McCaskill Moves

Posted April 10, 2007 at 5:25pm

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) recently announced a bundle of new staff additions to her Washington, D.C., office. [IMGCAP(1)]

Assuming the role of legislative director in the office is Chani Wiggins, 36.

Before coming aboard, Wiggins worked as deputy chief of staff for legislation and communications for then-Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) from 2005 to 2006. Prior to that, she was the legislative and communications director for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) from 2004 to 2005. She also worked as legislative assistant on labor and judiciary issues for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) from 1999 to 2004; as research director for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) from 1998 to 1999; as a local government reporter for The Tampa Tribune from 1993 to 1996; and as a local government reporter for The Albany Herald from 1992 to 1993.

Wiggins, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida in 1992, is from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Peg Gustafson, 39, joins the office as a legislative counsel.

Prior to taking on her new role, Gustafson worked for then-Missouri state Auditor McCaskill as general counsel from 1999 to 2007. She also previously worked as an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County, Mo., from 1995 to 1999, as assistant county counselor in Jackson County from 1993 to 1995, and as a judicial clerk for Missouri Court of Appeals Judge Don Kennedy from 1992 to 1993.

A native of Chicago, Gustafson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Grinnell College in 1989 and a law degree from Northwestern University in 1992.

Also new as a legislative counsel is Amy Levine, 35. [IMGCAP(2)]

Previously, Levine served in the same capacity for Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) since 2005. Before that, she was an associate in the communications and media law practice group at Covington & Burling from 1999 to 2005. She also has worked as senior law clerk to Chief Judge Jerry Buchmeyer of the federal district court for the Northern District of Texas from 1998 to 1999, and as a legislative aide and staff assistant to former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) from 1993 to 1995.

From Shreveport, La., Levine earned both a bachelor’s degree and law degree from Yale University in 1993 and 1998, respectively.

Coming to the office as a legislative assistant is Stephen Hedger, 29. Previously, Hedger worked as a legislative assistant to Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) since 2005 and in the same role for Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) from 2004 to 2005.

Hedger served in the U.S. Army from 1999 to 2004. The 1999 West Point graduate has served in Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo. He also graduated from the U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger schools. The Northport, N.Y., native currently is pursuing a law degree from Georgetown University.

Also new to the office is legislative assistant Nichole Distefano, 28.

The Sugar Creek, Mo., native previously worked as the director of rural outreach for McCaskill for Missouri during 2006. Before that she worked as an associate at Walters Bender Strohbehn and Vaughn. She also worked as a clerk intern for Judge Hal Lowenstein of the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District in 2005 and as a field organizer on McCaskill’s 2004 gubernatorial campaign.

Distefano graduated from the University of San Diego in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. She went on to earn a law degree from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in 2004.

Joining McCaskill’s office as press secretary is Maria Speiser, 24. The St. Louis native previously worked as deputy press secretary for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) since 2005.

Speiser earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri in 2005.

Finally, Jerryl Christmas is the new grants and special projects director.

Previously, Christmas worked as an attorney in private practice since 2001. Before that, he was assistant circuit attorney in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office from 1994 to 2001.

From St. Louis, Christmas earned his bachelor’s degree in speech and criminal justice from Central Missouri State University in 1986 and a law degree from Texas Southern University in 1994.