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Boehner Team in Place to Show Him the Money

Boehner during his final days in office. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Boehner during his final days in office. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner Inc. begins.  

It took former Speaker John A. Boehner less than a week after leaving Congress to start assembling a team of power players to help him cash in.  

His advisers will field lucrative gigs that could include publishing deals, seats on corporate boards and paid speeches — if he chooses to go that route. The team that includes superlawyer Robert Barnett also may help the Ohio Republican sift through seven-figure job offers from K Street and Wall Street, should he want to pursue a time-honored path of former lawmakers.  

“Well, obviously, since he’s gotten Barnett, he’s not just going to Florida and retiring,” said James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.  

Less than a fortnight from his 66th birthday, Boehner’s future is beginning to take shape.  

Congressional Hits and Misses: The Essential John Boehner

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“Many decisions lie ahead for him,” said Boehner spokesman Dave Schnittger, a senior policy adviser with Squire Patton Boggs. “Getting a team in place to help sort through his options and manage the fundamentals is step one in what will be a gradual process that will unfold over time.”  

Though Boehner had said before leaving office he intended to spend more time on the golf course, his emerging team reveals far bigger possibilities.  

Barnett is best known for helping former government officials, including Bill Clinton and ex-Secretary of State James Baker, ink multimillion-dollar book deals and private-sector gigs. Barnett also helped Hillary Rodham Clinton negotiate an $8 million deal for her “Living History” memoir in 2003.  

Barnett’s partner Deneen Howell will also advise Boehner, who has signed with the Harry Walker Agency to book paid speeches, Schnittger confirmed.  

“We are likely to see him with a portfolio where he has several different initiatives going on at the same time,” said Bill O’Leary, a corporate headhunter who is not advising Boehner. “Giving speeches can be lucrative. He can be a media commentator, do a book deal. Then there’s consulting or lobbying or business development roles.”  

Speeches to big lobbying associations, such as the National Association of Realtors or the National Restaurant Association, can pay handsomely from $50,000 to $200,000, said Leonard Pfeiffer, who runs a recruiting firm in Washington.  

“That’s not bad pay on a per-hour basis for a 45-minute speech,” Pfeiffer said. “Plus, once you get used to it, you can take your basic speech and twist it and revise it for the audience.”  

Major corporate boards can pay as much as $400,000 each, plus stock options. O’Leary said former elected and government officials often sit on three to five boards at a time.  

“Part of the value he’s offering is insider knowledge,” Tim LaPira, a political science professor at James Madison University, said about Boehner. “That’s valuable information to have — it’s valuable to corporate boards or on K Street or Wall Street.”  

Boehner is under a one-year ban from lobbying Congress, but numerous former congressional leaders have gone on to strategic advisory roles. Many ultimately end up as registered lobbyists, including former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Bob Dole and former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.  

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., is a senior adviser at an international law firm and also runs Gingrich Productions, through which he books speaking engagements.  

Though Dole, a former presidential candidate, appeared in ads for Viagra and other products, such gigs are limited for former lawmakers, experts say. “I personally would be surprised to see [Boehner] on TV selling reverse mortgages,” LaPira said, referring to commercials starring the late Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.  

Boehner isn’t giving up on politics, either. Schnittger noted that former Boehner aide John Criscuolo will head up the ex-speaker’s political affairs.  

Boehner, a prolific fundraiser while in office, may donate money from his joint leadership committee and his campaign committee to other political committees, candidates for office and charity. Boehner, who has long been cozy with K Street, collected more than $53 million for his leadership PAC and his campaign committee during his tenure as speaker.  

He may also donate funds from his leadership PAC, the Freedom Project PAC, which raised $1.3 million this year, or he could transfer that money for his personal use. Schnittger, who serves as Boehner’s post-congressional spokesman, did not respond to questions about Boehner’s decisions regarding his existing political money.  

As CQ Roll Call reported this week, Boehner will set up an office in the Longworth House Office Building, staffed at taxpayers’ expense  — a little-known perk reserved for speakers who retire from Congress.  

Schnittger noted that because Boehner is using an unoccupied Longworth outpost, it will save taxpayers money on rent. That office can’t engage in political activity and must be used solely for the purpose of winding down his congressional service.  

Even if Boehner ends up eschewing K Street, many of his recent congressional aides will embrace the lobbying sector. K Street is on the hunt for “Boehnerland” alumni. Top picks would include Boehner’s chief of staff, Mike Sommers; policy director David Stewart; Anne Bradbury, who ran floor operations; and Trevor Kolego, who was director of member services.  

The lobbying and trade association sector may be difficult to resist. Two examples offer insight into the salaries that Boehner could field: Former Sen. Christopher S. Dodd, D-Conn., who runs the Motion Picture Association of America, gets a paycheck worth more than $3 million, tax disclosures show. And Thomas Donohue, who heads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, earned $5.5 million in 2013, the group’s tax form 990 revealed.  

Eliza Newlin Carney contributed to this report.  


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