Heard on the Hill

FamousDC Jumps on Election 2016 Springboard

Hill vets light up primary circuit, one party at a time

FamousDC co-founder Josh Shultz unplugs, ever so briefly, from professional life by channeling his inner Texan. (Nathan Imperiale)

Vicious name-calling. Dog-whistle politicking. Unbridled innuendo.  

There’s been very little to celebrate as this grueling presidential nominating contest barrels towards potentially chaotic party conventions slated to happen later this summer.  

Unless, of course, you happen to be half of the brain trust that figured out this would be the perfect time to take Beltway-bred FamousDC , a hub of hyperlocal chatter focused on political personalities and their extracurricular activities, out on the road to show the rest of the country what it’s been missing.  

“I wouldn’t say we partied hard with Sen. Rick Santorum, but the man does know how to work a political event,” FamousDC co-founder Josh Shultz said of the whirlwind of activity he witnessed from the one-time White House hopeful while in Cleveland .  “He blew in, shook hands, took tons of pictures, crushed two hotdogs, and all in the span of 12 minutes.”  

That's quite a change from having the world’s most famous party crashers barge into an invitation-only happy hour intended for congressional pals.  

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the couple accused of "crashing" President Obama's first state dinner in November, invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to testify during a 2010 House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the incident. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the couple accused of "crashing" President Obama's first state dinner in November, invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to testify during a 2010 House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the incident. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“The Salahis did crash one of our rooftop parties at Cava … and to this day, people still think Amos and I had something to do with it,” Shultz recalled of the run-in with the aspiring reality TV stars.  

[ Taking Party Crashing to the Next Level ]  

The Amos in question is Amos Snead, the former Hill staffer  who became a partner at homegrown public affairs firm Bryant Row, and whom Shultz got to know during his tenure at the National Republican Congressional Committee.  

FamousDC co-founder Amos Snead introduced Josh Shultz to reporters and bloggers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
FamousDC co-founder Amos Snead introduced Josh Shultz to reporters and bloggers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“My boss encouraged me to meet as many Hill communicators as possible. Amos was not only generous with his time, he made dozens of introductions to both reporters and bloggers — a gesture I still appreciate to this day,” Shultz said.  

Cutting ties with Congress didn’t cause a rift in their friendship. Instead, it created an opportunity to reflect, often rather irreverently , on what life is like in the legislative branch.  

“I sometimes miss the fast pace and adrenaline rushes that working on Capitol Hill offers,” Shultz said. He recalled days that were “scary as hell, but also immensely enjoyable.”  

“Luckily, FamousDC allows me to stay involved and provide a creative outlet for the interesting happenings that occur every day on Capitol Hill and beyond,” he said.  

That mission took on new meaning last fall.  

The confluence of strategic new hires , burgeoning business relationships and the seemingly never-ending string of presidential debates made maximizing FamousDC’s sphere of influence a no-brainer, according to Shultz, who helms NJI Media in his day job.  

The outreach has, so far, produced glitzy soirees across the country, including high-profile events in Las Vegas , Miami and, you guessed it, Des Moines .  

“Both Republicans and Democrats know how to throw down, but the slight edge goes to the Democratic Party simply because they’re better dressed and stay up later,” Shultz quipped.  

In addition to watching Santorum wolf down wieners, Shultz said he’s enjoyed kicking it with the head of the Republican National Committee.  

“The ‘most enjoyable politico’ award might have to go to Reince Priebus, who might be the nicest person in Washington, D.C.,” he said.  

Some folks on the other side of the aisle have been no-shows.   

“Bernie Sanders was supposed to stop by our event in Vegas, but we’re told he got caught up at the slot machines,” Shultz said.  

His team plans to continue the constituency building during swings through Dayton, Ohio, and a return to Sin City (“We really love Vegas,” he said).  

And, yes, they’ll attend both the party conventions — assuming there’s anyone left by then that hasn’t been completely alienated by the vetting process.  

[ Cleveland Better Brace for Its Close-Up ]  

“The unprecedented backlash we’re witnessing is a product of establishment exhaustion, the 24-hour news cycle and social media empowerment,” he said. “I’ve seen cage matches that have been more civil than the 2016 presidential cycle.”  

Those still in the trenches come July can look forward to more swanky shindigs — “which will, of course, involve great conversation, adult beverages and FamousDC swag everywhere.”  

And there will be next-generation messaging.  

“If you’re trying to reach millennials, we’re the platform to utilize,” he said.  

Once the campaign cycle winds down, FamousDC hopes to keep energy levels up with an inaugural activity everyone can get behind: a good, old-fashioned fall festival.  

“Gone will be the days where you have to pack up the family and drive an hour to find a pumpkin patch, corn maze or a place to ride a miniature train (or horse) — all while enjoying great local beer and wine,” Shultz said in an email.  

The seasonal get-together is expected to take place at Yards Park  this fall.  

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @WARojas .  

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.