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Hill Navigator: The Former Boss Who Won't Go Away

Roll Callís Hill Navigator advice column helps staffers with sticky or complicated situations they find themselves in on Capitol Hill. Each week, we take the most interesting submissions from our inbox and answer your concerns. This week: the ex-boss who wants to hang around.

Q. One of my first jobs on the Hill was working for a member who was great; he represented his district well, and we had a great working relationship.

Unfortunately, he lost his seat a few years ago. Meanwhile, my career has moved forward.

Since losing, every two years he talks about running again for Congress or putting his name out for statewide office in his home state.

While he is wistfully talking about making another run for office, he hasnít been doing much to get himself there ó not raising money, not making political connections, not even spending a lot of time in his home district. (He seems to be in D.C. more now than he was when he was a member.)

Every time he decides to float his name, though, he calls me or wants to meet with me, leading up to his asking me to set up meetings for him around the Hill.

Donít get me wrong, I love him and Iím grateful for the opportunity he gave me, but I just donít think heís doing what he needs to do to win. And now heís asking me to spend my own capital to help him, and I donít feel comfortable doing it ó but I donít know how to tell him.

A. It sounds like heís asking for your input. And you have plenty of it.

I understand your view that this is a waste of your political capital, time and resources. A lot of politics involves wasting those very things we have spent years trying to accumulate. So here are two ways I think this could work:

ē If you had a great working relationship, rely on that to let him know that the congressional campaign committees and other members of Congress arenít excited about meeting with a candidate who isnít raising money or spending time in the district. Even if he was the darling of a wave election or a long-timer who isnít quite ready for retirement, he still lost, and he has to prove that he can win again. He might receive a few cursory meetings, but until heís filing a Federal Election Commission report and hiring a finance director, the meetings will stop after round one and you can excuse yourself.

ē If youíre confident he doesnít want your advice and wonít take the hint when the meetings donít materialize, then you may want to go tongue-in-cheek and let your contacts know you arenít realistically expecting much from them. Other staffers might sympathize with the particular brand of entitlement bestowed on former members and also-rans. They also might appreciate your frank tone that you donít expect their boss to take the meeting ó but if he has a few minutes, your old boss is willing to talk ó even if itís just to say ďhelloĒ and reminisce about the good old days, however brief they were.

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