Incoming speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner 'stands' against politics as usualBy Michael Mcauliff and Greg B. Smith
NY Daily News
November 7, 2010
It was a scene straight out of "Mad Men" - chain-smoking Don Draper denouncing "addictive" cigarettes after his ad agency lost a big tobacco account.
Except it was Rep. John Boehner - speaker of the House-in-waiting - on Election Night, enthusiastically ripping into the city that made him what he is.
"For too long, Washington has been doing what's best for Washington, not what's best for the American people," said the man who would be third in line to the presidency.
The sounds of jaws dropping filled the air. Here was a man who epitomized Washington denying he ever had anything to do with the place. The fictional Don Draper would have been proud.
In many ways, Boehner is the Don Draper of D.C. - a chain-smoking, unapologetic Midwesterner in a sharp suit straight out of America, circa 1962.
"He's not going to change," said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.). "Everyone told him to stop smoking Barclays cigarettes. He didn't stop until they went out of business. Now he's smoking Camels."
Boehner, King said, "is what he is. He has no problem having a drink with somebody, he has no problem playing golf with somebody and it's all out there. On the other hand, he's a sincere, dedicated guy."
Like Draper, Boehner will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Nowhere is that clearer than comparing some of his old statements to his most recent.
In recent months, the 10-term Ohio Republican has parroted the Tea Party's distaste for Washington insiders and big spending.
He routinely attacks stimulus spending passed under President Obama without mentioning he led the GOP troops to pass a $700 billion bailout for President Bush.
As the Bush bailout passed in October 2008, Boehner declared, "We know if we do nothing, this crisis is likely to worsen and put us in an economic slump the likes of which we have never seen."
Two weeks ago, he derided "a stimulus spending spree that created jobs abroad while "millions of Americans lost their jobs here."
In July, he erupted when Fox News' Chris Wallace noted that continuing Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% could add $700 billion to the nation's deficit.
"Chris, you've been in Washington too long," Boehner said with a trace of a smirk. "That's all a bunch of Washington talk."
As it happens, Boehner has been in Washington 20 years - an insider from the start. In 1996, he got caught handing out checks from lobbyists on the House floor.
He's unapologetic about his ties to lobbyists, people Tea Partiers revile. Many former staffers are lobbyists and he seeks their advice and presses their cases.
Boehner says he does so because he is pro-business to the bone - and business lobbyists have given him gobs of money.
He has three fund-raising committees, including a speaker fund that's a one-stop drop box for donations that has raised $3.4 million in the last five months.
Cozy with lobbyists
Often the connection between campaign checks and his actions as lawmaker seems more than a coincidence.
Boehner attacked legislation aimed at cutting greenhouse gases to curb global warming, echoing business groups that opposed the bill to beef up environmental regs. He called it "the biggest job-killing bill" in House history.
As it happens, the same bill was dubbed "the most destructive legislation in our country's history" by execs from Murray Energy of Ohio. The firm's founder, Robert Murray, regularly attacks the science behind global warning.
Last Aug. 18, Murray and 18 of his employees ponied up $27,700 for Boehner's speaker fund.
On the same day, several coal companies and vendors gave Boehner's committee 214 checks, totaling $487,000. Three mining political action committees came up with $17,000 weeks later.
Carol Raulston, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association (which gave $2,000), said Boehner's support for the industry is longstanding.
"We have in general had pretty good [financial] support for much of the Ohio delegation and Rep. Boehner," she said.
Boehner's spokesman, Kevin Smith, said his boss "has long opposed the Democrats' cap-and-trade national energy tax because it will destroy jobs....The American people agree."
Boehner also gets big bucks from the insurance industry, which kicked in more than $500,000 in the last two years, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says.
He has been a virulent opponent of President Obama's health care legislation, reviled by the GOP - and insurance companies.
How these apparent contradictions play with the newly powerful Tea Party remains to be seen.
"He's not genuinely one of the Tea Party movement but quite open to it," said Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring.
"In a politically calculated way he perhaps understands its power and its depth. I think he gets it. He doesn't get it because he naturally rises from it, but...because he's good at politics and he's better than most at listening."
Boehner has gone to several Tea Party rallies and, Smith insisted, "There is no daylight between our Tea Party friends and what we've proposed in the Pledge to America."