Hastert, DeLay Spokesmen Headed for Private Sector

Posted December 10, 2004 at 6:14pm

After 15 years on Capitol Hill — the past six as the top press aide in the House — John Feehery is leaving the office of Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) at the end of the year to take a job in the private sector.

The departure of Feehery, who has yet to decide on his next job, comes on the heels of the decision by Stuart Roy, communications director for Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to leave the Texan’s office in January to head the communications practice at the DCI Group, a grassroots firm.

Successors have not yet been named for either Feehery or Roy.

Feehery has been Hastert’s press secretary since January 1999, when the Illinois lawmaker was unexpectedly vaulted to the Speakership following the resignations of Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and his intended successor, Bob Livingston (R-La.).

According to the Congressional Research Service, Feehery’s six-year tenure is the longest of any spokesman for the Speaker. The previous record was set by Chris Matthews, who worked for Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) before building a successful broadcasting career.

Feehery said that holding the post has been an honor. “This has been a great place to watch history unfold, and I think Denny Hastert will go down as one of the House’s best Speakers,” he said.

News of Feehery’s pending departure prompted praise from the other side of the Capitol.

“He’s been a consummate professional,” said Bob Stevenson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). “He’s been far and away the best press secretary on the Hill these last few years. … This Scotsman will miss his Irish wit and good humor.”

An Illinois native, Feehery got his start on the Hill in 1990 and spent a few years working his way up the ladder in the office of then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

In 1994 and early 1995, Feehery was a special assistant and legal adviser to Hastert (though he is not a lawyer). Feehery then served for a brief period as DeLay’s floor assistant before becoming the Texan’s communications director.

In late 1998, Feehery briefly left the Hill to become a vice president at Policy Impact Communications, the firm then headed by Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Ed Gillespie, a future RNC chairman. But he was lured back to Congress when Hastert became Speaker.

Feehery, who turned 41 on Saturday, said he has narrowed his search and is “getting very close to making a decision.” The Feehery family will still have a presence on the Hill. His wife, former lobbyist Kerry Feehery, has been named communications director to Sen.-elect Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

Roy’s future, by contrast, is settled. In a DCI statement announcing his hiring, DeLay said, “On a personal level, Stuart has always maintained his trademark sense of humor, even during the most challenging times with me. He’s a born leader, and a good man; we’re going to miss him.”

Before joining DeLay’s office in 2002, Roy spent a year as spokesman at the Labor Department. Before that he served as communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.