Hill Climbers: No Dog Days Here

Posted August 4, 2009 at 3:41pm

It is a busy time to be a Blue Dog Democrat. While the 52-member coalition continues to receive a lot of attention on health care, their staffs’ equally frantic work pace often goes unnoticed.

[IMGCAP(1)]For Peter Boogaard, joining the office of Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), a prominent Blue Dog, has been like “baptism through fire.— In July, Boogaard, 23, was hired as Cooper’s new press secretary.

Although Boogaard’s entrance onto the Hill has been frantic, he said he would not have joined Cooper’s staff any other way. “I think I’ll come out of this session a little seasoned and with a whole lot of connections,— he said.

The spot in Cooper’s office is Boogaard’s first job on the Hill, but make no mistake, he knows media. Boogaard joins the Congressman’s office having several years’ experience working for NBC.

A 2007 graduate of Boston College, where he double majored in political science and theology, Boogaard got his start working in media through a college internship. During his senior year, Boogaard worked as an intern with NBC’s “Today Show.—

Following in the steps of Regis Philbin and Ted Koppel, Boogaard then enrolled in NBC’s yearlong page program after graduation. Although entrance into the program is highly competitive, Boogaard said pages do not do it for the money, receiving only $10 per hour.

[IMGCAP(2)]“The page program really opened up a whole lot of doors for me,— he said. “Sometimes, Brian Williams, Matt Lauer and other major NBC hosts would come and talk with the pages, which could not have happened anywhere else for me.—

Offered a job with NBC’s Sci Fi Network, Boogaard left the program shortly before his yearlong stint as a page finished. Boogaard eventually transferred to MSNBC’s documentary production unit, where he worked immediately prior to joining Cooper’s office.

Boogaard said he never really pictured himself on the Hill. “I got to work in the control room at MSNBC on election night, which made working in politics seem really exciting,— he said. “I thought that it would be more likely for me to cover politics from the television angle.—

Boogaard said he was fortunate when he was at MSNBC to get to know a contact close to the Congressman, providing his key to Capitol Hill. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,— he said. “I got offered the job on a Monday and two weeks later, I had moved out of my apartment in New York City and was training in Nashville.—

With Cooper often speaking to the media on a number of legislative issues, Boogaard said his work was cut out for him on Day One. At the same time, Boogaard said this busy pace has allowed him to get to know the Congressman better. “Lately, he’s been having radio interviews as early as 7 a.m.,— he said. “Sometimes after the interviews are finished we’ll go out to breakfast.—

A true Washington neophyte, Boogaard has not found his own apartment yet and is currently subletting one in Chinatown. He said one of his goals over the August recess is to fix that problem, and he is open to suggestions on places to live.

Although Boogaard is still trying to learn the Hill’s intricacies, he is able to offer some behind-the-scenes insight on the popular NBC sitcom “30 Rock,— whose character Kenneth Parcell is a page. “The show depicts the program differently than it actually occurs,— he said. “There is a whole lot more behind-the-scenes action with a lot less answering phones and running errands like the Kenneth character does.—

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