Speaker Boehner's Boys Club

August 16, 2011 4:59 am ET — Melinda Warner

Speaker John Boehner

While many members of Congress hold town hall meetings during the August recess, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) appears to be more interested in playing golf and fundraising than facing his constituents. Last week, protestors who were turned away from Boehner's district office demonstrated outside the storied Inverness Club in Toledo, where Boehner was attending a pricey event for Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH).

Of course, it's not exactly news that Boehner enjoys hitting the links with wealthy powerbrokers. As Political Correction has noted, Boehner is a dues-paying member of the secretive and stridently female-free Burning Tree golf club just outside of Washington, D.C.

Burning Tree is one of the most elite institutions in the Washington area. Presidents, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, television personalities, and lobbyists are all included on its roster. A club where high-powered men can golf and socialize without prying eyes is the perfect setting for coordination and strategizing, and with each member paying their own dues, a place where lobbyists can approach members of Congress without concern for stringent ethical restrictions. Indeed, Boehner has acknowledged that he "tend[s] to want to listen" to lobbyists he has putted with on the golf course.  

So just who are these golfing buddies?

The membership list at Burning Tree is confidential, but according to information obtained by Political Correction, it's clear that Speaker Boehner has been working on more than just his golf game. More than 70 lobbyists have been among the reported 600 members over the past decade.

This is just a sampling of the lobbyists who have had access to Boehner through their Burning Tree memberships:

  • Stanley Ebner, representing the Boeing Company
  • James C. Free, representing: Mellon Financial Group, Mastercard International, Mortgage Bankers Association, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Specialty Tobacco Council, Inc., Xcel Energy, Bank of America
  • Lloyd N. Hand, representing: Aetna, BP America, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, PhRMA, General Motors, Lehman Brothers, Petroleum Heat & Power, Petroport
  • Tom C. Korologos, representing: DLA Piper, Boeing, Freddie Mac, NRA, American Petroleum Institute, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, New York Life Insurance Company, Northrop Grumman
  • Robert E. Lighthizer, representing: Glaxo Smith Kline, PhRMA, News Corp
  • Robert H. Michel, representing: Chamber of Commerce of the United States Institute for Legal Reform, Koch Industries, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Xcel Energy
  • John T. O'Rourke, representing Goldman Sachs & Co
  • R. Scott Pastrick, representing Accenture, Chevron Texaco, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Boeing Company
  • Tommy J. Payne, representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
  • W. DeVier Pierson, representing Occidental Petroleum Corporation
  • James E. Smith, representing: Bank of America, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Mellon Financial, Washington Mutual, Specialty Tobacco Council
  • James V. Stanton, representing Phillip Morris Management Corporation

When combined with lobbying information not included above, through his membership at Burning Tree Boehner has at least:

  • 87 connections to the health or pharmaceutical industry, an industry that has given Boehner at least $1,602,347 (87 indicates the connections, not the individual lobbyists, as many lobbyists have more than one client)
  • 38 connections to the oil and energy industry, an industry that has given Boehner at least $1,007,898
  • 11 connections to lobbyists for Boeing, which has given Boehner at least $27,500
  • 7 connections to lobbyists for the tobacco industry, an industry that has given Boehner at least $208,959

And just as a quick reminder: Boehner voted against clean energy legislation and against health care reform — both causes opposed by his lobbyist friends. He's also been known to distribute checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow congressmen on the House floor.

Before becoming Speaker, Boehner loved to talk about restoring "the people's House," but he has proven himself to be a reliable ally for special interests and has established himself in a venue that gives exclusive, priority access to a small group of powerful and influential elites. If Boehner truly wants to work the will of the American people, he needs to listen to his constituents instead of granting exclusive access to his ear on the golf course.