- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

The two candidates for House majority leader said yesterday that they would get rid of the “K Street project,” a party strategy to encourage corporate and trade association lobbyists to hire pro-business Republicans.

“If I am elected majority leader, there will no longer be a ‘K Street project,’ or anything else like it,” said Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who is running against Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay as Republicans’ floor leader.

Soon after Mr. Boehner made his announcement, Mr. Blunt followed suit, with aides saying he agrees with Mr. Boehner’s declaration.

Hours before, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, had called on Republicans to “kill the K Street project” and enact several other congressional and lobbying reforms that she said Democrats have sought.

The K Street project was a push by Republican congressional leaders to convince pro-business organizations that hiring Republicans as lobbyists made more sense because of shared goals.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who helped set up the project, said it is really a database that tracks how many Republicans work at trade associations and businesses’ lobbying arms.

“What you should do as the Chamber of Commerce, as the Wheat Growers’ Association, as the General Motors’ Washington office is hire people who agree with your goals of lower taxes, free trade,” he said. That, he said, means Republicans — just as the AFL-CIO would hire Democrats.

He said his database will continue. Mr. Boehner and Mr. Blunt are talking about ending the practice of lobby groups hiring based on the party in power, Mr. Norquist said.

Mr. Boehner’s aides said he sees nothing wrong with urging firms to hire Republicans, but added that political contributions should not be used as a litmus test for gauging how Republican someone is.

In the race for majority leader, Mr. Blunt claims more than 100 votes, but the number of public commitments is less. Mr. Boehner says he has more than 90 votes behind his bid. A candidate would have to win the majority of votes from among the 231 Republican members.

Mr. Boehner also has sent out two press releases on his vote last month against an immigration and border enforcement bill, after an article in The Washington Times said the men had similar voting records on most issues besides immigration.

“There’s a lot less to John Boehner’s immigration reform vote than you’ve probably been told,” Mr. Boehner’s office said in one of the releases. “With the exception of one section, Boehner strongly supported the entire bill — and he has every intention of voting in favor of the final immigration reform conference report after the Senate acts on this critically important issue.”

Mr. Boehner voted to build nearly 700 miles of fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and to keep in language that designates illegal aliens as felons, although he voted against the overall bill, calling other provisions an onerous mandate on small businesses.

The statements did not address Mr. Boehner’s other cited votes, such as his 2002 support for legalizing hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens under Section 245(i) of the immigration code and his vote against letting local law enforcement report illegal aliens to federal authorities.

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