By Alexander Bolton - 02/01/06 12:00 AM EST
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has had a significantly greater number of former staffers go on to work with lobbying and public-affairs shops around town than Reps. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), according to congressional records reviewed by The Hill.
This larger alumni network gives Boehner strong allies in the business community should he become House majority leader but also creates a potential liability because of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, which has prompted critics to attempt to cast lobbyists in a negative light.
At least 24 former aides to Boehner, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, have registered as lobbyists or proceeded to work in corporate public affairs and advocacy since leaving Capitol Hill. At least 11 former staffers to Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have pursued careers at trade associations, public-affairs companies and law firms since working in the House. At least seven former staffers to Shadegg later registered as lobbyists or landed jobs as corporate advocates.
Boehner’s larger network is in part attributable to his longer congressional career. He is in his eighth term in the House, while Blunt and Shadegg are in their fifth and sixth terms, respectively. In the late ’90s, Boehner chaired the House Republican Conference, before Shadegg headed the conservative Republican Study Committee for nearly three years, beginning in 2000.
The Hill compiled these totals after reviewing lobbying disclosure records and House office disbursement records and interviewing former and current aides to Blunt, Boehner and Shadegg.
The lists of the former staffers-turned-advocates could serve as a roadmap to which lobbyists have the most to gain from the outcome of the race for majority leader, as well as who will wield substantial clout in the field of government relations after tomorrow, when House Republicans are expected to elect their new leader.
What is up for debate is whether lawmakers will view the alumni networks of the three aspirants as assets or liabilities.
Before the Abramoff scandal roiled Congress, allies of Blunt and Boehner would frequently whisper to reporters about those lawmakers’ strong relationships with the business community.
For instance, former staffers who have left the Hill but are still active on the political scene can be deployed to assist the efforts of grassroots organizations in battleground districts and states or can be asked to help raise money for campaign coffers.
“John was always the smartest guy in the room,” said Terry Holt, who worked for Boehner at the House Republican Conference in the late ’90s. “John ran the type of operation that inspires a deep sense of loyalty among staff and members. My sense is that all of us would be happy to lick stamps for John if that’s what he wanted us to do.”
Holt recently started his own public-affairs and communications company, Holt Strategies.
Blunt has used his connections with K Street to pass landmark legislation as House majority whip.
In November 2003, Blunt and Republican leaders worked with lobbyists to mount a massive campaign to pass Medicare reform legislation.
Academic congressional observers present a different view of what impact K Street ties may have on the race for House majority leader.
“If [lobbying] reform is at the head of the agenda, the connections with K Street would seem to be something of a disadvantage,” said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University.
Darrell West, a professor of political science at Brown University, said that the networks of former staffers might not be as useful as they have been in the past.
“These networks are very important because they give the representatives access to money and interest groups,” said West. “In an era when the inside game has been discredited to a certain extent because of the Abramoff scandal, they’re not as helpful as they would be in a different political era.”
A number of former House aides were listed on the payroll of the House Republican Conference but never worked for Boehner, according to Boehner’s current and former staff members.
They include Arne Christenson and Edward Cutler, who worked for then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), and David Hobbs, who worked for then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), according to the officials.
One former House GOP conference aide explained that in the mid-’90s leadership staff members were placed temporarily on the House Republican Conference payroll to make up for limited resources and that the practice was in accordance with the rules.
“When we were first in the majority, we had a very limited payroll at the conference compared to what [former House Republican Conference Chairman] J.C. [Watts (R-Okla.)] had and what [current conference chairwoman] Deborah [Pryce (R-Ohio)] has,” the source explained. “As a result, there were arrangements with Speaker’s office and Armey’s office where bodies were swapped in and out of payrolls.”
Another former conference staffer from the late ’90s is Lance Larson, who works in government relations for the firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. Larson said he is a special case because he worked for the Republican Policy Committee, which he said was a part of the Republican Conference when Boehner served as chairman.
Kelly McCormack and James Downing contributed to this report.