Boehner Questioned on Ties to Tobacco Lobbyists

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, on "Face the Nation," Sept. 12, 2010.
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, on "Face the Nation," Sept. 12, 2010.
The leader of Republicans in the House, who is aiming to become Speaker if the GOP wins a majority in November, maintains "extremely tight ties" with lobbyists and former aides who now represent some of the country's largest companies, according to an article in The New York Times.

The alliance between Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and corporate interests is "business as usual," The New York Times writes today. The paper notes Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R.J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS are among the companies with close ties to the Minority Leader. They have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns (and are leading fund-raising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign), and provided other perks, like rides on corporate jets.

In a statement, Boehner's office called the premise of the Times article inaccurate: "The implication that Boehner and his staff's relationship with lobbyists is inappropriate is untrue," his office said, adding that the Minority Leader's stand on issues are well-known.

"No one supports him with the illusion that it will influence his position on any issue," they said.

The office further called the article a sign that "the liberal establishment is threatened by Leader Boehner."

Among the lobbyists backing Boehner: The tobacco industry, which has contributed at least $340,000 to his political campaigns. The top individual donor throughout Boehner's political career, according to data from the Center for Public Integrity, is Bruce Gates, a lobbyist for the cigarette maker Altria.

On "Face the Nation" this morning, Bob Schieffer asked Boehner - who smokes - about his contributions from the tobacco industry. "How do you square that with the fact that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in this country - 435,000 people, their deaths are linked to cancer, that's 1 in 5. How do you justify that in your own mind?"

"Bob, tobacco is a legal product in America," Boehner said. "The American people have a right to decide for themselves whether they want to partake or not. There are lots of things that we deal with and come in contact with every day - from alcohol to food to cigarettes - a lot of the things that aren't good for our health. But the American people ought to have the right to make those decisions on their own."

"Well, I mean, they have a right to shoot themselves if they choose to," Schieffer said. "Shouldn't we do something to try to encourage them not to [smoke]? I mean, do you think that's a good example?"

"Well, listen, I wish I didn't have this bad habit, and it is a bad habit," Boehner said. Referring to Schieffer being a cancer survivor, Boehner said, "You've had it, you've dealt with it. But it's something that I choose to do, and you know at some point, maybe I'll decide I've had enough of it."

"Well, I mean, if you should become Speaker, you could set a good example for the country by saying 'I'm going to stop smoking,'" Schieffer said. "Maybe you could get the President - I understand he smokes too, - maybe the two of you could find a way to try to stop smoking. That'd be kind of a good thing, wouldn't it?"

"Bob, I appreciate your suggestion," Boehner said.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and