Yesterday’s election of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as House Republican majority leader, over Rep. Tom DeLay’s protégé, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), was a startling rebuke to the legacy and leadership of DeLay, the indicted former majority leader. Going into the vote, most observers had expected Blunt to win – including Blunt himself, who had arrogantly boasted “’If anyone can count the members of the House, I can.”
Boehner’s upset victory shows that Republicans are well aware they’ve suffered from being so closely tied to lobbyists and political corruption, and that they know Blunt, who has been one of the party’s key "money machines" in maintaining close financial ties with the K Street lobbying community, would be a problematic leader for them. For this victory over the DeLay team, substantial credit goes to you and the thousands of other activists around the country who have been pounding Congress on this issue. It wouldn’t have happened without that public pressure!
But it will likely be only a shallow victory for those hoping the Republican party will reform itself, or the Congress overall. Boehner is himself a product and proponent of the systemic problem of influence-peddling that afflicts the federal government.
For example, here are a few unsavory highlights of Boehner’s record:
(1) He recently characterized House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s plan to ban privately funded travel as “childish” and dismissed the need for a ban on gifts from lobbyists to members.
(2) He has taken more than $157,000 worth of free trips, placing him seventh among 638 current and former members of Congress, including senators, in the value of privately funded travel accepted between 2000 and 2005, according to American Radioworks.
(3) In one infamous incident from 1995, he was caught handing out checks from tobacco company PACs to colleagues on the floor of the House – and during a vote on the issue, no less.
(4) He preceded DeLay as head of the “K Street Operation,” the Republican effort to coordinate policy and fundraising with well-heeled lobbyists, which has since been dubbed the “K Street Project.”
Congressional Republicans were wise to reject Blunt, but not wise enough to reject the system of cronyism and corrupt influence-peddling that has cast a pall over the Republican Party and all of Congress.
Please join us in demanding that Boehner deliver real reform – or suffer the consequences – by writing a letter to the editor about the new House majority leader. Together, we are showing that we CAN make a difference, but the battle is far from over!