When former Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. served in Congress from 1995 to 2003, he couldn’t help but notice the lack of diversity, both among his colleagues and the staffers who served them.
In fact, the Republican — who was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Oklahoma — noticed that Capitol Hill was one of the least diverse places to work in the country.
On Wednesday night, a decade after leaving Capitol Hill, Watts will formally launch Insight America, an organization that will seek to increase diversity among Hill staffers. The event will be held at The Heritage Foundation at 6:30 p.m. and boasts an impressive list of members of Congress on its guest list. Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Rob Portman of Ohio, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Republican Reps. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, Jack Kingston and Tom Price of Georgia, Jon Runyan of New Jersey, J. Randy Forbes and Scott Rigell of Virginia, and James Lankford of Oklahoma.
Brandon Andrews, spokesman for Insight America and a former staffer to Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., said that while the organization is being run by a former Republican and the event is being held at a conservative think tank, it seeks to improve diversity in a bipartisan manner on Capitol Hill.
“Because of who the founder and chairman is, we are definitely going to be working more on the right side [of Capitol Hill], and that’s where we will have more influence,” Andrews said. “But we will be here to support all the staff associations in whatever way that we can, because we want to see diversity improved on the Hill more generally.”
Andrews added that the timing of the organization’s launch — with Republicans seeking to rebrand their image after a bruising election season — is just coincidence. He said Watts got the ball rolling on the organization three years ago and now has the money and support to make the organization a reality.
“This is about addressing the issue of diversity on the Hill and ensuring the product that comes out of Congress is as good as it can be,” Andrews said.