Kristin Coyner

Uncomfortable Surroundings

This article originally appeared in the CQ Weekly 2012 Democratic Convention Guide.

The big venues for this week's Democratic National Convention have long aroused the ire of local Democrats. And that's in addition to organized labor's outrage at holding the gathering in a right-to-work state.

Watchdogs Say Transparency Efforts Fall Short

Thanks to a website launched in January, the public for the first time has a centralized location to track bills on the House floor. It’s the latest step Congressional leaders have taken to open up the legislative process.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the site a “victory for open government.” Leading government watchdog groups say it isn’t nearly enough and fear lawmakers might actually be going in the opposite direction when it comes to transparency.

New Book Explores Obama's Cool, Calm and Collected First Year

In the days following the Great Panic of 2008 — the 48-hour financial meltdown on Sept. 17 and 18 that saw yields on short-term Treasury bills drop below zero — a drama unfolded between then-presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

The two men's reactions to the crisis couldn't have been more dissimilar: The Obama camp presented a cautious front, leveraging the economic meltdown to "change the dynamic" of the campaign to the benefit of its inexperienced candidate. On the other hand, McCain spoke "angry Greek" about the country's economy, as the Republican's 2000 campaign manager John Weaver would say.

Hill Climbers: Staffers Diverse in Geography, United in Goals

East and West coasts and a state in between — fittingly, Michigan — are represented in a slate of new staffers in the office of Rep. Mark Schauer. But despite their diverse geographical backgrounds, all four hires find unity in a passion for their new jobs.

[IMGCAP(1)]In January, Anne Brady started as deputy chief of staff for the Michigan Democrat. Brady brings six years of D.C. experience to the job, with prior stints at the National Association of Broadcasters and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Hill Climbers: Cooper Staffer Rides Unique Revolving Door

Aaron Moburg-Jones' career seems to be on repeat. Five years ago, he moved from the Defense Intelligence Agency to the office of Rep. Jim Cooper. Two weeks ago, Moburg-Jones made the same agency-to-Capitol Hill jump.

In 2005, Moburg-Jones joined the Tennessee Democrat's staff as a military legislative assistant after a stint working as a DIA intelligence analyst. After nearly three years with the Volunteer State lawmaker, Moburg-Jones returned to the DIA in 2007, this time in the legislative affairs division.

Hill Talk: Female Staffers Get Mentor Program

Tucked away in a meeting room in the Capitol Visitor Center, the Women's Congressional Staff Association last week successfully launched Capitol Hill's first-ever women's mentoring program.

Over wine and cheese, several dozen interns and staffers of various experience levels chatted about their jobs, how they got to be on the Hill and the various challenges that they faced along the way. The women represented a broad swath from both sides of the Capitol and both sides of the aisle.

Hill Climbers: An Office Full of Badgers

University of Wisconsin Badgers are no strangers to the office of Sen. Herb Kohl, which makes sense considering the Wisconsin Democrat is an alumnus of the school. Kohl graduated from Madison with a bachelor's degree in 1956.

Even though Harry Stein and Karolina Arias have decades of separation from the lawmaker in their college educations, they share the UW tie with their boss. Stein is a 2007 graduate who was promoted from legislative correspondent to defense legislative assistant two weeks ago. Arias is a history graduate who joined the lawmaker's office as a banking and housing legislative assistant just a week ago.

A New Biography of Henry Clay Illustrates His Ability to Compromise

As a young lawyer in Springfield, Ill., Abraham Lincoln struggled to come up with a fitting eulogy for Henry Clay, not just because of his personal admiration for the Kentucky Senator, but also because Lincoln was acutely aware of what Clay meant as a champion of the Union and human freedom.

After poring over Clay's speeches, Lincoln wrote of his political idol: "The spell — the long-enduring spell — with which the souls of men were bound to him is a miracle," Lincoln said on July 6, 1852, in the state House of Representatives. "Who can compass it?"

Hill Climbers: Deutch Staffers Start to Settle In

There's a bright rainbow sign hanging from the front room of Rayburn 2241 that reads "Congratulations Congressman Deutch." But after that bright welcome, there's just a phone and a computer. The walls are bare.

[IMGCAP(1)]Welcome to the office of Capitol Hill's newest Member, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who was sworn in April 15. (He replaced former Rep. Robert Wexler, who stepped down in January to head a Middle East think tank.)

Hill Climbers: Louie Gohmert's Staffers Take It All in Stride

There's never a dull moment in the office of Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). From helping the lawmaker lead his famous night tours around the Capitol, to high-heeled rescues, Gohmert staffers take it all in stride. Along the way, they often negotiate Capitol Hill's ups and downs with some help from "the boss."

Gohmert's four recent staff shuffles split evenly between new hires and promotions. And most of the women easily recall memorable brushes with the boss.

RNC Star Preps for Another Winning Season

It was raining. In fact, it was pouring, and the 2009 softball matchup between the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee wasn't a snore. Amid a thunderstorm delay and a midgame sandstorm, at the bottom of the seventh inning, things couldn't have been tighter.

With players on second and third, it all rode on the back of RNC senior applications developer Jeremy Kenney to eliminate the DNC's 4-3 advantage. He came to the plate, swung, connected with the pitch and was off with a line drive across first base.

Hill Climbers: Communications Director Is In Charge at Age 23

Maureen Shanahan attributes her new gig as communications director for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to being in the right place at the right time. The reality is a little more complicated for the staffer, and involves legwork, meticulous goal-setting and a splash of networking.

All of 23 years old, Shanahan has been laying the groundwork for her Capitol Hill rise for years. With Schiff, the Winter Park, Fla., native starts her second job on the Hill. Previously, Shanahan was press secretary for Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio).

Hill Climbers: With an Illinois Link, Staffer Comes Home

It would be wrong to assume that Sarah Baldauf always goes with the flow. Even though she said her life has been one "alignment" after another — reaching a zenith when she recently became communications director for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) — she strikes a balance between self-reflection and a come-what-may attitude.

"I definitely have that part of me that questions and sometimes resists things," said Baldauf, 33. "However, I think, looking back, it seems like if you can be smart enough and astute enough to recognize when real and good opportunities are presenting themselves, then you have to just trust it. ... Sometimes you just have to trust that opportunities present themselves for a reason."

Eskimos Made Ingenuity Into Art Form

A new Smithsonian exhibit will make it worth fighting the hoards of tourists: On Saturday, the National Museum of Natural History unveiled "Yuungnaqpiallerput (The Way We Genuinely Live): Masterworks of Yup'ik Science and Survival."

And although contemporary presidential politics have inserted the 49th state into the national spotlight, the indigenous people tell a more significant tale.

Hill Climbers: Staffers Enjoy Their Cowboy Boots Connection

Even though Yonnick Hammond and David Forrest Lasseter have divergent paths to the office of Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), they make a good pair of new staffers.

[IMGCAP(1)]For starters, Hammond, 24, and Lasseter, 32, have similar senses of fashion: Both men wear cowboy boots on the job.

Hill Climbers: Witness to History

Even though the final passage of health care just took place a month ago, the details are already becoming hazy. But talk to staffers on the House Budget Committee, and they'll vividly recount a painfully detailed process.

[IMGCAP(1)]The panel first passed health care reconciliation on March 15 before its send-off to the Rules Committee. Marcus Stephens, the new deputy communications director for the Budget Committee's Democratic staff, easily rattles off all the work required to advance that reconciliation vehicle.

Hill Climbers: Small Office, Big Changes

There are a grand total of five staffers — plus a fellow — in the office of Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.). And even though Andrews' staffers say that makes for a rewarding work environment, it also means staff changes add up to big differences in the office. This month, two promotions and one new staffer meant changes for nearly half of the New Jersey lawmaker's Washington, D.C., office.

[IMGCAP(1)]Andrews has typically put a large emphasis on constituent services in his 1st district office. That's fine for Andrews' D.C. staffers, all of whom say their small office helps them to be more focused and efficient.

She Knows Why the Caged Bird Writes

Two and a half million.

That's roughly the number of Americans in jail right now. But that number becomes even grimmer if you include the entire correctional system. Just the title of a March 2009 study by Pew Center on the States, "One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections," easily puts things into perspective: The number of incarcerated adults in the U.S. combined with those under criminal justice supervision amounts to one out of every 31 adults, or about 3.2 percent of the population.

Hill Climbers: War Correspondent Takes on a New Battle

With a combination of luck and a fair measure of risk-taking, Pamela Hess blazed her own trail to Capitol Hill, though there was little to suggest that her prior career manifestations would lead to Congress. In March, Hess, 42, started as communications director for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), bringing nearly two decades of experience as a journalist, most recently as an intelligence correspondent for the Associated Press, to the job. [IMGCAP(1)]

Hess' jump into the legislative branch had little to do with the desire for change. Instead, the move embodies words she lives by: "Do what scares you."