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Boehner Defies Order to Remove Earmark Site

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is refusing to take down a Web site promoting the GOP’s earmark reform efforts, defying a directive from Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard to move the site to a new domain name.

The Republican leader will not comply until he receives a response to a letter he sent Beard on Thursday protesting the decision and requesting further details as to why the site must be taken down, a spokesman said.

“Mr. Beard’s office has been thoroughly contradictory on this,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said on Friday. “In August, they approved the URL. Now, as the site is attracting attention … they say it is against House rules.”

Launched Feb. 12, features articles about earmarks, press releases and video clips from Republican leaders discussing earmarks, as well as a link to Boehner’s leadership Web site. It has received thousands of hits, according to Boehner.

The CAO’s House Information Resources office authorized the use of the domain name in August 2007. But in recent days, officials have discovered that the site violates House Administration Committee rules governing domain names, Beard spokesman Jeff Ventura said in a statement on Thursday.

House Administration regulations require all domain names to be “recognizably derivative or representative” of the name of the Member or office sponsoring the site, according to Ventura. Domain names may not be a slogan or imply that the “House endorses or favors any specific commercial product, commodity or service,” Ventura added.

“It was determined the Web site in question was not compliant with the aforementioned rule and Mr. Boehner was asked to transition to another URL,” Ventura said.

But Boehner takes issue with the CAO’s interpretation of the rules. The House Administration rule cited by the CAO pertains only to committee Web sites, not leadership sites, Steel said.

Boehner sent Beard his letter within hours of receiving word that he must take down the site.

“Transferring the website to a different address now — nearly two weeks after its successful launch — will inevitably cause confusion for visitors and discourage some from continuing to utilize the website as a regular resource,” Boehner wrote.

Ventura declined to comment further on Friday. Ventura and House Administration Committee officials also declined to comment on what might happen if Boehner continues to refuse to take down the site. It is not clear whether the CAO or others can remove the site themselves if Boehner doesn’t change the domain name.

Ventura said HIR will work with Boehner’s staff to make the transition to a new domain name “as seamless as possible.”

All House domain names are now being reviewed by the CAO to make sure they are in compliance with House rules, Ventura added.

Earmarks in general have proved to be a contentious battle between the parties over the past several weeks, as Boehner and other Republicans have called for major earmark reform. In particular, they have attacked Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for refusing to support the GOP-led call for a total earmark moratorium.

But Pelosi and her allies have claimed the GOP effort is an act of grandstanding, arguing that the Democratic-led 110th Congress has been tougher on earmarks than during any previous session. Democrats enacted sweeping changes to the earmark system last year, for example, that managed to cut the number nearly in half, Pelosi wrote in a letter to Boehner on Feb. 6.

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