GOP LEADER CALLS TOBACCO CHECK HANDOUTS A `MISTAKE'.
A member of the House Republican leadership team admitted Friday he distributed a tobacco PAC's campaign checks on the House floor, but said he'll never do it again.
Watchdog groups said the practice is legal but condemned it as outrageous, nonetheless.
GOP Conference Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he stopped handing out the checks after being questioned about the practice by two freshmen who'd heard about the handoff on the House floor.
``They were appalled by it,'' said Boehner. ``I thought, `Yeah, I can imagine why somebody would be upset. It sure doesn't look good.'
``It's not an excuse, but the floor is the only place you get to see your colleagues,'' he said in a telephone interview from Ohio. ``It was a matter of convenience.
``You make a mistake, admit it and go on. I just feel bad about it.''
Boehner, whose conference job places him fourth in the House GOP leadership, didn't say which fellow lawmakers had questioned him.
However, a New York Times column identified freshman Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., as one of several lawmakers who convinced Boehner to find some other place to pass out the PAC money. Boehner's chief of staff, Barry Jackson, confirmed that report.
Jackson said the incident that offended Largent and unnamed others took place during the last week of June 1995, when time was running short for campaigns to close their books for the six-month public disclosure period.
``We were trying to help guys who needed to get their June 30th numbers up, their cash-on-hand numbers up,'' Jackson said. ``All leadership does this. We have to raise money for people and help them raise money.''
Groups that contribute to candidates were asked for money on behalf of struggling campaigns. Boehner then either gave the candidates the tobacco group's checks, or, if he didn't happen to run into the candidate, sent it on to the candidate's campaign office, Jackson said.
Boehner carried some checks to the House floor because that's where he saw the needy incumbents, Jackson said.
He said Boehner recalled relaying three checks from the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. political action committee, but to be safe, was estimating there were about half-dozen checks. He stressed that no tobacco-related legislation was being debated at the time.
``It's a common practice. He knew it was neither illegal or against the rules of the House,'' Jackson said. ``For five years he had seen members on both sides of the aisle come to the floor - which is where they see each other - to exchange information and sometimes hand each other campaign contributions.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 11, 1996|
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