John Boehner, the retired speaker of the House, is monetizing his decades of political relationships and cashing out to serve some of the most powerful special interests in the world.
Boehner is joining Squire Patton Boggs, a lobbying firm that peddles its considerable influence on behalf of a number of foreign nations, including most notably the People’s Republic of China. Serving Beijing is somewhat appropriate: Boehner has long been a supporter of unfettered trade, helping to lead the effort to grant Most Favored Nation status to China. Squire Patton Boggs also represents a long list of corporate clients, including AT&T, Amazon.com, Goldman Sachs & Co., Royal Dutch Shell, and the Managed Funds Association, a trade group for the largest hedge funds in the country.
Boehner is signing onto Squire Patton Boggs “as a strategic advisor to clients in the U.S. and abroad, and will focus on global business development.”
The news comes just a week after the announcement that Boehner will be joining the board of Reynolds American, the tobacco company responsible for brands such as Camel and Newport cigarettes. The tobacco board seat will likely earn Boehner over $400,000 a year in stock and cash. The Squire Patton Boggs salary has not been disclosed, but lawmakers of Boehner’s stature have easily obtained salaries at similar gigs in the seven-figure range.
Boehner is reportedly declining to register as a lobbyist for his new job at a lobbying firm, but that label makes little difference these days. Thousands of professionals engaged in government affairs positions work to influence policy on behalf of well-heeled special interests every day without registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The law governing lobby registration is virtually unenforced.
In Congress, Boehner was known for his strong alliances with the lobbying community. In 1995, Boehner was caught distributing campaign checks from the tobacco industry on the House floor to members to influence a vote on tobacco legislation. In 2006, the Washington Post revealed that Boehner lived in an apartment on Capitol Hill rented to him by a lobbyist who did business with his committee. As Republican leader, he was known for scheduling votes around fundraising events, including one incident in which Boehner interrupted House proceedings so he could attend a lobbyist-fueled bash called the “Boehner Beach Party.”
Boehner’s closeness with the lobbying industry was a big part of how he moved up the leadership ladder within the GOP. For years, he convened a “Thursday Group” to huddle with representatives of the largest corporations in America to discuss strategy and to fundraise for his party.
Boehner’s retirement from the House was met by speculation in the political press that he was done with politics and more interested in sipping wine and mowing the lawn. But in reality, he’ll still be a major political player, finally getting the role he’s auditioned for over the course of three decades in elected office.