross-posted to AlterNet's front page.]
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.'"
Joshua Holland is a staff writer at AlterNet.