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Obscure Caucus: The Quiet Men of Congress

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Crenshaw has been a member of Roll Call’s Obscure Caucus for the past four years.

Financial expertise suits his representation of his Dallas-Fort Worth-area district’s major corporations and would highlight his own wealth if he chose a far-reaching platform for pushing his federal tax overhaul agenda. The committee hearing rooms for the Ways and Means and Education panels are his favored venue for public speaking. His preferred method of communication is directly to constituents — through e-newsletters and tele-town-hall meetings — and by design he rarely shows up in national news coverage. But his name does get in the papers, at least this one, with the annual listing of the 50 Richest Members of Congress.

Marchant donates significant amounts to his family’s charitable foundation, but in keeping with his modest style, he doesn’t talk about it much and it’s not mentioned on his sparse Wikipedia page.

Ed Pastor, D-Ariz. 7th District; 11th full term
2012 re-election: 82 percent

Pastor is a trusted Democratic insider, but he rarely makes headlines and goes in search of media attention even less often. According to his House website, he issued one press release in April 2013 on the Congressional Art Competition and one in June on the immigration bill passing the Senate.

Pastor is a returning Obscure Caucus member, and nothing since 2011 has warranted his removal. The first Hispanic person elected to Congress from Arizona, he’s still active in immigration debates, but other members of Congress have caught more attention on the issue. The naturalization workshops he holds in his district aren’t as TV-ready as a stemwinder at a news conference.

Unlike many other politicians in Arizona, Pastor is low-drama and has a confident hold on his seat. He is an appropriator and has been one of his party’s chief deputy whips since 1999. He does not have an active Twitter account for his congressional service; his campaign handle has sent about 100 tweets, but it still describes him as “Putting People Before Politics.” According to recent CQ Roll Call staff queries, he has an office manager, a scheduler and a press secretary but no chief of staff.

Tom Petri, R-Wis. 6th District; 17th full term
2012 re-election: 62 percent

The pragmatic Petri espouses a classic Midwestern work ethic and represents a district that loves its cheese, Christmas trees and the Wisconsin Dells vacation spot. He doesn’t have an official Twitter handle, his cable news appearances are slim and he rarely gives rousing floor speeches. One of his YouTube hits is him driving a pedicab in Washington in 2010.

Petri should have more notoriety than he does. One of the founders of the moderate Ripon Society, he is the fourth-most-senior House Republican, having won a special election in 1979. (Seven of his current House colleagues were born after he entered the House.) But since 2001, he has been passed over four times when the top Republican seat on one of his committees has opened up. Now, he is second on the Education and Workforce Committee and third on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Petri was part of early discussions in 2013 to rework the federal education loan system. One of his proposals offered only one type of loan, tying it to interest rates of the 10-year Treasury note. Though active in the debate, it wasn’t his bill that the president signed in August, and Petri’s name was mainly absent from headlines about the legislation.

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