By all public estimations, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is a pretty good golfer.
He should be, given the $82,998 his political action committee has spent on golf outings so far this year, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
(In the golf cart, left to right: Joseph Bruno, Jack Abramoff, Steve Buyer, Salvatore DiMasi)
The golf events this year sponsored by Boehner’s Freedom Project political action committee have stretched from April until October, from Florida to Ohio. And the minority leader doesn’t hold his events at worn-out municipal courses.
The highest expenditure was a September event at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The Freedom Project spent $29,501.20 for an event on the course, which hosts the annual PGA Memorial Tournament.
The FEC reports don’t list the attendees at these golf events, the cost per person or any other details. Don Seymour, a spokesman for the PAC, said the expenditures are “related to events that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the Freedom Project support Republican candidates for Congress.”
What is it about those dimpled balls? From The New York Times:
ALBANY — For Joseph L. Bruno, once one of the most powerful politicians in New York, the road to trouble was soft, grassy and green.
It was on the rolling fairways of his suburban country club that Mr. Bruno, the former State Senate majority leader, pitched labor officials on investing pension money with a firm called Wright Investors’ Service, usually without telling them that Wright was paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his efforts.
It was on a golf junket to Florida that Mr. Bruno first sold an Albany-area entrepreneur on the idea of paying him generous fees to help drum up investment, including earmarks that were arranged by the senator himself.
Golf was so central to Mr. Bruno’s intertwined business and political careers, in fact, that he ordered a Senate ethics lawyer to determine whether a lobbyist could pay his greens fee if the game was part of a charity tournament.
For Mr. Bruno, who federal prosecutors say improperly mixed his political and business interests and sought to deceive the public about it, golf provided more than just exercise and a chance to unwind. It also assured privacy, hours at a stretch to bond with clients, and the occasional vacation on someone else’s dime.
With hardly a day of Mr. Bruno’s corruption trial here passing without some mention of golf, his name can now be added to a list of politicians whose taste for the tees led them to trouble.
In June, Salvatore F. DiMasi, a former speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was indicted on charges that during rounds of golf, he plotted to rig state computer software contracts. This fall, an Indiana congressman, Steve Buyer, came under scrutiny when it was revealed that a charity he established to help teenagers pay for college had spent nothing on scholarships but $260,000 on lavish golf junkets.
And the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now serving four years in prison for bribery, fraud and tax evasion, routinely flew members of Congress and other officials to exclusive golf resorts in Scotland, California or the Mariana Islands.
From TALKING POINTS MEMO (October 22, 2009):
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) has long been a passionate golfer. Last year, Golf Digest ranked the lawmaker 32nd, with a handicap of 5.6, on its list of the top 200 golfers in Washington.
Like many members of Congress, Buyer has a history of mixing business and pleasure on the golf course. Now, it looks like the financial dealings of a questionable foundation created by Buyer were even more golf-driven than previously known.
It’s been reported that the Frontier Foundation, which has been criticized for raising hundreds of thousands from industry groups seeking to influence Buyer while giving out nothing for its stated purpose of helping Indiana students pay for college, raised virtually all of its money on posh golf junkets. Those included trips with Buyer and groups of lobbyists to deluxe courses at Disney World and the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.
Buyer also found himself in trouble in the mid-1990s after he didn’t report a golfing trip to Lake Tahoe paid for by a telecom lobbying group.
He has claimed the Frontier golf trips are “not fun for me” because travel is a lot of work.
[...] it’s telling that $4,500 of the $10,500 given out by Frontier over six years may have been paying for the golf-enthusiast lawmaker to get his fix. (Remember, though, Buyer doesn’t even enjoy playing.) And all this while the foundation wasn’t giving out a cent in scholarships.
From TALKING POINTS MEMO (November 12, 2009):
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) sat down for an interview with CBS Evening News about his charity, but struggled to answer basic questions about the Frontier Foundation, which collects big donations from industry sources trying to influence Buyer but gives out no money for its putative mission of supporting Indiana students.
Buyer abruptly ended the interview with CBS, which aired last night, literally rushing out of his seat to make a meeting.
Among the questions he couldn’t answer: why the foundation, which as recently as last month shared space with Buyer’s campaign office in Monticello, Indiana, no longer has a physical address.
Asked by reporter Sharyl Attkisson about legislation he has introduced or supported that helps donors to Frontier, Buyer says at one point: “Trying to match up legislation like that is erroneous. You shouldn’t do that Sharyl. I think that it’s, I think it’s wrong.”
Check out one key exchange, where CBS asks Buyer about the fact that all of the donations to the foundation come from lobbyists and corporate sources with interests that Buyer has supported:
Attkisson: From what I can tell, all of the donors have interests before committees that you sit on in Congress.
Buyer: Well, the committees in which were, uh, the committees, the corporations in which provided support, like I said, were those original companies. Please do not assume that if a company contributes to the foundation that that’s somehow some type of influence upon what I’m about to do.
CBS also uncovers the fact that the $25,000 in seed money that started the foundation came from PhRMA. We’ve previously noted that PhRMA is the single biggest donor to the foundation, giving at least $200,000 over the past several years. TPMmuckraker reported late last month that PhRMA also hired Buyer’s son — who is on the board of the foundation — to work at its Washington headquarters. Buyer is a member of the House Energy Subcommittee on Health, which regulates drugs.
(Video at TALKING POINTS MEMO link, and, seriously, you really have to watch it, kids! )