House Majority Leader John Boehner rents a basement apartment from a lobbyist whose clients had an interest in legislation overseen or sponsored by Boehner, according to lobbying records.
Boehner, R-Ohio, pays $1,600 a month rent for the apartment owned by lobbyist John Milne and his wife, Debra Anderson, Boehner spokesman Don Seymour Jr. said.
"It is conceivable that John Milne may have lobbied Boehner on a few occasions over the years, but we are not aware of any specific instances of it, and we are certain no lobbying has taken place during the time in which John Boehner has been renting the property," Seymour said.
Milne did not respond to a request for comment.
In a related development, it was revealed Wednesday thathelped plan a 1996 trip to the Northern Mariana Islands that was organized by fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Barry Jackson, now chief deputy to White House adviser Karl Rove, accepted an invitation to travel to the island of Saipan in April 1996 but later decided not to go, White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Tuesday.
According to bills from Abramoff's former lobbying firm to the Marianas government, Abramoff's staff contacted Boehner's office about island issues at least 10 times in the first four months of 1996. Copies of the billing records were obtained by The Associated Press through open-records requests to the territorial government.
Boehner, elected majority leader by his Republican colleagues last week, is involved in GOP efforts to reform lobbying rules, a consequence of influence peddling by Abramoff. Abramoff agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a Capitol Hill corruption investigation after pleading guilty last month to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.
Lobbying records show that Milne represented Buca di Beppo and Parasole Restaurant Holdings Inc. — both restaurant companies — to lobby on the minimum wage, an issue handled by the Education and the Workforce Committee chaired by Boehner. The restaurant industry has opposed increases in the minimum wage, which has not risen since 1997.
Milne also represented the parent company, Buca Inc., to lobby for the Small Business Tax Fairness Act, which had provisions to quicken tax breaks for restaurant buildings. While the measure did not go through Boehner's committee, he was among the sponsors. The proposed speedup in depreciation is a major objective for the restaurant industry.
Seymour, the Boehner spokesman, said the rental price of the apartment represented a fair market value, based on similar rental costs in the area near the U.S. Capitol.
He said that Boehner first met Debra Anderson during the early 1990s when she worked in the administration of George H.W. Bush and met Milne in the late 1990s.
Since Boehner started campaigning early this year to replace DeLay as the No. 2-ranked House leader, he has denied having any relationship with Abramoff. Boehner has promised reforms to shake the GOP's Abramoff-related troubles.
When asked about the contacts between his office and Abramoff's, including a dinner Boehner attended in May 1996, Boehner told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday: "Some of his (Abramoff's) underlings worked with some low-level employees of my office. I'm telling you I never met the man."
Boehner spokesman Don Seymour said Tuesday that Boehner now does recall meeting Abramoff once, in "a brief, incidental conversation at a widely attended event that he estimates was about five years ago."
In an e-mail to the AP, Seymour also said Boehner did not intentionally downplay Jackson's role on his staff.
Boehner has declined to give up more than $30,000 he got from Abramoff's Indian tribe clients, saying his own work on tribal issues justifies the contributions. He did not receive any money from the tribes until Abramoff represented them.