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House Leadership Post Draws Three Candidates

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US Rep John Schadegg

On Friday, conservative Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) announced his candidacy for House Majority Leader — the No. 2 leadership position — joining acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO) and John A. Boehner (R-OH) chair, Education and the Workforce Committee, according to Congressional Quarterly. On 2 February, House Republicans are scheduled to select a successor to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), who stepped down permanently earlier this month after lobbyist Jack Abramoff entered into a plea agreement on Congressional corruption. Delay was indicted in Texas on campaign finance charges last September.

Shadegg has resigned as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, the No. 5 leadership position, and criticized Blunt for not resigning his position as Majority Whip (No. 3) when accepting the interim role as Majority Leader.

“I personally believe it is not appropriate to try to retain one position in our elected leadership while running for another,” Shadegg wrote. “My campaign is based on reform, and reform should begin with an open process.”

The Candidates
Each candidate is 56 years old and has been in Congress for 10 years or longer. The Washington Post reports:

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks politicians’ campaign fund raising, Blunt has raised $9.2 million since 1989, mostly from business interests. Boehner was not far behind with $8.7 million, and Shadegg has picked up $4.2 million since 1993. Some of the money collected by Blunt and Boehner [was] distributed to other candidates.

The Arizona Star reports that Shadegg has “called for changes in lobbying practices and a return to the GOP agenda of lower taxes, limited spending and a less intrusive government.” And the Arizona Republic calls Shadegg the “right man” for the job, as does the National Review:

Of the three contenders, he is the candidate least associated with the status quo, and the cozy world of K Street. That’s a good thing. After his election, the next majority leader must be able to withstand withering scrutiny from a media eager to take down another top Republican on ethical grounds. Although Shadegg — along with a bipartisan majority in Congress — has minor connections to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, he has never been close to K Street.

John Gizzi profiles Shadegg:

The son of Steve Shadegg, Barry Goldwater’s longtime political quarterback, John Shadegg has also served as chairman of the Study Committee and now chairs the House Republican Policy Committee. Elected to Congress in the Class of 1994 that gave Republicans a majority in the House after four decades of Democratic control, Shadegg still champions such key positions of that class as defunding the National Endowment for the Arts and he has backed inventive proposals such as one to permit states to opt out of the minimum wage increase.

US Rep  Roy Blunt
The Hartford Courant characterizes Blunt as being “Tom DeLay’s hand-picked deputy… Blunt has been the House’s No. 3 Republican for the past three years, in charge of rounding up votes for DeLay.” Blunt’s son is the governor of Missouri and his father was a state legislator.

Blunt joined the other three candidates Sunday on FOX. Prior to his appearance, Blunt had released a press statement asserting that he had secured sufficient support from Republican House members to secure the position. When asked about his release, Blunt said:

I do think over the last seven years I’ve counted more votes than anybody else on the House floor, and I’m confident that we are now where we need to be to get this done, and we’re going to be moving forward both to do what we can to bring our conference together, but also to talk about the important issues of reform, lobbyist reform, spending reform, the kinds of reforms we need in earmarks.

US Rep  John Boehner
And Time/CNN asks, “Can this elephant be cleaned up”? as it profiles the candidates. Boehner came to power with former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA), serving as House conference chairman, the No. 4 leadership position.

Boehner, who was part of the so-called Gang of Seven that had attacked Democrats for overdrafts from the House bank in the early 1990s, quickly became less known for his reform actions than for his closeness to lobbyists. He famously handed out campaign donations in the form of checks from tobacco lobbyists to members on the floor of the House in 1995. He now says it was a mistake he regrets. Boehner is best known for leading the House push on No Child Left Behind, the program championed by Bush that makes public schools accountable for student performance…

As a House leader, [Blunt] signed a letter, at the request of another member, opposing the construction of a casino in Louisiana that might have competed with a pair of casinos run by two Indian tribes represented by Abramoff… In the fall of 2002, Blunt infuriated House Republicans by trying to insert into a Homeland Security bill a provision that would have increased penalties on the sale of stolen cigarettes. The provision was strongly backed by Philip Morris, and Blunt was at the time dating Abigail Perlman, now his wife, who is a lobbyist for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris. A Blunt aide denied that the Congressman was working at the direction of lobbyists.

Shadegg has the strongest reform credentials of the three contenders… He once headed the caucus of the House’s most conservative members of Congress and often angered Republican congressional leaders by opposing bills that included pork-barrel projects that would increase the deficit.

House members are beholden to leadership for campaign donations, according to the Time/CNN article, which tilts the scales away from Shadegg, as the Post article cited earlier made clear:

In the system that House Republicans have set up, members of Congress rise to leadership positions in part because of their ability to raise campaign cash. Aspiring leaders, who are often so popular in their own districts that they don’t even have opponents, still raise millions of dollars so that they can give the money to others in tough races. They often raise this money through fund raisers organized by major business groups, and many of the donors are lobbyists. The result is that it is difficult to find a member of Congress with the clout and experience to be majority leader who doesn’t have extensive lobbying ties, as do Blunt and Boehner.

Next Steps
The election process is by secret ballot the week of 31 January. The National Journal handicaps the contest. If Blunt should win, there will also be an election for majority whip.

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  • Eric Olsen

    very well done and informative Kathy, thanks!

  • http://uspolitics.about.com/ Kathy

    thanks, eric. i could tweak the code so that the images flow better …