Boehner spent taxpayer money on etiquette school
March 9th, 2011
04:42 PM ET
7 years ago

Boehner spent taxpayer money on etiquette school

Washington (CNN) - As Speaker of the House, John Boehner regularly hosts foreign leaders visiting Washington, presides over joint meetings of the House and Senate, and gives out Congressional commendations. So, as he prepared to take over the post last year, he enrolled an aide in a class at a private school outside Washington, D.C. to learn proper etiquette.

According to public records listing payments by Boehner's office, and first reported by the publication Roll Call, the then Republican Leader spent $5,800 last December in tuition for his aide to attend a five day course this spring given by the Protocol School of Washington.

Because Boehner's office registered early for the class, which will meet in May in McLean, Virginia, his office received $500 discount off the regular $6,300 tuition fee for the five- day course.

Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker Boehner, defended the expenditure of taxpayer funds, saying, "Part of the ceremonial role of the Speaker is hosting foreign dignitaries. It's appropriate to do this properly."

Pamela Eyring, the president and director of the Protocol School of Washington, notes there is no formal training given by the government and the school is the only accredited program in the country. Referring to government aides assigned to these duties, Eyring said, "they have high turnover rates and there's no continuity. You're struggling, trying to find things on the internet, which aren't vetted."

She noted that often those new to dealing with interactions with high level foreign leaders or other dignitaries "can cause serious embarrassment to the United States or to the military if they don't know protocol."

The class the Boehner aide will attend is called "Protocol Officer Training" and is likely to include a mix of about 30 attendees from government, military, and corporate offices.

In the last four years the school has also coached an aide from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, an aide with the House Sergeant at Arms office that handles security, a staffer for the Library of Congress, and employees of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The school declined to give specifics on what training an aide from the Senate's GOP political arm would receive, but said others from academic institutions and other private groups focused on event planning and fundraising have attended sessions in recent years.

The protocol course covers personal leadership, proper rules on how to seat officials at official events, cross cultural awareness, and the basics of how to write invitations and arrange place cards at dinner tables. Attendees who complete the class receive a certificate and can follow up with experts at the school if they have questions about specific situations. The school has trained officials from the FBI, the CIA, NASA, as well as large companies like Boeing.

Eyring, a former chief of protocol at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Boehner's native state of Ohio, pointed to the speaker's working class roots and said that dealing with world leaders is likely new territory for him. "A lot of people that don't have exposure to international delegations or VIP's don't know what to do. Is it 'your Excellency or your honor?'

Boehner has already begun hosting a series of foreign leaders at the Capitol. Earlier this year he hosted a closed meeting with the Chinese President Hu and Wednesday he opened a joint meeting of Congress with a speech by the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It's also an annual tradition for the speaker to host a lunch for the President of the United States and the Irish Prime Minister at the Capitol to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

It's not uncommon for the Speaker of the House to pay staff to handle the details of arranging visits, planning public events or handling who sits next to who on the dais or a dinner table. Boehner's office has assigned one aide who will attend the class to those duties, but his predecessor Nancy Pelosi had two full time aides who handled protocol. But the California congresswoman's spokesman also notes that these two aides had other responsibilities, such as coordinating internal requests from members to host events in various rooms in the Capitol, all of which fall under the speaker's office.

Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill, said their office did not pay for either of these aides to attend a class to learn proper etiquette. "We never did this."

One GOP aide said getting up to speed on appropriate procedures helps so Speaker Boehner "knows not to bow to the King of Saudi Arabia," a not so subtle jab referring to controversy that arose when President Obama appeared to bow when he greeted the King of Saudi Arabia in 2009.

Filed under: John Boehner
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    Gawd - give him lessons in ethics, morals, scruples. That's what he needs.

    Other than those - HELL NO.

    March 9, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. Dave

    This one is tooooo easy. No comments

    March 9, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. Inmyopinion

    I love Pelosi, she's the queen of creating the best excuses ever. Like the excuse she had for using our tax dollars to fly her whole family and herself on a government plane to visit the Pope in Rome. Gotta love those excuses. So now Boehner is even with Pelosi.

    March 9, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. jim

    Why is my tax money going to garbage like this ?????????????????????

    It should be going to the oil companies, not schools !!!!!!!

    March 9, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. ConservaFascists/F.U.B.A.R.

    Sounds like waste and abuse. Apparently etiquette class didn't work because Mr. Boehner doesn't show the POTUS any respect.

    March 9, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "just wondering,,,,, what religious group does all the bombing...."

    85% of the United States military is composed of protestants and catholics.

    March 9, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. Greg

    This is actually a legitimate use of taxpayer funds... as opposed to the normal pork by both Republicans AND Democrats.

    March 9, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. GJ

    As someone who thinks Boner is terrible at his job, I'm going to say this is a big fat non-troversy.

    March 9, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    The class isn't the issue.......$1000 per day for it, is the issue!

    March 9, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. A Real American

    "Now, Mr. Boner, remember to always reach for the first knife on the left when stabbing the middle class in the back."

    March 9, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Well, what could be better than a GOPer who knows how to politely tell the middle-class to please bend over? I mean, we're all tired of the dirty puillow talk and rough's about time someone shafted us in the collective a$$ and had the manners to send us roses afterwards.

    March 9, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. Billy Davis

    Cut education for children but pay $5800 for an adult to learn etiquette? What a douche bag liar, claiming to care about the American taxpayers funds being wasted. Well, it doesn't get any more wasteful than this and then his office tries to defend it.

    March 9, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Don

    He flunked.

    Everything he has done as speaker shows a lack of respect for the House and public.

    And it's poor judgement to spend money on this, no matter how little, when "the country is broke".

    March 9, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    With all the Government personnel in the WH who are already on taxpayers payroll and know protocol, why the H are taxpayers being billed again.

    March 9, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. willie floyd

    Doesn't seem as though much was learned.

    March 9, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  16. Dennis

    Non controversy. A person is going to school to learn the skills necessary to deal with dignitaries. I would bet that 99.99% of America is oblivious to the necessary protocol requirements to avoid offending visitors.

    March 9, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  17. Johio

    I'm going to agree with GJ. Personally can't stand Boehner, but this seems appropriate to me. There are way too many real things to criticize him for rather than make this into some kind of feigned indignation.

    March 9, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  18. mike4ever

    The way he always trying to put the president down, you would have thought he knew all this and could teach his own aide how to do it correctly. Wow $6300 for a five day course it must be 24/7. No wonder he want to cut education, he think people can do it for less and in less time would really be great.

    As long as he have been in congress he should already know how to talk to people and respect their culture as well as their religion, but he sure do not respect the president of the united states. A fine lesson he is showing our young people, that they should only respect presidents who is not a miniorty. And we wonder why this country is going down the tubes.

    March 9, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. Educator

    Maybe he will not touch the queen or bow like an idiot... That school should be required for certain individuals.
    If he purchased a $10000 apt for iPad you idiots would be cheering.

    March 9, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  20. sonny chapman

    They should have spent more $ on W. He was the crudest, most ill-mannered President since Harry S. Truman. Barbra Bush should have been embarrassed.

    March 9, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. Duck Fallas

    Hey Maw! They learned me that they's a fork just for the salad! And ya ain't supposed ta use yur fingers or nuthin!

    March 9, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. vbscript2

    How, exactly, is this news? Oh, I see. It's because a Congressional leader is actually doing his job. After the past 4 years, that is news.

    March 9, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. vbscript2

    Maybe he'll learn not to give Region 1 DVD's from the White House gift store to the Prime Minister of the U.K.

    March 9, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. GD

    So, the real question is: this may have been a worthy investment, but where is the "etiquette" here at home??? That's the class he & his staff should take, along with many of the hot-airheads on both sides of the aisle.

    March 9, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  25. S. In California

    Another (closet) welfare/socialist republican?

    March 9, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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