Rebecca Gale

Ready for Congress 3.0?

The 2016 election year is almost upon us, but “Congress is largely still stuck in the 1970s,” argues Bradford Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation.  

Fitch, a former Hill staffer, would like to help shepherd his former employer into the modern era — "Congress 3.0," he calls it. He thinks his organization can make some headway by utilizing two multiyear grants they were just awarded to study up to 12 congressional offices, survey the constituents who interact with those offices, and come up with a best practice toolkit. “Congress 1.0 was your ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’” Fitch said, a simpler era symbolized by the 1939 Jimmy Stewart film. Congress 2.0, Fitch continued, was defined by the growth in congressional offices, both in staff size and diversity, in the 1970s.  

Holiday Party Time Kicks Off

It's holiday party time, and every trade organization, lobbying shop and PR firm wants to ply members and their staff with booze, food and gifts.  

“This is a happy hour and cocktail reception city,” said Rodell Mollineau, a former Senate staffer who is now a partner at Rokk Solutions. And none more so than the holiday season. In compliance with House ethics rules, edible fare at such events tend to be finger foods. The rules allow people who work on the Hill to attend receptions and partake in “[f]ood or refreshments of a nominal value offered other than as a part of a meal.” The Senate also allows attendance at a widely attended event in which food is provided to every attendee.  

Vote for a Refugees Capitol Quip!

— It might have been safer to take our chances with the sharks. — Just our luck. We arrived during a presidential campaign. — Couldn't they at least abridge this path to nowhere? — Where's the TSA Pre-Check Line?  

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Saturday, and in the following print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.

From Sex Worker to Hill Staffer

“Drink a beer, smoke a joint. But lay off the crack, it will rot your teeth.”  

That was the advice Natasha Guynes remembers receiving from her estranged father while she was high on crack and cocaine. At only 20 years old, Guynes had wanted to get as far away as possible from her family in Louisiana. Without any way to support herself, she turned to sex trafficking, and to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. At her low point, she realized that the advice her father had given her about laying off crack was "sick in itself,” said Guynes, whose drug and alcohol use landed her in a Washington, D.C., hospital over Thanksgiving weekend in 2001.  

Where the Drinkers Are in Congress

The congressional drinking culture is alive and well, helped along by the demands of the job.  

According to a survey of congressional staff, nearly half, or 47 percent, of staffers attend social events for work either once or twice a week. Those events are predominantly serving alcoholic beverages. Perhaps that helped lead to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows the District of Columbia with a slightly higher percentage of adult binge drinkers (22 percent) as compared to the national average of 16 percent. The CDC classifies "binge drinking " as occurring when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours. The CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System ranked D.C. in its "third tertile," sharing a similar "dark red" ranking with North Dakota and ahead of only Nebraska at 22 percent and Wisconsin at 26 percent of binge drinkers.  

Vote for Your Favorite Honeymooners Capitol Quip!

— He just updated his Facebook Status to "It's Complicated." — Do you think we should knock? — If I were you, I'd throw in the towels. — If this is the "honeymoon," I hate to see what the marriage is going to look like! — Maybe we should come back later.  

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Saturday, and in the following print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.

Congresswoman Left for Dead at Jonestown Recalls the Massacre, 37 Years Later

Rep. Jackie Speier knows exactly how it feels to be left for dead.

On Nov. 18, 1978, she was shot five times on a remote airstrip in Guyana, South America. Her boss, Rep. Leo J. Ryan and four others lay dead nearby, killed by gunfire as they tried to escape Jonestown, the commune built by cult leader Jim Jones.

Congresswoman Left for Dead at Jonestown Recalls the Massacre, 37 Years Later

Rep. Jackie Speier knows exactly how it feels to be left for dead.

On Nov. 18, 1978, she was shot five times on a remote airstrip in Guyana, South America. Her boss, Rep. Leo J. Ryan and four others lay dead nearby, killed by gunfire as they tried to escape Jonestown, the commune built by cult leader Jim Jones.

Speier Recalls Jonestown Massacre, 37 Years Later

Rep. Jackie Speier knows exactly how it feels to be left for dead.

On Nov. 18, 1978, she was shot five times on a remote airstrip in Guyana, South America. Her boss, Rep. Leo J. Ryan and four others lay dead nearby, killed by gunfire as they tried to escape Jonestown, the commune built by cult leader Jim Jones.

Finding That Committee Staffer Spot

Ah, the joys of working in a personal office: those unexpected “drop-by” visitors, a daily interaction with an elected official, even the chance to learn the legislative ropes vis-a-vis writing stacks of constituent mail. But what happens when a staffer wants to tackle a particular legislative issue and make the leap to become a committee staffer? Hill Navigator discusses.  

I'm in a personal office on the House side. It's been a great opportunity to get my feet wet and learn the ropes on the Hill. But I worked on a particular policy area before coming to the Hill, and I want to get back to focusing on those issues. How can I make the jump to committee staff?
You’re savvy enough to know that if you want a policy-heavy role (one that usually comes with more pay, better hours, and less turnover) then working on a committee staff might be the place for you. But how to land one of those coveted jobs?  

Maryland Residents Stand to Gain on Paid Leave

Following the path of D.C.’s ambitious proposed paid leave policy , federal workers who live in Maryland might also see a change to their paid leave benefits. Maryland Del. Ariana Kelly, a Democrat, plans to introduce legislation in January to allow federal workers who work in D.C. and live in Maryland to opt-in to a state insurance pool and receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave benefits.  

The D.C. Council recently unveiled paid leave legislation that would provide up to 16 weeks of paid leave for Washington, D.C., residents, including those who work for the federal government. Non-residents who work for private companies based in D.C. would also be covered, but federal workers who live in Maryland, Virginia or another state would not. Because of this, two employees working side-by-side in the same federal office could wind up with wildly diverging paid leave plans.  

Vote for Your Favorite Waiter-Speaker Capitol Quip!

— You can always come back if it doesn't work out. — Thought you would have 86'd the Hastert special by now. — How about this one - Nacho Regular Order? — Good balancing act there, fella; you'll be a natural for Speaker someday. — Don't look now, but isn't that Boehner serving that table over there?  

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Saturday, and in the following print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.  

Looking for Lost References

A great internship experience can lead to valuable references, which is one of the myriad reasons interning on Capitol Hill is often the best way to secure a full-time job there. But what if those valuable references aren’t in the same position anymore? Hill Navigator discusses how to track them down.  

Q: I interned for someone in the House a year ago, then came back to my home state to finish my senior year of college. After graduating, the district office of the congressperson I worked for strongly encouraged me to apply for an opening in the district. I was told that staffers in the D.C. office spoke well of my work there — hence the recommendation. I was unable to accept the offer at the time but indicated my level of interest. Fast forward a few months, and I find another opening for the same position at a district office closer to my hometown (different member). I’m dying to stand out from the crowd for this job, as it was on the House listserv and is obviously more likely to cater to an insider. Many of my contacts from my former office have gotten new jobs and therefore new email addresses unbeknownst to me, but my question is, what would be the best way to obtain a referral, written or otherwise, in order to stand out for the position? Too much to ask the district office if the member could give the hiring office a ring/drop a line?
A. If you, savvy Hill intern that you are, were clever enough to submit a question to Roll Call’s Hill Navigator, I have the utmost confidence that you can find a few of those moved-on staffers you mention that would be likely to give you a stellar recommendation.  

Telford-Esposo Halloween Night Nuptials

Erik Telford, president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and publisher of Watchdog.org, and Kristine Esposo, senior director at The Herald Group, were married on Oct. 31 at Saint Peter's on Capitol Hill Catholic Church.  

The two met in typical Washington, D.C., fashion: networking for a job reference. Esposo received an email from a sorority sister asking her to put in a good word for Telford, who was applying for a job at Americans for Prosperity, the organization where she had recently interned.  

Why a Former Staffer Could Make a Good Speaker

Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., in the course of two decades, has risen from congressional staffer to the speakership.  

His first job was working as an aide to Sen. Bob Kasten, R-Wis., on the Senate Small Business Committee. After a stint at the Empower America think tank, a 25-year-old Ryan — described as a "boyish, policy-wonk" — returned to Capitol Hill to work for Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas, in both the House and Senate, according to CQ Roll Call's Politics in America. He did what many young Hill staffers do every year: master policy and politics while working on Capitol Hill.  

Vote for Your Favorite Paul Ryan Capitol Quip!

— I'm glad almost 80 percent of you could join me tonight. — Follow me, I promise I'm one in a minion. — Great costumes, guys, but you misspelled “capitulation.” — Let’s just say “trick or treat” this year involves committee assignments and office location. — It's trick OR treat, see? They have the option.  

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Saturday, and in the following print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.  

5 Things You Should Know About D.C.’s Proposed Paid Leave

Washington, D.C., is poised to become the jurisdiction with the most generous paid family leave plan in the country , but its effects on the area's federal workers are complicated. D.C.’s plan, which has the support of seven of the city’s 13 councilmembers and is expected to move forward, would provide 16 weeks paid family leave for District residents and for residents of nearby states who work for private companies based in the District.  

Federal workers are the odd hybrid. District residents who work for the federal government, including those who work on Capitol Hill, would be eligible for the paid leave. Residents of nearby states who work for the government would not be.  

Ryan's Demands Include Plea for Work-Life Balance

Much of the media attention on Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s “conditions” for becoming the next speaker focus on his requirement that three disparate factions of the GOP unite in support of him. But one condition tucked neatly into the list includes a plea for work-life balance: no weekend fundraising travel.  

The Wisconsin Republican cites his own family responsibilities for needing time away from work, and he is not alone in thinking that too many hours on the clock can lead to a less effective performance. Research has shown that taking periodic breaks to recharge — a quick walk, cup of coffee or even a few days for vacation — will actually improve work effectiveness and creativity.  

Vote for Your Favorite House Leadership Fantasy Game Capitol Quip!

— Is there a salary cap in play? — Honestly, I was booking a tee time and this thing just popped up! — And I'll back the next guy 100%. Until he withdraws, of course. — Never bet against the House! — Wow this game even has a Trump Card you can use!!  

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Saturday, and in the following print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.