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Ray LaHood, Back Home in Illinois, Still Active in National Politics

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, left, speak in front of the under construction Oakland air traffic control tower near the Oakland Airport in Oakland, Calif.,Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011. At far right is Oakland mayor Jean Quan. The House on Tuesday approved a stopgap bill intended to avoid a shutdown of federal highway and aviation programs, with Senate action expected later this week. The bill, which passed by a voice vote, temporarily extends operating authority for the Federal Aviation Administration through the end of January and federal highway and transit programs through the end of March. Senate and House leaders reached an agreement last week to temporarily extend both programs, signaling they had no appetite for the kind of partisan standoff that forced the FAA to partially shut down for two weeks this summer.    (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
National Journal
Mike Magner
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Mike Magner
Aug. 22, 2013, 1:44 p.m.

Former Trans­port­a­tion Sec­ret­ary Ray La­Hood has two new gigs in his home state of Illinois, both draw­ing ex­tens­ively on his more than three dec­ades of Wash­ing­ton ex­per­i­ence.

In Ju­ly, La­Hood joined the ad­vis­ory board for the Uni­versity of Chica­go’s In­sti­tute of Polit­ics, es­tab­lished in Janu­ary by a long­time ad­viser to Pres­id­ent Obama, Dav­id Axel­rod. This month, La­Hood be­came a seni­or ad­viser at the Dirk­sen Con­gres­sion­al Cen­ter in Pekin, Ill., just south of his birth­place in Pe­or­ia.

“I’m a big fan of the cen­ter,” La­Hood said in a state­ment. “The work they do with teach­ers all over the coun­try is im­press­ive. I began my ca­reer as a teach­er in Pekin, so I’ve watched the cen­ter grow and prosper over the years.”

La­Hood, 67, could not be reached for com­ment, but both the Dirk­sen Cen­ter and the In­sti­tute of Polit­ics seem like per­fect matches for him.

The cen­ter is named for the late Sen. Ever­ett Dirk­sen, R-Ill., who rep­res­en­ted the Pe­or­ia-based dis­trict in the House from 1933 to 1949 and was suc­ceeded by La­Hood 46 years later. La­Hood and his wife es­tab­lished a schol­ar­ship at the cen­ter in 2005, and he archived his con­gres­sion­al pa­pers there in 2008.

Mean­while, Axel­rod’s in­sti­tute has a bi­par­tis­an bent, a hall­mark of La­Hood’s en­tire polit­ic­al ca­reer. Oth­er mem­bers of the in­sti­tute’s ad­vis­ory board in­clude Weekly Stand­ard founder Bill Kris­tol and Re­pub­lic­an polit­ic­al con­sult­ant Mike Murphy on the right and former Obama ad­viser Dav­id Plouffe and Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress Pres­id­ent Neera Tanden on the left.

La­Hood, who taught so­cial stud­ies to ju­ni­or high school stu­dents in Pekin and Pe­or­ia for six years, star­ted his Wash­ing­ton ca­reer in 1977 as an aide to then-Rep. Tom Rails­back, R-Ill. La­Hood served a two-year term in the Illinois Le­gis­lature and then in 1983 joined the staff of then-Rep. Bob Michel, R-Ill., even­tu­ally be­com­ing chief of staff when Michel was House minor­ity lead­er.

Michel re­tired in 1994 and La­Hood ran suc­cess­fully for his seat, be­com­ing one of the fresh­men in a House Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity for the first time in 40 years. Dur­ing his 14 years in the House, La­Hood or­gan­ized a num­ber of bi­par­tis­an re­treats for mem­bers of Con­gress; none like it has been held since he de­cided not to seek an eighth term in 2008.

Pres­id­ent Obama tapped La­Hood as Trans­port­a­tion sec­ret­ary for his first term in the White House, mak­ing him one of two Re­pub­lic­ans — along with De­fense Sec­ret­ary Robert Gates — in his Cab­in­et. La­Hood left Wash­ing­ton when his suc­cessor, An­thony Foxx, took of­fice on Ju­ly 2.

Dur­ing La­Hood’s fi­nal month in of­fice, his son made in­ter­na­tion­al news as a vic­tim of the on­go­ing tur­moil in Egypt.

Sam La­Hood had been work­ing in Cairo in early 2012 for a Wash­ing­ton-based or­gan­iz­a­tion called the In­ter­na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an In­sti­tute when he and dozens of oth­er Amer­ic­ans were de­tained by Egyp­tian mil­it­ary au­thor­it­ies and ac­cused of stir­ring up trouble after the ouster of Pres­id­ent Hosni Mubarak. It was only after a “no fly” or­der was lif­ted in May 2012 that La­Hood was able to leave Egypt.

Egyp­tian au­thor­it­ies didn’t drop charges against La­Hood and 15 oth­er Amer­ic­ans, however, and in June they were con­victed on charges of re­ceiv­ing for­eign funds to fo­ment un­rest. La­Hood was sen­tenced in ab­sen­tia to five years in pris­on. The rul­ing was strongly de­nounced by Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry.

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