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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 Callís Obscure Caucus for the past four years.

Obscure doesnít mean ineffective or passed over. In fact, in the congressional context, some of the best work gets done behind the scenes by members who would rather build relationships with their colleagues than spar with cable news anchors. These members take on low-profile policy agendas, gain reputations for expertise and benefit from tenure to climb committees or lead issue-area caucuses.

Inclusion in this caucus is not mockery or criticism, but highlights the frequently unhighlighted legislators who spend time on parochial concerns or constituent service. Few lawmakers opt not to stuff a PR portfolio with press releases, television appearances and photo ops, but Obscure Caucus members have few national news mentions or moments in the public eye. Many of these members are big players in policy and political circles, but for whatever reason ó political style, personal preference or the issue itself ó they earned few or fleeting headlines for their achievements.

Not every member gets considered for this ever-shrinking club of those who avoid the spotlight. To make the first cut, a member must have served at least two full terms and be running for re-election to his or her House seat in 2014. (The size of the Senate provides too much visibility to its members, although there are some camera-shy senators ó Republican Jim Risch of Idaho, for instance, doesnít work the mic much.) Culling the showhorses, the newbies, the scandal-hounded and members who face tough elections leaves a rather short list of representatives. Social-media activity oriented toward local issues or restricted to retweets from party leaders wonít knock you off the list, but any kind of self-promotion (even not-very-successful attempts at it) will.

Perhaps their membership in the caucus isnít indicative of their legislative achievements ó as many have had bills signed into law and have teamed up with colleagues on notable measures ó but it is indicative of what they havenít done. They havenít grandstanded, they havenít brought bold personalities into a debate, they havenít sent inappropriate Twitter messages and they havenít, in recent years, sought a higher office than the House of Representatives.

Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla. 4th District; 7th term
2012 re-election: 76 percent

Crenshaw first joined the caucus in 2009 and seems to be in for the long haul. Even the gavel of an Appropriations subcommittee and a high-profile battle to secure an aircraft carrier at Jacksonvilleís Naval Station Mayport hasnít moved him into the spotlight.

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