A Jan. 11 article incorrectly said that Abigail Blunt, the wife of acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, no longer lobbies Congress. Since Roy Blunt assumed his temporary position Sept. 28, she no longer lobbies the House but continues to lobby the Senate.
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Lobbying Colors GOP Leadership Contest
Blunt has intervened in legislation on behalf of United Parcel Service of America Inc. and FedEx Corp. Andrew Blunt represented UPS in Missouri at the time. And the senior Blunt brokered a deal with then-Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) to fight for a vote on legislation that could open the door to Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco, a top priority of Philip Morris, because it is far ahead of rivals in designing products likely to gain FDA support.
Boehner's most famous act of the sort also involved the tobacco industry: In 1995, he distributed checks from tobacco political action committees to members on the House floor.
And both men have established a web of lobbying connections that touch Abramoff's fundraising and lobbying machine. Blunt, who modeled his political career on DeLay's, has extensive ties to the Washington lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group, which announced this week that it has been so hobbled by its association with Abramoff that it is closing. Blunt, whose name appears as a "Friend of Owner" on a list Abramoff maintained of lawmakers who could dine at his restaurant for free, announced this month that he would donate to charity $8,500 that Abramoff and his wife had donated to his political action committee.
Boehner's political action committee has received $31,500 from Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, money Boehner strenuously maintains should in no way be connected to the lobbyist.
"I've never taken an Abramoff dollar," he said.
Spokesman Don Seymour added that Boehner "doesn't think Native American tribal groups should be dishonored simply for exercising their own political freedom."
And like Blunt, Boehner has been known to accept the largess of companies with ties to his legislative agenda. The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland reported that, in 2004, a lobbyist for student loan giant Sallie Mae, one of the biggest companies affected by the Education Committee, hosted a fundraising dinner for his leadership PAC, where a majority of the company's top executives wrote checks for the event.
Indeed, since 1999, Sallie Mae executives have contributed at least $123,470 to the PAC, called the Freedom Project, Federal Election Commission reports show.
Gandy and another sometime sailing partner, Bruce Gates of Washington Council Ernst and Young, also sponsor what have become known as Boehner warehouse parties, lavish, expensive fundraising affairs that started at the 1996 Republican National Convention and can last until dawn.
Both Blunt and Boehner have tried hard to shore up their images in the wake of such stories.
"One of the points that Congressman Blunt has proactively been making in conversations with colleagues and made in his formal Dear Colleague letter is the need for lobbying reform," Taylor said. "He's pledging to move swiftly after Congress returns."
Boehner has highlighted his actions in the early 1990s to clean up the House's internal bank, post office and restaurant system, and he, too, wants to change lobbying rules, especially to require more disclosure of lobbying contacts with lawmakers.
"Nobody knows more about reforming this place than I do," he said.