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Name: Boehner, John
Current Position: Previous Speaker of the House

John Boehner (pronounced “BAY-ner”), a staunchly pro-business conservative, has spent 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, rising to the top of the Republican Party leadership by making himself useful to those above him in the hierarchy and helping those below him. While promoting financial and procedural reform within the House, he has cultivated the friendship of corporate leaders and lobbyists in several industries, particularly companies in the fields of steel production, tobacco, financial services and insurance. During the run-up to the 2010 election, he was the number one fundraiser for the Republican Party, bringing in tens of millions of dollars.

Boehner has been unabashed in supporting controversial positions, such as extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. He also was a vocal opponent of Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan that was adopted in 2009 and the Democrats’ failed attempt to create a government-run health care program.
Born on November 17, 1949, in Reading, Ohio, Boehner grew up in a German-Irish family of 12 children, along with his mother Mary Anne and his father Earl Henry Boehner. The second oldest in the family, he shared one bathroom with all of his siblings in a two-bedroom house in Cincinnati. Boehner’s started working mopping floors at his family’s bar, Andy’s Cafe, when he was eight years old. The cafe is named after Boehner’s grandfather, who founded the bar in 1938.
Boehner graduated from Cincinnati Moeller High School in 1968, and then enlisted in the U.S. Navy. But a bad back forced him to leave the service after only eight weeks.
Boehner became the first member of his family to go to college, graduating from Xavier University in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in business. He spent seven years in college, working several jobs to pay for his studies. He also got married while in school, in 1973. He and his wife, Debbie, now have two daughters, Lindsay and Tricia.
After college, he accepted a position with Nucite Sales, a small sales business in the packaging and plastics industry. He was steadily promoted and eventually became president of the firm, resigning in 1990 when he was elected to Congress.
Boehner began to get involved in politics in the early 1980s. He served on the board of trustees of Union Township, Butler County, Ohio, from 1982 to 1984. The following year he was elected to the state legislature. He also worked on the 1988 presidential campaign of Jack Kemp (R-New York), whom Boehner considered a role model.
In 1990, Boehner saw an opportunity to run for Congress when Republican Representative Buz Lukens got into trouble for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl. Boehner entered the GOP primary in southwest Ohio, facing both Lukens and Thomas Kindness, who had held the seat for six terms before Lukens. Boehner began the campaign far behind Kindness in the polls, but, portraying himself as a small businessman rather than as a state legislator, he raised more money than Kindness and was the only one of three who could afford television ads. His first campaign spots told Republican voters, “I’m not and won't be a typical politician who’ll go to Congress to grow old and retire.” He vowed that, if elected, he and his family would not move to Washington, but instead he would commute to DC from West Chester, Ohio. Boehner won the primary in an upset, and, in a conservative Republican district, gained an easy victory in the general election. He has held the 8th District ever since, winning reelection 10 times.
During his freshman year, Boehner became the first Ohio congressman in 19 years to serve on the House Agriculture Committee. Within two months of taking office, he made Roll Call’s list of ten best-dressed members of Congress. Nonetheless, he boasted that he had never paid more than $300 for a suit or $30 for a shirt. He also played for the Republican side in the annual Congressional charity basketball game, although he did not score.
Boehner became part of the Gang of Seven, freshmen Republicans who challenged the operations of the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, helping to expose a House banking scandal, “dine-and-dash” practices at the House Restaurant and illegal cash-for-stamps deals at the House Post Office.
In his first year’s voting he proved to be the Ohio Congressman who was most supportive of positions promoted by President George H.W. Bush. He also tried to convince the German government to install a plaque in honor of Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall.
Boehner gained attention for successfully championing a constitutional amendment, first introduced by James Madison in 1789, that prevented the members of Congress from giving themselves midterm pay raises. The Twenty-Seventh Amendment was ratified May 7, 1992.
Boehner continued to take aim at Congressional privileges and secrecy, opposing automatic pay raises for members of Congress and demanding disclosure of the practice of allowing outgoing members of the House to buy their office equipment and furniture at discounted prices. A regular cigarette smoker, he opposed a ban on smoking in public buildings. He also took a stand against raising taxes on beer and was a co-sponsor of a 1993 bill to establish “Great American Beer Week.” Another one of his crusades was to relentlessly attack the U.S. Chamber of Congress for cooperating with the administration of Democratic president Bill Clinton.
After joining and chairing Newt Gingrich’s Conservative Opportunity Society, and earning a perfect voting score from the American Conservative Union in 1993 and 1994, Boehner joined Gingrich’s inner circle. Running unopposed for reelection, he campaigned for other Republican candidates in 50 districts and coordinated the promotion of Gingrich’s “Contract with America.”
When the Republicans seized both houses of Congress in the 1994 election, Boehner was in the right place at the right time. He became part of the Republican House leadership, serving as House Republican Conference chairman from 1995-1999, the No. 4 post behind then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay. In this role, he was in charge of communicating party positions and talking points to party members through meetings and published materials.
In late June of 1995, Boehner got into trouble for distributing campaign contributions from tobacco industry lobbyists on the House floor. With checks from the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation in hand, he only stopped when confronted by fellow Republican representatives. The story did not go public for another eleven months. The practice of handing out campaign contributions on the House floor was later banned.
Following the election of President George W. Bush, Boehner served as chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee from 2001 until 2006. One of his key achievements during this time was helping pass the No Child Left Behind act.
When DeLay was forced to give up his post as majority leader due to allegations of breaking campaign finance laws, Boehner stepped in and was elected House Majority Leader in February 2006.
After the Republicans lost control of the House in the 2006 elections, the Republican caucus chose to stick with Boehner as their leader. He weathered another bad election for his party in 2008, remaining as minority leader. His ability to maintain his standing paid off with the Republican takeover of the House in 2010. His colleagues rewarded Boehner by unanimously selecting him as their choice for House speaker once the new Congress convened on January 5, 2011.
John Boehner (WhoRunsGov, Washington Post)
Biography (John Boehner’s Office)
GOP Leader Tightly Bound to Lobbyists (by Eric Lipton, New York Times)
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