Boehner Remains Defiant Over Earmark Web Site

Posted May 20, 2008 at 6:51pm

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) continues to defy an order to take down his Web site touting earmark reform — and the House Administration Committee has yet to push back on the issue.

It’s been almost three months since House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) told Boehner that his Web site, earmarkreform.house.gov, violated House rules. Boehner immediately decried the order and declared that he wouldn’t comply.

So far, he seems to have had the last word. House officials haven’t brought up the matter since, though they say that they are still working on a solution.

Meanwhile, the earmark site is not only up but active, with press releases posted as recently as last week. Most of those posts criticize Democrats for not agreeing to an earmark moratorium.

The home page’s introduction explains the Web site’s purpose.

“In spite of the Democrats’ refusal to change the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars, House Republicans have committed themselves to a series of standards that will be the basis of their comprehensive earmark reform efforts,” it reads. “This website is dedicated to those standards and what House Republicans are doing to fix Washington by stopping earmarks.”

Remarks like that would be acceptable on Boehner’s Minority Leader Web site, House officials say, but they contend the earmark site breaks a House rule requiring a domain name to be “recognizably derivative or representative of the name of the Member or the name of the office sponsoring the website.”

In short, the Web site puts forth an opinion that visitors might take for the House’s viewpoint — when really it’s from Boehner.

Originally, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Doody approved the Web site name back in August. In February — less than two weeks after the Web site’s launch — he sent an e-mail to Boehner’s office admitting that he made a mistake and asking that the site be taken down.

Boehner responded in a letter that blamed the reversal on partisanship, sparking Brady’s formal order.

“Changing its address now will inevitably hamper the effectiveness of the new website, much to the convenience of the majority that runs the House,” Boehner wrote.

But since that exchange in February, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said the office hasn’t heard from Brady or CAO officials. And they’ve continued to update the site without any further objection.

The House Administration Committee is working on “potential next steps” to take down the Web site, spokesman Kyle Anderson said.

Not only is the CAO willing to help move the Web site, Anderson said, but Brady offered to put up a redirection notice after it was moved.

“At that point, the impetus was on the Minority Leader to comply,” Anderson said. “The decision to unilaterally remove a Member’s site is one that is not taken lightly, and we continued to hope that Mr. Boehner would voluntarily comply with the rules, which he voted in favor of during his tenure on the committee.”

While Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard could take down the site at any time, that would probably cause an uproar from Republicans. Smith said Boehner’s office would “raise holy hell.”

Already, Boehner has used the opportunity to blast Democrats about their earmarks. In a letter to Beard in February, he questioned the number of earmarks sought by Democratic freshmen.

“They could unilaterally shut the Web site down if they so chose,” Smith said Tuesday, “but that act would frankly highlight the fact even more that Democrats represent the status quo when it comes to earmark reform.”