Former Speaker John A. Boehner may be busy commenting on the state of politics while far away from Washington, but the Ohio Republican hasn’t completely closed up shop on Capitol Hill.
The speaker’s post-retirement office spent nearly $100,000 from the time he left Congress last fall through the end of March, according to data from the Chief Administrative Officer of the House .
The taxpayer-funded benefit for ex-speakers can't be used for political purposes, but is intended to wrap up a former speaker’s congressional and constituent service.
Boehner could pay as many as three aides salaries of up to $158,000, $133,000 and $116,000. Funding for former speakers has been in place since 1970, just before John W. McCormack retired to private life.
Two-thirds of Boehner’s spending so far went to administrative assistant Amy Lozupone, who has worked with him since 2001.
If Boehner’s office continues its current rate of spending, it would cost approximately $1.1 million over five years — the maximum length of time former speakers can keep their taxpayer-funded offices open.
After CQ Roll Call first reported that Boehner planned to take advantage of this perk by setting up an outpost in the Longworth House Office Building, some of the ex-speaker’s former colleagues introduced legislation to do away with it.
GOP Reps. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky sponsored legislation in December that would ban such offices for all ex-speakers.
“It is ridiculous that a former speaker needs five years and millions of taxpayer dollars to maintain an office in the Capitol building,” Jones said last year when he introduced the bill. “Upon leaving office, former speakers have access to many perks and opportunities, including government pensions, book deals, lobbying, speaking engagements and consulting. If they want an office, they can pay for it themselves.”
The speaker’s office also hired former Boehner chief of staff Michael Sommers as a secretary. He was earning less than Lozupone before leaving the office in January, and the data show no replacement for Sommers.
"There are no plans to hire additional aides," said Boehner spokesman Dave Schnittger. "The office is not making use of congressional franked mail, either. And ... he has chosen to use an empty, nondescript office in Longworth rather than rent an office off the Hill at taxpayer expense. It’s a simple, bare-bones, temporary operation, and he’s made a deliberate effort to do it that way."
Sommers left the Hill to become president and CEO of the private equity lobbying group the American Investment Council.
The last ex-speaker to keep an office in Washington in a similar fashion was J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois who spent more than $1.5 million from 2008 to 2012.