John Boehner's Private Rolodex

His staff calls it the "golden Rolo" because it contains the names of the next Speaker's closest confidants.

When John Boehner of Ohio becomes the next Speaker of the House, he’ll have a large staff to call upon for help. But he also has a private Rolodex of trusted friends and confidants outside of Congress that he’ll lean on for unfettered advice. They know they can talk frankly to the speaker without worrying about their words being attributed to them publicly. And they're glad to be Boehner’s friend.

The new speaker has assembled their names in a special Rolodex, which he keeps on his side desk on a gold-colored circle of marble, separate from other Rolodexes. It’s already well used and will only grow in importance as Boehner leads a Republican House determined to cut taxes and spending, fight the health care law and block President Obama and a Democratic Senate from pursuing most of their agenda.

Many of those in what Boehner’s staff calls the “golden Rolo” are industry lobbyists well known in Washington’s K Street lobbying corridor. Several have government experience but have returned to the private sector. Many, like Boehner, have deep roots in Ohio.

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One is John Kasich, the Republican governor-elect of Ohio and a former member of the House, a friend of Boehner’s since the GOP wave of 1994. Kasich was chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 1990s and takes at least partial credit for helping to balance the federal budget and adding transparency to the budget process. Even from the governor’s mansion in Columbus, expect Kasich to work closely with Boehner on federal budget matters and cutting federal spending. The two will work in tandem to steer federal resources to Ohio. And Kasich is already pondering a presidential run. If he decides to go for it, Boehner will be his best ally in Washington.

Another is Nick Calio, executive vice president of Citigroup. Calio was director of former President George W. Bush’s legislative affairs office and is a regular golfing partner. He’ll press Boehner for tough House oversight with the aim of limiting the reach of the financial markets reform law.

Doing the same will be Mark Isakowitz, a lawyer lobbyist for financial services, large telecom companies and energy interests, namely ExxonMobil. Isakowitz will be behind efforts to expand oil production in federal lands, including in Alaska. It’s a policy area of potential compromise between Republicans and the Obama administration.

Also close to Boehner in a slew of policy areas is Dan Danner, who heads the National Federation of Independent Business, representing small and medium-size businesses. Danner advocates a variety of tax breaks for small businesses.

Bruce Josten, a top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meets regularly with Boehner. Josten is pressing for action on free trade agreements early on next year. Both the House and Senate must act to put such agreements in force.

Often working in concert with Josten is Jay Timmons, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers. Timmons will push Boehner to agree to more federal research in manufacturing science and industrial engineering. Budget cutters will fight that, but Timmons may be effective in protecting federal spending for industrial and factory business technology.

Sue Andres, director of lobbying for Union Pacific Corp., is also a close colleague. Andres is expected to have influence over the particulars of the coming surface transportation reauthorization bill, which will include hundreds of railway projects. The measure is one of the more laborious pieces of legislation Congress ever deals with. Andres is looking for a commitment to have it finished by the end of 2012.

Teresa Fish, a former top aide to Boehner, now lobbies for the Electronic Industries Alliance. Fish will press her former boss to have Congress take a tougher stand on IT copyright violations in Asia. She’ll at least score several hearings on the subject next year.

Others in the Golden Rolo:

Longtime Boehner golfing partner Bruce Gates is the chief lobbyist for the Altria Group, the parent company of cigarette manufacturer Philipp Morris. Gates’ wife, Joyce Gates, was once Boehner’s chief of staff. Gates wants Republicans to bear down on the Food and Drug Administration and prevent the administration from using the rulemaking process to establish tougher labeling requirements or marketing limitations on cigarettes.

Terry Holt, a former aide to Boehner, lobbies for large health insurance interests. Holt knows the health care repeal effort sought by conservatives and Tea Party types is a nonstarter. That’s fine with Holt, who is happy to aim only for tweaking the law, which adds millions more to the health insurance rolls.

Henry Gandy, a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs, is a friend of Boehner’s since the early 1990s and helped Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich write and lobby for passage of items in the House GOP’s "Contract with America" in 1994-95. Gandy recently met often with Boehner and staff in developing the "Pledge to America," the party’s campaign manifesto. Samuel Baptista, who also has close ties to Boehner, lobbies for Goldman Sachs, too, as well as for credit card companies.

Bob Shellhas, a top lobbyist for Citigroup and a former deputy chief of staff for Boehner, will push for close oversight of federal actions on consumer protections in financial services.

Richard Slagle, a retired executive with AK Steel and a longtime friend of Boehner’s from Cincinnati, is often an adviser on industrial policy. While not a lobbyist, Slagle often meets with Boehner on U.S. competitiveness issues. He has long promoted nonunion workshops, saying organized labor is partly to blame for losses in U.S. manufacturing.

Richard Sammon
Senior Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter