WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner, who will walk away from a 25-year career in Congress next month, won’t say what his next step is.
But if the Ohio Republican chooses to travel the short distance between Capitol Hill and K Street’s famous lobbying firms, the son of a blue-collar bar owner likely will end up a very wealthy man.
“He’ll get seven figures on the street,” said Tom Davis, a fellow Republican and former Virginia congressman who now lobbies for the financial-consulting giant Deloitte. “He’s got a lot of friends and allies in Congress. But it’s not necessarily his Rolodex that’s valuable. It’s just that he knows Congress inside and out.”
Boehner, 65, announced Friday he was retiring after five tumultuous years as House speaker, marked by repeated revolts from conservative factions in his party. Before ascending the leadership ranks, Boehner oversaw the House education committee and helped successfully guide President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind education overhaul through Congress.
Boehner, a savvy political fundraiser with strong ties to Washington’s business establishment, will leave Congress “as a respected speaker who tried his best,” said Julian Ha, top executive with the recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles.
“He will be able to write his own ticket,” Ha said, ticking off options. They range from working in a top government-relations post for a corporation to securing an array of well-paid board directorships.
House rules require a one-year cooling-off period before former members of the chamber can lobby their former colleagues, but many ex-lawmakers quickly secure posts that allow them to provide behind-the-scenes advice to corporations and other groups seeking to influence federal policy.
There’s a long tradition of former congressional leaders moving into lobbying job and raking in cash.
In 2008, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and ex-Louisiana senator John Breaux set up shop as the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group and took in $30.8 million in lobbying income over a three-year period. They now work for another powerhouse firm, Squire Patton Boggs, where their clients include online retail giant, Amazon.
Veteran ex-senator Chris Dodd, a Democrat who once oversaw the Senate banking panel, earned $3.28 million in 2013 as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, the group’s tax returns show.
Boehner, who was slated to earn $223,500 as speaker this year, already has amassed considerable holdings. In 2013, Boehner was worth anywhere between $2.3 million and $6.79 million, according to the most recent analysis of his financial-disclosure reports by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Lawmakers report their assets, income and liabilities in broad ranges only.
Boehner and his wife last year bought an $835,000 vacation condo in the exclusive enclave of Marco Island, Fla.
Some friends say that might be a sign that Boehner, an avid golfer who became a grandfather last month, is seeking a slower pace.
“I don’t know that I see the traditional, post-congressional career for him,” said former Ohio congressman Steve LaTourette, a Boehner ally who now oversees the Washington lobbying arm of a Cleveland-based law firm.
Boehner, he said, might opt to spend more time with family and look for ways to “re-dedicate” himself to the Catholic charity work he supported during his time in Congress. Each year, for instance, Boehner helped headline a fundraising dinner in Washington to raise money for inner-city Catholic schools.
In announcing his departure Friday, Boehner offered few clues about his upcoming career moves. Boehner said he had only decided that morning to leave his powerful perch.
“You know when you make a decision this morning, you … really haven’t had any time to think about what I’m going to do in the future,” Boehner told reporters during an emotional news conference. “I have no idea, but I do know this: I’m doing this today for the right reasons, and you know what? The right things will happen as a result.”
Contributing: Gregory Korte
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