The Real Driving Force Behind Boehner And The GOP: Special Interests And Lobbyists

October 06, 2010 12:04 am ET

Boehner-led Republicans have proven time and time again that their only agenda is to act on behalf of lobbyists, big corporations and the same special interest groups and billionaires who poured millions of dollars into their campaigns — all at the expense of the American people. Now set to take control of the House in January, Boehner and the GOP will return power to big business, let lobbyists write the rules again, and waste precious time and resources by cooking up subpoenas and investigations, rather than serving the national interest. 

Boehner Is Cozy With Industry Lobbyists, Promises Obstructionism On Their Behalf

House Minority Leader John Boehner Maintains Close Relationships With Lobbyists And Big Business.  The New York Times reported that lobbyists "have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to [Boehner's] campaigns, provided him with rides on their corporate jets, socialized with him at luxury golf resorts and waterfront bashes and are now leading fund-raising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign, which is soliciting checks of up to $37,800 each, the maximum allowed. Some of the lobbyists readily acknowledge routinely seeking his office's help - calling the congressman and his aides as often as several times a week - to advance their agenda in Washington. And in many cases, Mr. Boehner has helped them out."  [New York Times, 9/11/10]

Boehner "Was Caught Handing Out Checks From Tobacco Lobbyists" To Republicans On The House Floor.  The New York Times reported that "Mr. Boehner won some of his first national headlines in 1996 after he was caught handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow Republicans on the House floor. Then the fourth-ranking House Republican, he said he had broken no rules and was simply assisting his lobbyist friends, who were contributing to other Republicans' campaigns."  [New York Times, 9/11/10]

Lobbyists And Donors Receive Special Audiences With Boehner.  Politico obtained materials from Boehner's camp indicating that "lobbyists and other major donors across the country who give the maximum or help raise $100,000 will get meetings with Boehner, calls from senior aides with updates on the campaign and 'VIP access to all events, including roundtables, briefings, breakout discussions and interactive panel discussions.'" [Politico, 7/30/10]

Boehner And Republicans Invited Lobbyists To Contribute Ideas Through The "America Speaking Out" Initiative.  Roll Call reported that as part of the America Speaking Out initiative, described by House Republicans as an "official effort to increase the dialogue between Americans and their Congress," Boehner invited senior Republican lobbyists and top officials from several large trade groups to provide input on the GOP agenda. [Roll Call, 7/7/10]

Boehner And Other Congressional Republicans Consistently Meet With Industry Lobbyists To Formulate Plans To Block Democratic Initiatives.  According to the New York Times, Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Boehner for meeting "countless times with special-interest lobbyists in an effort to stop tough legislation" that would regulate corporations and protect consumers. [New York Times, 9/11/10]

Financial Reform:

  • In December, House Republicans met with more than 100 financial services lobbyists "to try to fight back against financial regulatory overhaul legislation." [Roll Call, 12/8/09]
  • During the consideration of financial reform, the finance industry spent an estimated $1.4 million per day and hired "70 members of Congress and 940 former federal employees to lobby on their behalf." [Institute for America's Future, 5/11/10]

Health Care Reform: In June, Senate Republicans met with health care lobbyists in order to, according to Sen. John Thune, "recruit stakeholders to oppose options such as a government-funded insurance plan and a mandate requiring employers to help pay for health insurance." [CQ, 6/11/09]

Cap And Trade: In June, Senate Republicans held a hearing with energy industry representatives, in an attempt "to poison the well for cap-and-trade policies." [Roll Call, 6/6/09, subscription required]

Boehner Plays 100 Rounds Of Golf Per Year, Admits Wanting To Listen To Those He's "Gotten To Know On The Golf Course." In 2005, Golf Digest reported that John Boehner "plays 100-plus rounds a year...His annual 'Boehner Birdie Hunt' raises money for his campaign. 'If you're going to ask people to give you money, why not let them enjoy themselves?' Boehner doesn't play favorites and insists he won't discriminate against a lobbyist who's a nongolfer. 'But if someone I've gotten to know on the golf course comes into my office with a good argument, I tend to want to listen,' he says." [Golf Digest, October 2005, via]

Special Interests Secretly Pouring Money Into Boehner, GOP Coffers

Boehner's Office Estimated That He Raised At Least $44 Million During The 2010 Election Cycle For His Campaign And For Other Republican Candidates — Including Large Sums From Corporate Special Interests.  The New York Times reported that "[Boehner's] office puts the total amount he has raised for Republican candidates and the party at $44 million,"  and that "a long list of political action committees, most of them affiliated with corporations and industry groups, have been directing money to Mr. Boehner's trio of political committees." The Times details large contributions from donors tied to the coal mining, the financial industry, and energy corporations. [The New York Times, 10/22/10]  

The Real GOP Record:  Protecting Big Business Instead Of Working Americans

Boehner Doesn't Understand Working Americans

Boehner Downplayed The Financial Crisis That Cost Millions Of Americans Their Jobs.  John Boehner mentioned in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he believes the financial reform legislation before Congress "is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon." [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 5/29/10]

Boehner Considers Teachers, Firefighters And Law Enforcement To Be Liberal "Special Interest" Groups

Boehner Decried House Vote As "A Pay-Off To Union Bosses And Liberal Special Interests."  In response to the news that the House would reconvene in order to vote on an "additional 'stimulus' spending" bill, Rep. Boehner released the following statement: "The American people don't want more Washington 'stimulus' spending - especially in the form of a pay-off to union bosses and liberal special interests." [, 8/4/10]

  • Bill Saved 140,000 Jobs For Teachers, Funded Medicaid, And Did Not Add To The Deficit. Steve Benen reported: "At issue was a state aid package, including $10 billion to save school teachers' jobs, and $16.1 billion in state Medicaid funding (FMAP). The measure was financed through a combination of cuts -- including cuts to food stamps in future years -- and closing foreign tax credit loopholes. For Republicans who claim to want to improve the economy, but not at the expense of the deficit, there were no excuses -- Dems offered a modest, sensible bill, which would save jobs, help struggling states, all without adding to the deficit...As many as 140,000 school teachers' jobs were on the line, and much-needed Medicaid funding needed to pass." [Washington Monthly, 8/4/10]

Boehner, GOP Consistently Oppose Legislation To Protect And Aid Americans

A list of measures blocked or opposed by Republicans in this Congress:

  • A Bill To Close Tax Loopholes That Encourage Companies To Ship Jobs Overseas [NPR, 9/28/10]
  • A Bill That Would Enable Lending To Small Businesses [Huffington Post, 7/29/10]
  • The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, An Overhaul Of The Health Care And Health Insurance System [Reuters, 3/24/10]
  • The Financial Reform Bill That Created Stricter Regulations For The Financial Industry, Preventing Banks From Becoming "Too Big To Fail" [Washington Post, 4/29/10]
  • The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act That Invested In Job Creation [New York Times, 2/17/10]
  • A Bill To Extend Unemployment Insurance For The Millions Of Americans Out Of Work [U.S. News and World Report, 7/19/10]
  • An Effort To Provide Financial Aid To States Facing Budget Gaps, Including Money To Prevent Hundreds Of Thousands Of Teachers, Firefighters, And Police Officers From Being Laid Off [Time, 6/17/10]
  • A Jobs Bill That Extended Tax Breaks For Businesses And Individuals As Well As Extended Unemployment Benefits [Washington Post, 6/18/10]
  • The Small Business Lending Bill That Set Up "A Lending Fund For Small Businesses" And Included "$12 Billion In Tax Breaks For Small Companies" [Reuters, 9/27/10]
  • A Bill To Provide Funds For "Medical Treatment To Rescue Workers And Residents Of New York City Who Suffered Illnesses From The Toxic Dust And Debris At Ground Zero" [New York Times, 7/29/10]
  • Legislation To Raise The Liability Cap And "Increase Oil Companies' Liability For Oil Spill Damages" From $75 Million To $10 Billion [CBS News, 5/18/10]
  • The Homeless Women Veterans And Homeless Veterans With Children Act, A Bill To Expand Assistance To Homeless Women Veterans And Their Families [Veterans Today, 7/5/10]
  • The DISCLOSE Act That Would Require Corporations To Reveal Their Political Donations [Los Angeles Times, 9/24/10]
  • The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act That Eased Time Constraints On Equal Pay Lawsuits [New York Times, 4/24/08]
  • A Bill To Give Subpoena Power To The Commission Investigating The BP Oil Spill [Talking Points Memo, 7/1/10]
  • "An Amendment That Would Have Required Defense Contractors To Allow Their Employees Access To U.S. Courts In Cases Of Rape Or Sexual Assault" [Huffington Post, 10/19/09]

The Real GOP Agenda: Obstructionism, Subpoenas, And Shutdowns

Boehner Plans Subpoenas And Investigations

Boehner And The GOP Plan To Bombard The Obama Administration With Subpoenas If Republicans Win Back The House.  Politico reported: "House Minority Leader John Boehner has thrown his full support behind Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) plan to bombard the Obama administration with subpoenas if Republicans take back the House in November... Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Committee, has said he'll double the size of his staff if he becomes chairman of the committee next year...and he has promised to investigate the White House." [Politico, 9/29/10]

Boehner, GOP Won't Rule Out Government Shutdown

Boehner Says Government Shutdown Not On The Agenda, But Won't Rule It Out.  The Hill reported under the headline "Boehner: GOP will avoid government shutdown, but won't rule it out," that when asked about a potential shutdown, Boehner said, "Our goal is to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington, D.C. It's not to shut down the government." [The Hill, 9/23/10]

Boehner And His Chief Of Staff Have Long Histories With Government Shutdowns

Boehner Was Part Of House Leadership During The '95 Shutdown.  According to the Washington Post, during the 1995 "budget impasse between President Clinton and the Republican-led Congress that has forced much of the government to shut down for lack of money to fund its operations," John Boehner served as the House Republican Conference Chairman.  Of the "impasse," Boehner said, "The difference here is that a balanced budget is at the core of who we are as Republican members of Congress. . . . It's a question of resolve and our resolve is strong as steel." [Washington Post, 11/16/95, via Nexis]

2010: Barry Jackson Hired As Boehner Chief Of Staff.  Politico reported: "House Republican Leader John Boehner has hired Barry Jackson as chief of staff." [Politico, 1/19/10]

  • 2007: Barry Jackson Described As A Key Player In The 1995 Government Shutdown. According to Politico: "Four key congressional players in the 1995 government shutdown between President Clinton and the Republican Congress now serve as senior aides to President Bush," including "Barry Jackson, a former aide to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), is a senior strategist in the political office headed by recently departed Karl Rove." [Politico, 9/3/07]
  • NYT: Barry Jackson Known As "Mr. Boehner's Karl Rove." According to the New York Times: "Colleagues describe [Barry Jackson] as a tough-minded, straightforward master strategist, message guru and fixer -- Mr. Boehner's Karl Rove." [New York Times, 9/26/10]
  • Jackson Worked With Karl Rove "For Many Years" And Eventually Replaced Him In The White House.  According to the Daily Caller, Barry Jackson "was for many years a deputy to Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and replaced Rove in 2007 when Rove left the White House." [Daily Caller, 1/19/10]
  • Jackson Drafted Both The Contract With America And The Pledge To America. The National Journal reported: "Jackson is the only person in America who had a hand in drafting both the Contract With America (the House Republicans' 1994 manifesto) and the Pledge to America that the party unveiled on Thursday, and he is therefore a reminder of the GOP's reversal of fortunes over the past decade and a half. Jackson worked for Boehner in 1994 when the two-term member of Congress was brought into then-Minority Leader Newt Gingrich's inner circle after Bill Clinton's 1992 election as president." [National Journal, 9/25/10]

Boehner's GOP Colleagues Support Shutting Down The Government

RNC Chairman Michael Steele On GOP Enforced Government Shutdown: "Anything Can Happen."  When asked about a shutdown, RNC Chairman Michael Steele said "anything can happen."  [Think Progress, 9/30/10]

Second-Highest Ranking House Republican Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) Refuses To Rule Out A Government Shutdown. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Cantor refused to rule out a government shutdown when asked whether Republicans would allow the country to go into default. [Fox News Sunday via Think Progress, 11/7/10]

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) Said That A Government Shutdown May Be Necessary To Stop The Spending In Washington.  In an interview with Think Progress, Gohmert said, "Listen, if it takes a shutdown of government to stop the runaway spending, we owe that to our children and our grandchildren." [Think Progress, 11/16/10]

Rep. Steve King Called For Rep. Boehner To Sign A "Blood Oath" To Repeal Health Care, Even If It Shuts Down The Government.  Roll Call reported: "Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most outspoken conservatives in the House, said last week that he wants Boehner and other House leaders to sign a 'blood oath' that they will include a repeal of health care reform in every appropriations bill next year, even if President Barack Obama vetoes the bills and a government shutdown occurs. 'I'd like to challenge them to make that pledge,' King said. 'I'd like [Boehner] to make that commitment that if the president shuts down the government, there wouldn't be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved,' King said." [Roll Call, 9/20/10, subscription required]

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland Told Audience He Wanted Their Support "If The Government Shuts Down."  According to Politico: "Speaking to hundreds of activists gathered at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington for the Faith and Freedom Conference, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) urged the audience to stand with House Republicans when they go toe-to-toe with President Barack Obama...'If the government shuts down, we want you with us,' he said." [Politico, 9/10/10]

Rep.-elect Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) Promised To Back A Government Shutdown If The Affordable Care Act Is Not Repealed.  In a radio interview with Brian Fisher of the American Family Association, Nunnelee said, "We need to do whatever is necessary to make sure this bill never goes into effect." [Think Progress, 11/9/10]

Rep.-Elect Tim Walberg (R-MI) Suggested That If President Obama Does Not Work With Republicans, He Will Cause A Government Shutdown.  In an interview with the Jackson Citizen Patriot, Walberg said of Obama's willingness to cooperate, "If he doesn't, he will shut the government down." [Jackson Citizen Patriot, 11/3/10]

Sen.-Elect Mike Lee (R-UT) Said That He Would Refuse To Vote To Raise The Debt Ceiling, Even If It Leads To A Government Shutdown. In an interview with NPR, Lee said of the national debt "I don't want it to increase 1 cent above the current debt limit and I will vote against that." When asked about whether that may lead to a government shutdown, he said "it's not something that we can rule out...It may be absolutely necessary." [NPR, 10/28/10]

Newt Gingrich Has Advocated For Another Shutdown.  Salon reported: "Newt Gingrich is saying if Republicans win back control of Congress and reach a budget impasse with the president, they should shut down the government again." [Salon, 9/14/10]

Pollster Dick Morris Assured Audience Of A Government Shutdown If Republicans Regain Congress.  Talking Points Memo reported: "Republican pollster Dick Morris told conservative political activists that newly elected Republicans should shut down the government next year...'There's going to be a government shutdown, just like in '95 and '96 but we're going to win it this time and I'll be fightin' on your side,' Morris said at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation Conference on Friday in Washington." [Talking Points Memo, 8/30/10]