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John Boehner heads into post-speaker life with $2.7 million in political cash

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 2/1/2016 Paul Kane
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan © Wis. salutes the members of the House as he stands with outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner House Speaker Paul D. Ryan

John A. Boehner may be gone from elective office, but the former House speaker headed into the political afterlife with more than $2.7 million in leftover political cash that he will use to remain active in helping his former colleagues in the Capitol.

According to filings from the Ohio Republican that were posted Sunday evening, Boehner’s three political committees have left him with a large amount of cash that he will use to continue supporting Republican congressional candidates for years to come.

It means that the largest, most sophisticated fundraising operation ever employed by a congressional leader will slowly fade away, rather than coming to an abrupt halt after he left the House floor on Oct. 29 after 25 years in office.

His formal committee responsible for his own reelection campaigns, Friends of John Boehner, ended December with more than $1.6 million in leftover money, even after meeting his legal requirement to refund $1.9 million in donations that came in last year. (Because he is not his party’s nominee for Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District, he must return money that donors gave for the general election.)

An additional $1.1 million is left in his other two committees: Freedom Project, a leadership political action committee that donated directly to other Republicans, and Boehner for Speaker, a pass-through committee for donors to write one massive check to be distributed to all of Boehner’s political entities as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee.

[Boehner could never land the big deal he wanted]

It’s normal for members of Congress to retire with large stockpiles of leftover political cash, but the sheer size of Boehner’s political operation dwarfed all others, leading to some concern about how his successor, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), would take up the slack Boehner left behind.

David Schnittiger, Boehner’s former deputy chief of staff who is serving as his spokesman, said the former speaker will continue to help politically, just at a much reduced scale from the past five years, when some months he spent more time on the road raising campaign cash for colleagues than he did in Washington or southwestern Ohio. Schnittiger, who now works at Squire Patton Boggs, said Boehner held a fund-raising event for several members in January and has a few more planned for the spring.

Politico reported earlier Sunday that Boehner would headline an event for Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a staunch conservative who became an unexpected loyalist for the always embattled former speaker.

On Dec. 11, six weeks after stepping down, Boehner for Speaker transferred more than $1.2 million in two separate chunks to the NRCC, with an additional $350,000 going to his campaign committee and his leadership PAC, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

FEC records show that Boehner for Speaker funneled $6.2 million into the NRCC’s coffers throughout 2015, and advisers said his other committees brought the total tally of direct transfers of cash to more than $8 million into the party’s committee responsible for electing House Republicans.

The new speaker, under a newly formed joint fundraising committee called Team Ryan, got off to his own fast start as a fundraising powerhouse. Team Ryan collected more than $5.3 million in the last quarter of 2015, steering almost $3 million of that into the NRCC.

After Boehner stepped aside, Ryan said publicly that he did not want to take on the job, in large part because of the fundraising requirements. Boehner used his layer of committees to raise more money than any member of Congress, except for possibly House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

It’s hard to compare the two, because she has not used the intricate multi-committee system Boehner has operated, which allowed him to maximize how much he could shift directly into the NRCC. In his nearly five years as speaker, Boehner raised more than $45 million for his campaign account, Friends of John Boehner, easily the most money of any House member.

That allowed him to take much of that cash and declared it “excess”, transferring it to the NRCC, because he did not need much money to win election in his heavily Republican district.

For example, in the fourth quarter of 2013, Boehner’s campaign committee took in more than $1.9 million technically meant for his reelection bid — but he turned around and shipped $835,000 to the NRCC to benefit other candidates.

Ryan is now taking a similar approach.

With Boehner’s leftover cash, federal law forbids him from taking it for his personal use. He can direct unlimited amounts of cash from Friends of John Boehner to national Republican committees, and money left in that account and his leadership PAC also can be used to make direct donations of $5,000 or $2,000 per election to congressional candidates, depending on which account makes the donation.


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