Heller, the junior senator from Nevada, moved into Russell 361-A after the resignation of John Ensign.
Staffers for Sen. Dean Heller have been bullying other senators’ aides to protect the Nevada Republican’s space in the Russell Senate Office Building, CQ Roll Call has learned.
As part of the biennial Senate office lottery, junior members are obligated to show their office suites to more senior members, who then have 24 hours to decide whether to claim that space as their own. Heller’s office suite — which he inherited after the scandal-fueled resignation of Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. — may be particularly attractive to other senators because its floor plan includes a larger-than-average member office.
Though special courtesies are usually extended to aides and members visiting offices, Heller staffers repeatedly tried to keep them from seeing the spacious member office, sources reported, saying meetings were ongoing and could not be interrupted.
Several Senate offices lodged complaints with the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, according to several sources familiar with the attempted visits to Heller’s office.
“This is beyond silly. We’re disappointed that this has become fodder for pettiness among staff members,” Heller spokeswoman Chandler Smith said. “Our office has worked hard to balance the busy and demanding work of running a Senate office, hosting meetings and greeting constituents while accommodating members and numerous staffers from nearly 20 offices who want to see the space.”
A visit from Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ staffers was particularly contentious, and the tension between the two offices only appears to have deepened in the weeks after the tour. When the Georgia Republican’s staff asked to see Heller’s suite, Chambliss had not yet announced his decision to retire in 2014. According to sources familiar with incident, Heller Chief of Staff Mac Abrams joked that Chambliss’ staff should ask Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., if he would like the suite. He also jokingly suggested that Heller would have to support any potential Broun primary bid if Chambliss took their office. (At the time, Broun was rumored to be contemplating a primary challenge, and he has subsequently announced he will run for the open seat.)
According to some sources told about the exchange, Heller’s chief of staff then offered $10,000 in campaign contributions from the senator’s PAC if Chambliss declined to take the suite. Heller’s office disputes this claim.
Another source familiar with the situation said a campaign contribution offer was made in jest. Abrams joked, according to this source, that Heller would give funds to Broun if Chambliss ousted Heller from the space. Another source corroborated this account. Those who believed the remarks to be a joke said no number was ascribed to the contribution, but $10,000 is the maximum a member PAC can give in one cycle to another member.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.