Thursday, April 07, 2005


Oxley & Boehner: Not people like us

Back in March, it seemed like Blogger was stuck in quicksand for a couple of days and we had sit on our little hands in despair. One of the casualties of this period was great story - from beginning to end - in the Plain Dealer by Stephen Koff, chief of the PD's Washington Bureau, detailing the excesses of Republicans and (not in the same league) Democrats in using PAC money to lead what some might consider, shall we say, an extravagant life style. Unfortunately, the story had received little play around the state.

It should be noted that Koff's stories, almost always good reads, stand in sharp contrast to the hacktackular scribblings of the Dispatch's Jack Torry and "Flush the Jon" Riskind.

For Ohioans, here are a few highlights from Koff, starting off with his lede that rips one of the state's most vile Congressmen, Mike Oxley:
Chauffeured luxury sedans around New York. Excursions across the country on private jets. Ski trips to Vail. Golf outings in Scottsdale.

It is, by all descriptions, a fine life. And Michael Oxley, the Republican congressman from Findlay, Ohio, doesn't have to spend his own money on it.

Rather, when a chauffeured Cadillac drives him around Manhattan, the bills -- $25,000 for just the last two years -- go to a political account. Same with his 47 private jet rides in the same period, and his annual ski outing in Vail, Colo., and golf games in Arizona and Florida.

[. . . ]

Who pays for these expenses? Contributors, including corporate executives and lobbyists, who give money to so-called leadership PACs, or political action committees. The executives lend their corporate jets to the Congress members at a discount, too.

Congressional leadership PACs are ostensibly formed when Congress members want to raise money to help like-minded politicians win election.

[. . . ]

Yet rather than subsequently giving the money to political campaigns in need, some Congress members are spending major amounts - more than half of their PAC expenditures, in the case of Oxley and others - on their own operations, including travel, entertainment, staff and fees for fund-raisers.

That raises questions as to whether some leadership PACs are little more than self-sustaining accounts to boost the members' golf scores, lifestyles or status. "They'd probably be investigated by a state attorney general somewhere if they were a charity," says Larry Noble, a former Federal Election Commission general counsel who is executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Oxley's PAC treasurer confirmed his expenditures, but Oxley would not agree to an interview with The Plain Dealer.

[. . . ]

Oxley chairs the House Financial Services Committee, so executives from banks and investment houses want to talk to him, even if they have to go to some other politician's golf outing or dinner.

"Oxley helped raise nearly $2 million in the last election cycle," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

In fact, corporations like Oxley so much that they provide their jets to take him to Colorado, Ari zona and lots of other locations. Oxley travels that way more than any other PAC leader, records show.
Koff also tees off on another of our loathsome favorites, John Boehner, who as we have noted previously dethroned Deborah Pryce. Koff noted that Boehner, while traveling around, was surprisingly generous with PAC money, giving out $9,600 in golf gifts to potential donors.
"You try to find something that other entities aren't doing that people are going to want to write a check to attend," said Mike Brady, spokesman for Reynolds, who convenes an annual golf tournament at Pebble Beach.

Ohio's Boehner, an avid golfer, even sponsors his own annual golf tour -- one tournament each in California, Arizona, Virginia and Ohio. In the first four months of 2003 alone, his PAC paid for expenses at the Miami Beach Golf Club, the Venetian Resort Hotel in Las Vegas, Turnberry Isle Resort in Florida, the Eden Roc Hotel in Florida, and the La Quinta Resort and Club in California.

Yet even with the expenditures, Boehner's PAC, called the Freedom Project, managed to give away more to fellow politicians than it paid out in operating expenses. So did Reynolds' PAC, despite its expensive Pebble Beach outings.

"We're not just spending it on an extravagant lifestyle for John Boehner, but actually for the cause," said Chris Singerling, director of Boehner's PAC.

Koff details how the jet-setting works:
Getting a corporate jet may be the easiest trick in Congress: All a member has to do is call.

[. . . ]

For example, the student loan companies Sallie Mae and NelNet have provided jets for Boehner. He chairs the House committee that oversees education, and is working on legislation that would affect the interest rates these companies get on student loans.

In the last two years, Oxley has used jets provided by E-Trade, MBNA America Bank, Stanford Financial Group, National City Corp., and others in the financial industry.
We have never understood what voters have seen in either Boehner or Oxley. Oxley at least has a reputation for decent constituent services. But we have to wonder how long it will be before his voters understand that the trade-off they've gotten from Oxley is that they have someone to call when a Social Security check is late, but the same guy is working to stop their Social Security checks forever.


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