Gang of Seven
The Gang of Seven refers to a group of freshmen Republican U.S. Representatives, elected to serve in the 102nd Congress in 1990. The group loudly condemned the House banking scandal and the Congressional Post Office scandal, forcing the congressional leadership to address the issues by ensuring the incidents stayed in the media and public eye. The group also criticized other Congressional perks, such as congressional subsidies for the Capitol Barbershop and Senate Restaurant.
Two members of this group, Jim Nussle and John Boehner, were also key drafters of the Contract with America, which along with the banking and post office scandals helped the Republicans take control of the House in the 1994 elections.
The House banking scandal broke in early 1992, when it was revealed that the United States House of Representatives allowed members to overdraw their House checking accounts without risk of being penalized by the House bank (actually a clearinghouse). The House banking scandal ultimately involved more than 450 representatives, most of whom did not break any laws. Twenty-two congressmen and -women were singled out by the House Ethics Committee for leaving their checking accounts overdrawn for at least eight months out of a sample of 39 months.
The Congressional Post Office scandal refers to the discovery of corruption among various Congressional Post Office employees and members of the United States House of Representatives, investigated from 1991–1995, climaxing in the conviction of House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL). The Republican charges were largely ignored until July 1993, when Congressional Postmaster Robert Rota pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, implicating Representatives Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) and Joe Kolter (D-PA). They were accused of heading a conspiracy to launder Post Office money through stamps and postal vouchers. Rostenkowski was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison, in 1995.
The seven Representatives were:
- John Boehner (OH-08)
- Rick Santorum (PA-18)
- Charles H. Taylor (NC-11)
- Frank Riggs (CA-01)
- Jim Nussle (IA-02)
- Scott Klug (WI-02)
- John Doolittle (CA-04)
Six of the seven are no longer in Congress; one successfully ran for higher office, one was defeated for re-election, and four retired.
Rick Santorum was once considered a rising star in the Republican Party. He was the first of the Gang of Seven to run for higher office, and the only one who was successful, becoming the junior U.S. senator from Pennsylvania in the Republican landslide of 1994. Santorum served two terms in the Senate and rose to the level of Senate Republican Conference chairman before being defeated by State Treasurer Bob Casey in 2006. He ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
Charles Taylor remained in the House for eight terms. He was defeated in 2006, losing to former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler.
Two retired from the House to run for higher office. Frank Riggs left his House seat after three terms in 1998 to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer. Jim Nussle retired in 2006 after eight terms to run for the open Iowa governor's seat but lost to Democratic candidate Chet Culver. Nussle, having served previously as chairman of the House Budget Committee, was then selected to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President George W. Bush.
The latter two retired to return to private life. Scott Klug chose to keep his initial campaign promise of only serving four terms and to refocus on his business. John Doolittle was tainted by involvement in the Jack Abramoff scandal and retired at the end of his ninth term in 2008.
Only Boehner currently remains in the House of Representatives. He served as House Republican Conference chairman from 1995 to 1999, but he was ousted after the party lost five seats in the 1998 midterm elections, though the Republicans retained a majority. He was later chairman of the Education and Labor Committee from 2001 to 2006. In February 2006, Boehner scored an upset victory over Roy Blunt to become House majority leader, campaigning as a reformer in the wake of several political scandals among Republican House members. After the November 2006 election, when the Republicans lost control of the House, he became the House minority leader. He remained in office and in 2011 was elected speaker of the House for the 112th Congress. Looking back on his involvement with the Gang of Seven, he has said "I think showing the American people that there are people willing to take a principled stand in Washington is a very good thing."
- A Rabble-Rouser, Then and Now, New York Times, Carl Hulse, 4 July 2009
- "The 22 Worst". USA Today. April 17, 1992.
- Rostenkowski's Last Stand, US News and World Report, May 22, 1994.
- Weisman, Jonathan (3 February 2006). "In an Upset, Boehner Is Elected House GOP Leader". The Washington Post.
- Rick Hendersen, "The House Republican freshmen: always aggressive, sometimes obnoxious, hardly mono lithic" Reason Online.
- William McGurn, "Rubber congressmen - check bouncing scandal", National Review, April 13, 1992.