Hill Climbers: A Certain Kind of Oversight

Posted May 5, 2009 at 3:33pm

Even if Seamus Kraft hadn’t been a believer before he landed a job with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he certainly has reason to be now.

[IMGCAP(1)]Like many Republicans in Washington, Kraft was looking for a new job after the November presidential election. By mid-January, he was still empty-handed. Despite experience as a staff writer at a National Journal publication and as a special assistant at the State Department, he faced the increasingly real prospect of moving home to Massachusetts and continuing his job search from there.

“My bank account was going to determine that one,— he said. “I probably had until the end of February.—

And then, in typical Washington fashion, a friend of a friend met with him and got him an interview with the committee. The Thursday before President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Kraft got the job. He is now deputy press secretary and new media director.

“It was a case of divine providence,— he said.

But Kraft had a pretty strong sense of faith even before his personal miracle. In fact, it was his strong Catholic background that led him to a career in politics.

When dreams of going into the military were dashed for health reasons, Kraft decided to take another route into public service. He attended Georgetown University and majored in classical political philosophy and minored in scholastic theology and diplomatic history.

[IMGCAP(2)]Kraft spent a summer as a reporter for Global Security Newswire, an arm of the National Journal Group. He then moved to the State Department and was a speechwriter at the Department of Commerce from July 2008 through January 2009.

Though Kraft welcomed his current job opportunity, he could have gone either way on working on the Hill. Knowing his job with the Bush administration was ending, Kraft said he was interested in working for a Congressional office but had also given a lot of thought to moving to the private sector and eventually getting into consulting work. Of course, the question of what to do was answered when he got the job offer from the committee.

As press secretary, Kraft is able to put his passion for writing to good use in opinion pieces and press releases. He has also become a student of new media outlets, learning how to shoot, edit and upload videos and update the office’s Twitter account on the fly.

Though Kraft said those tasks don’t always sound like they amount to a job that is serving a higher purpose, it all comes together in a larger sense.

“I believe everyone up here, no matter how much I disagree with them, is here to make America better for the people who live here,— he said. “Replace America’ with world’ and that’s the Catholic Church.—

That strong sense of belief will likely help Kraft get through some of his more stressful work situations.

“I never lose sight of that,— he said. “It gets you through the more drudgerous’ times.—

Kraft said that coming from the executive branch to a Congressional committee has been an adjustment. There is less of a clear hierarchy, he said, as he works with other staffers to prioritize Members’ needs with regards to the committee and in their personal offices.

“That’s been very new to me,— he said. “It’s a variable that plays into the decision-making process.—

There is another element of Kraft’s personal life that he carries into the professional realm: his experience as a lifelong sailor. He may not use the technical skills every day, but the need for self-reliance, a sense of humility and a pragmatic attitude apply in both situations, he said.

“That’s probably the thing outside of my faith that has most informed who I am,— he said.

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