Washington Post Staff Writer
House Minority Leader John Boehner has long had a knack for raising campaign funds from Wall Street firms and blue-chip corporations, which he typically spreads among rank and file House Republicans to bolster loyalty.
But this year, Boehner is using a different strategy as he tries to position himself as the next House speaker. He’s diverted more than a quarter-million dollars of his business-funded war chest to 29 avowedly anti-establishment candidates who have been endorsed by elements of the tea party.
The donations to tea party hopefuls from Oregon to Alabama show more than the Republican Party‘s broad embrace of insurgents in a year when Democrats are on the defensive. They also appear to reflect Boehner’s pragmatic desire to promote ties with a new crop of impassioned conservatives, some of whom could hold the keys to a Republican takeover of the House.
It’s a relatively new political tack for the former plastics and packaging salesman from Ohio, who has exceeded all other House members in collections from Wall Street – with more than $2.9 million – and also ranks at or near the top of members favored by large health insurers, oil firms, student lenders, drug manufacturers, and food and beverage companies, according to tallies of campaign disclosures.
Some of the tea party candidates who’ve won his financial backing have built their campaigns on disdain for special interests and their influence over elected officials in Washington. Although some could never hope to attract the kind of corporate-directed cash that Boehner routinely takes in, the transfers from his leadership PAC and personal campaign committee have accelerated their campaigns and given a stamp of approval to their candidacies.
Boehner’s campaign spokesman Don Seymour said the congressman “is doing everything possible to support all of our Republican candidates – whether it’s contributing directly to their campaigns, raising money for the party, or simply meeting with and listening to voters.”
One tea-party-backed candidate to get Boehner’s help is Tim Burns, the former pharmaceutical software entrepreneur who is vying for Rep. John Murtha‘s (D) former seat in Pennsylvania. Burns has campaigned hard against Washington and has publicly dismissed his opponent, a former congressional district manager for Murtha, as a Washington insider.
His spokesman Jake Parsons said that the financial support from Boehner and other Republican leaders – he got $19,000 from Boehner – “has been critical to helping get Tim’s message of ‘fixing Washington’ out.”
Boehner also has given $14,000 to Ohio candidate James Renacci, a former mayor, car dealer and nursing home operator who has attacked his Democrat opponent for having “lobbyist friends” and attracting support from “special interests.” Renacci spokesman James Slepian called the funds “a vote of confidence” and a reflection of the importance that Boehner attaches to the race as a step toward Republican control of the House.