Boehner can rely on K Street Cabinet

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), a likely candidate for a position in the House Republican leadership if former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) does not return, has assembled a loyal and effective network of lobbyists.
Boehner formed his alliances on K Street when he served as chairman of the GOP conference from 1995 to 1998, when his portfolio included working with lobbyists on K Street. 

“He was a policy traffic cop for the business community,” one of Boehner’s allies said. “When [former Rep. J.C.] Watts [Okla.] won [the election for conference chairman], DeLay, in the whip position, vacuumed in the policy and business outreach. He added staff and translated business outreach into votes, which is something [Missouri Rep.] Roy [Blunt] is doing now.”

Many GOP sources say Boehner would receive strong support from his so-called K Street Cabinet if he decides to run for another leadership post. He is considered a strong contender to become majority leader or speaker if DeLay, who is under indictment on charges of conspiracy and money laundering in Texas, does not return to his post or if Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) retires in 2008.

The sources add that Boehner would likely be able to count on strong support in either case from these lobbyists:

• Bruce Gates of Washington Council Ernst & Young, whose wife, Joyce, served as Boehner’s administrative assistant.

• Henry Gandy of the Duberstein Group.

• Michael Boland and Peter Madigan of Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland and Stewart.

• James Boland of Sundquist Anthony, who is Michael Boland’s brother.

• Robert Schellhas of Citibank.

• John Fish of Reynolds American.

• Marc Lampkin of Quinn Gillespie & Associates.

• Barry Jackson, a senior adviser to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

• Gary Andres of the Dutko Group.

• Nicholas Calio of Citibank.

• Dirk Van Dongen of the National Association of Wholesaler Distributors.

“It’s a pretty broad-based orbit and relationships of people who saw him as a rising star when he was just a junior member,” said a senior GOP lobbyist close to Boehner.

Gates and Gandy hosted the first of the now-famous warehouse parties that have become regular features of Republican national conventions and are referred to as “the Boehner parties.” The first was in 1996 in San Diego.

While many lawmakers use Washington’s button-down restaurants to host fundraisers, Boehner and his allies prefer the more relaxing Cantina Marina, a bar and restaurant noted for its Gulf Coast and Cajun fare, located on the Potomac waterfront in Georgetown, several of the lobbyists said.

Each August, Boehner diligently raises money for members of his Education and the Workforce Committee, GOP challengers and vulnerable incumbents; this summer the beneficiary was Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-Wash.).

Some in his inner circle remain the biggest contributors to Boehner’s political action committee, Freedom Project PAC, which is one of the oldest fundraising committees in Washington. Gandy and Gates donated $5,000 this year and Lampkin threw in $2,000, according to politicalmoneyline.com, a website that tracks campaign contributions.

To trumpet his efficiency, Boehner circulated a document to his donors in February breaking down how much money each the top 10 House leadership PACs had given to candidates as a percentage of their total expenditures. Boehner’s PAC came in fourth, with 55 percent of the money it raised going to candidates and other PACs. The document pointedly noted that ARMPAC, one of DeLay’s PACs, came last. Its high overhead meant that only 35 percent of its money was donated.

Despite his strong network of allies, Boehner bypassed the opportunity to challenge a sitting majority leader. Before losing the GOP conference chair, Boehner’s staff floated the idea that he could challenge Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas), who was then majority leader.

“John refused to take on Dick because Dick was a friend,” a knowledgeable GOP lobbyist and operative said. “John is also someone who wants stability, certainty and credibility in the conference.”

Speculation about the future makeup of the House leadership hasn’t let up since DeLay’s first indictment, last week. But likely contenders, such as Boehner and acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), are not guaranteed a win, sources said, because the conference would be splintered into numerous camps.