Jeb Bush Campaign Throws Boehner Under Bus: Confirms Talks with Pro-Amnesty Staffer After Speaker’s Denial

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Washington, DC

A spokeswoman for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s potential 2016 presidential campaign has confirmed a previous Breitbart News article reporting that Speaker John Boehner’s on-staff amnesty advocate Becky Tallent has been in job talks with Bush’s campaign—undercutting a previous on-the-record denial from Boehner communications director Michael Steel.

“We have been in touch with hundreds of policy experts,” Bush’s spokeswoman said in an email. “We have not offered Becky Tallent a job. Would refer you to Speaker Boehner’s office regarding Becky’s current position. It is my understanding she is not planning to leave it.”

In other words, what Bush’s spokeswoman is saying is that yes, they’ve talked with Tallent—and hundreds of others—and nothing has been finalized or set in stone yet, and that Tallent isn’t ready to leave Boehner world yet. That confirms exactly what Breitbart News reported earlier on Friday.

“House Speaker John Boehner’s on-staff amnesty advocate Becky Tallent is in talks with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s potential presidential campaign for a job, meaning if she takes it she’d leave Boehner’s office,” this reporter wrote in the lead of the story, adding later in the piece that “the mere fact that Bush world is discussing this openly means that Tallent is definitely interested. It’s not finalized, and there’s plenty of things that could derail the opportunity for her and for the Bush campaign. But nonetheless, the mere fact they’re talking is newsworthy—even if Boehner keeps her.”

Breitbart News cited two heavyweight political sources to back up the story about the talks.

“Jeb’s team is looking to hire Rebecca for policy,” a former George W. Bush White House aide said.

“The fact that they’re talking to Becky speaks to the focus that Jeb puts on getting immigration across the goal line,” a former senior staffer for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign added.

Boehner’s staff—several sources tell Breitbart News—instead of getting all the facts and responding to the request for comment on the matter or ignoring the story, went into a frenzy behind closed doors. Tallent told several people in Boehner’s office the story wasn’t true—not unexpected, since she wouldn’t want to broadcast to her current employer she’s been in talks for a potential gig with a different employer. But instead of leaving it there, Boehner’s communications director Steel took to Twitter to argue the Breitbart News story was inaccurate.

“This story is not true or accurate,” Steel said via Twitter.

Steel, Tallent, and Boehner’s other communications adviser Matt Wolking—who was involved behind the scenes in attempting to quash the original story—have not responded to a followup request for comment. They also haven’t answered specific questions about whether Boehner plans to continue employing Tallent in the wake of the revelation she would speak with the campaign of a politician who believes illegal aliens crossing the U.S. border illegally are engaging in an “act of love.”

This is not the first time Steel has provided inaccurate or misleading information to reporters. For instance, most recently he claimed that there would not be retaliation for Republicans who voted for a GOP alternative to Boehner for Speaker of the House at the beginning of this Congress. That obviously was not true, as Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) lost original cosponsorship of a major bill that he had been previously been promised, and Reps. Richard Nugent (R-FL) and Daniel Webster (R-FL) were kicked off the powerful House Rules Committee. Webster was one of the three members who announced their candidacy as a Republican alternative for Speaker of the House, running with Reps. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX). A total of 24 Republicans voted for a GOP alternative to Boehner, and one voted present on the day of the speakership vote in early January.

The former Bush White House aide source for the original Breitbart News story mocked Boehner’s aides for their handling of this matter.

“Instead of letting a Friday process story die, Michael Steel’s uninformed, bull in a china shop tactics have yet again further discredited himself and the Speaker’s office,” the Bush White House aide said when asked for further comment after the Bush campaign spokeswoman confirmed the original story.

Tallent is a particularly controversial adviser because of her strong support for amnesty for illegal aliens, though Boehner and his staff don’t think she deserves public criticism. She was the chief of staff to McCain in the mid-2000s—and spearheaded, alongside the office of the now late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill in the twilight years of the George W. Bush administration.

She ended up working for the Bipartisan Policy Center for some time after that, leading that pro-amnesty group’s immigration work. During her time there, she made several appearances on national television—including a C-SPAN appearance in which she claimed that American workers don’t work hard enough to take on jobs in this country, and that’s why Congress needs to grant illegal aliens amnesty and bring in more cheap foreign labor from overseas.

“There are jobs that American workers will not do,” she said in that C-SPAN appearance, among other controversial remarks.

She is now behind an effort in the House to help revive the once-dead border bill from House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX). That bill has only 48 miles of double layer fencing, despite the fact that current law requires 700 miles be built. It also doesn’t stop Obama’s catch-and-release policies for illegal aliens who get caught crossing the border.

On the Senate floor this week, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)—a chief sponsor of the Senate version of the McCaul bill—laid out why Tallent is trying to bring it back to life. Flake said it’s part of a larger effort to help Republicans eventually vote on a bill to grant amnesty to illegal aliens in the U.S. right now and also to push legislation massively increasing the numbers of foreign workers imported into the U.S. The border bill, Flake argued, would allow Republicans to say they voted to secure the border, even though the border wouldn’t actually be secured because of it.