House Speaker John Boehner may have just become the most sought-after hire on K Street.
It’s too soon to tell whether Boehner, who announced his resignation Friday, will entertain the possibility of a job at a law or lobby firm, a familiar path for former members of Congress and their senior staff.
But those who have worked closely with Boehner say they can’t see their former boss as a corporate lobbyist. Several former members of Boehner’s staff who are now lobbyists believe he’s more likely to join corporate boards or get more involved in Catholic charities than join a well-heeled lobby firm. Boehner, like other House members, would have to wait one year under federal law to become a registered lobbyist. But he could engage in more informal work such as becoming an adviser on policy.
“I can’t imagine he’ll be a registered lobbyist,” said Marc Lampkin, a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt who served as general counsel for the House Republican Conference under then-chairman Boehner for three years. “I don’t see him going up and lobbying members of Congress around corporate tax reform, going into member offices, I don’t see that.”
But that doesn’t mean the Ohio Republican, who’s been in the House since 1991, won’t be courted.
“Having been Speaker for such a significant amount of time, a player in and around Washington in Republican politics for such a long time … it would be foolhardy for people not to think he’d be someone who could help them build out relationships, advise corporations and businesses on how Washington works,” Lampkin said. “I don’t think he’ll have any shortage of opportunities to provide advice and counsel to people across the country.”
Dave Schnittger, a longtime aide to Boehner who is now a lobbyist at Squire Patton Boggs, said he shook his former boss’s hand in the Capitol shortly after his resignation announcement. Schnittger worked for Boehner for 21 years, most recently as his deputy chief of staff from 2006 to 2015.
“I shook his hand, I looked at him and said one word, ‘Liberation,'” Schnittger said. “We both laughed.”
Many former congressional leaders have turned to the influence industry as a landing pad. They include former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss), who is now with Squire Patton Boggs; and Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who also helmed that chamber and has formed The Daschle Group as a subsidiary of Baker Donelson.
As for Boehner’s future plans, Schnittger said he “suspects [Boehner] and [wife] Debbie will be talking a lot about that over the next few months … I don’t know what his future plans are. I say that with sincerity.”
Schnittger noted that prior to Boehner’s political career, he was a third-generation small-business owner in Ohio, and that the prospect of returning to the private sector is exciting.
“He said thousands of times that he believes government was killing the goose that laid the golden egg — that’s what drove him to run for Congress 20 years ago,” Schnittger said. “He’s never changed that view. On a personal level, it’s exciting to know he has the option of possibly returning to the private sector, as he looks ahead to the future.”
Another former Boehner staffer-turned lobbyist predicted Boehner “will do something bigger and more important than lobbying.”
“I feel like lobbying is too small for him,” the former staffer said. “I think he’s going to do something substantial for a cause he feels strongly about, like charities, something he’s emotionally attached to. But I can’t see him lobbying on corporate interests or working at a law firm, lobbying. I don’t think that’s where his head’s at.”