The consensus seems to be that June was a disaster for first district Congressman Raul Labrador. First he presided over what most people are saying was the worst and least productive Republic state convention in Idaho’s history. Then he ran for House Majority Leader and appears to have been soundly trounced.
If his long-range plans call for building a career as an influential member of Congress, or for running for higher office, then the month was largely a disaster. But what if his long-range plans have goals unrelated to remaining in elective office?
The truth is, Labrador hasn’t seemed to be strongly driven by the need to deliver measurable results to his district, other than occasionally jumping on the bandwagon in support of legislation being sponsored by other members of Idaho’s delegation. Certainly not the way that former senators Jim McClure, Frank Church and Larry Craig were driven to address constituent needs. Nor the way that his second district counterpart Mike Simpson has been able to focus on strengthening the Idaho National Laboratory or trying to address issues related to wilderness.
Rather, most of his focus has been on pushing for a Congress that is philosophically true to the most conservative political dogma of the day. And he has been unflinching in this, with few exceptions. So unflinching that it has endeared him to many of the most conservative elements of our country. This unbending support of the far right philosophy and his natural ability to communicate in a calm and pleasant way has made him a favorite of the media.
Given all of this, why might June have been a great month for him? As chair of the state Republican convention, he was able to effectively work with the tea party group to keep the “regular” Republicans from controlling any element of the convention and actually keeping the delegations from two of Idaho’s largest counties, Ada and Bannock, from being seated. He was also able to assist in bringing far right standard bearers Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee to address the convention. While the convention accomplished absolutely nothing, the party gave no ground to those representing centrist Republican thought, even though tea party challengers were defeated by centrists in all but one statewide primary race.
The race for House Majority Leader was also an opportunity for Labrador to demonstrate that he is true to the interests of the far right. He was unafraid to take on the existing House leadership, along with most of the rest of the House, to voice his concerns about the need for the party and the House to shift much farther to the right, even though it likely further marginalized him as an effective House member.
So, given all of that, how does Labrador come out a winner?
He comes out a winner if, at some point, he contemplates leaving elective office and pursuing a career more financially lucrative than being either a Congressman or an Idaho immigration attorney. Former Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina followed this course, leaving his $174,000 a year Senate seat and becoming head of the Heritage Foundation earning over $1 million a year. According to reports filed with the IRS, leaders of seven prominent conservative groups average salaries well in excess of $500,000 a year.
The billionaire Koch brothers pump hundreds of millions of dollars into such organizations, including, in addition to the Freedom Foundation, Freedom Works, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. The Koch brothers probably see little to disagree with in Congressman Labrador. In fact Freedom Works supported his candidacy for House Majority Leader.
Labrador is comfortable before both the camera and microphone and has become something of a national media favorite when it comes to the far right. He has appeared on most of the major national news programs and has made repeat performances on some Sunday talk shows, such as Meet the Press. In fact, during his brief campaign for Majority Leader, he indicated that one the strengths he had over his opponent, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, was his ability to work effectively with the news media.
So another financially lucrative path that could be open to the Congressman is would to join the ranks of former elected officials such as former Congressmen Newt Gingrich and Joe Walsh, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who have become highly paid broadcast personalities. In fact, in late March, Congressman Mike Rogers, chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, announced that he was resigning both his chairmanship and his House seat to become a radio talk show host.
Although Glenn Beck, another talk show host, has never held elective office, he and Labrador are cut from much the same cloth and appeal to similar audiences. According to journalist Zev Chafets, Beck’s annual income “is greater than the combined salaries of the entire U.S. Senate – and you can toss in a few dozen congressman and cabinet secretaries for good measure.”
Labrador’s wife and five children have remained in Idaho, perhaps largely because of the expense of housing and living in the Washington, DC area. If at some point he decides to leave the House and accept a high paying job with one of the options I have suggested, June 2014 will probably be viewed as a great month that helped make it all possible.
Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.Share on Facebook