His mother, Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-La.): "I remember when my daughter Barbara was queen of something or other, Mardi Gras I believe it was, and she was written up in some magazine. The writer interviewed all our kids about what they wanted to do when they grew up. They all wanted to go into politics except Tommy, who was just 10 or 11. He said, 'If they're all going into politics, I'd better be the one to make some money.' Maybe that's when he decided."
His lobbyist target, Rep. J. J. "Jake" Pickle (D-Tex,) of the Ways and Means Committee: "Tommy Boggs is a pleasant, but discreet type of lobbyist. He's not a hard sell who shows his face at every party or at your door all the time. When he comes to visit, he presents his facts, he makes his case, and he leaves. I've never yet seen him put on a fuss when he loses -- he lives on for the next day."
His opposition, Fred Wertheimer, senior vice president of Common Cause: "Tommy Boggs is one of the premier actors in a bad play."
A large glass case hangs on the wall of Tommy Boggs' luxurious, 8th floor M Street office. Inside the case are rows and rows of black fountain pens. And under each pen is the number of a bill.
But contrary to first appearances, the pens in the case are not a lobbyist's version of the notches in a Texas Ranger's gun. Instead, the case is a father's bequest to his son, symbolic of Thomas Hale Boggs Jr.'s political inheritance. Lyndon Johnson gave the case to Boggs' father, Hale, the House Majority Whip. The memento of the Great Society legislation passed on to Tom Boggs in 1972 when his father was lost on an airplane flight in Alaska.
Tom Boggs was born eight days after his father's election to Congress from Louisiana in 1940. He grew up in Washington, attending Georgetown Prep, University and Law School, and living through his father's generation-long rise in the House.
At the tender age of 38, Boggs has made it into the elite corps of Washington lobbyists. As lobbyist for Chrysler, he is now asking the government for an unprecedented amount of public assistance to a private corporation. Patten, Boggs and Blow, the law firm which he founded in 1966 with five other lawyers, is now one of the fastest growing in the city. And Tom Boggs, the firm's main drawing card, is lobbyist quarterback for the firm's more than 50 lawyers.
Boggs is well on his way to becoming the new generations's Clark Clifford or Lloyd Cutler, as PB&B is rapidly gaining the Washington influence of such long-established firms as Covington and Burling or Arnold and Porter.
Patten, Boggs and Blow is registered to lobby for 43 concerns from General Motors, the largest corporation in America, to the Council of State Chambers of Commerce, and includes the financially ailing Chrysler Corporation.
Other clients include:
Ralston Purina, the dog and cat-chow people.
Mars Inc., the candy giant.
Pepsico, of soft drink fame.
Louisiana, the state.
Alaska, the state.
Boggs knows, both socially and professionally, the president's chief of staff, cabinet secretaries, congressmen and their staffs. While Joe Citizen may never get through to government higher-ups, Tom Boggs has only to pick up his telephone.
He can do this because he works at it. Of course, part of it is his heritage. In addition, he is indefatigable as a political fund raiser, and makes himself useful in myriad other ways to those who become that much more likely to return his calls.
He has been a staunch Jimmy Carter man. One public-interest lobbyist thought it more than a little ironic that Boggs, who "spends his life trying to honeycomb the tax code with special exceptions for his clients," should have served on Carter's Citizen's Tax Reform Committee.
Boggs has also worked as a lobbyist for the administration on his own time. "He's been very helpful to us on the Panama Canal Treaty and SALT II," said Hamilton Jordan, Carter's chief of staff. "He's a very good Democrat and an effective member of the political community here. We prefer having him on our side."
"I work with him all the time," said Presidential Assistant Anne Wexler. "If he comes in on behalf of a client, it's my responsibility to put him with someone he needs."
In addition to supporting Democratic presidents and presidential contenders, Boggs is a big-time fund raiser.
"He's probably involved in more Democratic races than anyone else in Washington," said Robert C. McCandless, a member of the Democratic National Committee's finance council and 1968 campaign manager for Humphrey. McCandless ranks Boggs second only to J. D. Williams as Washington's best fund raiser and lobbyist.
McCandless said that loyalty to friends, clients and the Democratic Party, and "his understanding that you can't take people off your Christmas card list just because they're temporarily out of power" have contributed to Boggs' fundraising prowess.
"He has the ability to convince his clients and his friends of their need to contribute to an individual or the party. You've got to be able to tell your clients that if they're going to do business in this town, they better make certain contributions to the party in power and to certain key people on the Hill," he said.
"The problem with many fund raisers is that they get lazy or feel they've done enough. But a good one keeps saying, you have to keep contributing. Now look, the dinner's coming up, we're counting on you for a table," he said.
Boggs doesn't just asked other people to shuck out: he himself gives as much as the law allows. In the 1977-78 election year, Boggs gave a total of $24,296 to the Democratic Party and to 35 candidates, from Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) to liberal Rep. Mo Udall (D-Ariz.). He also endorsed a $5,000 loan to the DNC.
FTC and congressional sources say that Boggs has an excellent sense of timing. One former Hill staffer said that Boggs and his firm are adept in the use of negative power. They "know how to stop things," he said.
The current word on the Hill is that Patten, Boggs and Blow have been instrumental in last week's opening gambit aimed at drastically limiting the Federal Trade Commission's anti-trust investigations of the petroleum and auto industries, and the FTC's rule-making authority over a slew of industries including those involved with children's television advertising, a number of which are clients.
James D. O'Hara, who joined PB&B after he retired from Congress, was present at an unannounced meeting of the Appropriations subcommittee that handles FTC matters. Rumor has it that O'Hara provided subcommittee chairman John M. Slack with the plan to restrict the FTC's powers.
"What you have to understand about this boy is that he was immersed in politics from the day he was born," said Thomas Corcoran, 78. A former adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Corcoran has been a family friend to the Boggses since 1945 when he was in New Orleans representing what was then the United Fruit Company.
"Remember his father was to succeed Carl Albert as Speaker of the House. And his mother, Lindy, is the descendant of the first American governor of Louisiana, appointed by Thomas Jefferson. This boy has been a part of politics as nobody else has," he said.
Corcoran, raising his bushy eyebrows, vigorously leaning forward and skewering the listener with his milky blue eyes, said, "And now he's representing Chrysler. It's one of the great imaginative challenges of American industry. And he's so young, and he's got energy.And he knows so god-damned many people in Congress . . . God, I wish I was that young!" he said. Predicting the Outcome
Boggs says that one of the reasons for his success is his knack for gauging what will wash and what won't in Washington.
"If you're doing your job well you should not lose very often. One of your main jobs is to predict what is do-able," he said.
He also knows the fine points of politics.He knows that the best way to persuade a politician is in the privacy of his office rather than in the public glare. He knows that the timing of your appeal is just as important as who you make it to. He knows that a good lobbyist does not warn his opposition about what he's going to hit them with next. And he knows that you don't deceive your allies because you will need them again.
But Boggs' powers of detection seemed to have failed him in the lobbying strategy he has pursued for Chrysler. Boggs said last month that Chrysler came to Patten, Boggs and Blow because they "were looking for a Washington firm with tax experience." Patten, Boggs and Blow worked with Chrysler and Salomon Brothers, a New York financial consulting firm, to come up with Chrysler's tax credit plan. The plan has been rejected by the president, the Treasury Department and many members of Congress.
Likewise, PB & B's multitudinous clients know Washington politics -- and the necessity of having smart lawyer-lobbyists like Tom Boggs on their payrolls. One of PB & B's lobbying strengths is in tax law. Boggs has extensive contracts with the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. And, in 1975, PB & B gained Ernie Christian, former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy.
Christian says the business community knows the tax system is the guts of the economy and that it has a huge stake in it.
Ernie Christian says he and Boggs are a team unlike anything he's seen anywhere else. Boggs is a Democrat. Christian is a Republican (in his office, a Connally for President bumper sticker sits propped up on the bookcase). Boggs dresses casually, Christian wears conservative black suits and dark ties. Boggs is the politician, Christian the technician. Boggs meets with congressmen, Christian meets with their staffs. The 'Fact Merchant'
Unlike many firms, PB & B is more famed for working the Hill than for arguing in court. It charges its clients the same fees for lobbying as for filing the lawsuits. Boggs gets the top fee -- $165 an hour. Asked how much money he made last year, Boggs declined to answer. "I don't want every investment adviser in the world calling me up," he said.
Boggs' style is not that of the infectiously ebullient Corcoran or of the stereotypical back-slapping wheeler-dealer. He cultivates the image of a professional who trades in facts, not in the now-dated trinity of blonds, booze and bribes.
"I'm a hardworking fact merchant," he said. "The days of wining and dining and getting things done by favoritism are gone."
Recently, posing patiently for a photographer in his office, Boggs sat at his sprawling desk, his hands resting on stacks of paper.He asked the photographer not to take any pictures of the walnut bar stocked with the best Scotch whisky, gin and vodka. A stately grandfather clock stood in the corner of the room.
Seated at a large oval conference table, Boggs discussed lobbying and Chrysler. "It used to be that you just talked to Lyndon Johnson or Sam Rayburn to get something done on the Hill. Now you have to talk to 500 policy makers to get assistance," he said.
Boggs' low-pitched, reasonable-sounding manner of speech is complemented by his understated handsomeness. The two adjectives most people used to describe him, pleasant and agreeable, fit. Tall, with green eyes and a round face that always seems to be wearing the sweet-serious expression of a man who doesn't want to give his cards away, Boggs strides with the suggestion of a swagger, his hands stuffed deep into his pockets.
One of the keys to his success is his easy access to congressmen, Cabinet members, agency heads and other important people -- he's well-wired, as one capital observer put it. His family con