Senators need to work across the aisle if they want to get much done.
The same can be said for their staff members, even the communications shops that alternate between partisan blasts and collaborating on news conferences, hearings and releases about bipartisan legislation.
That’s probably why the press staff has its own fraternal organization of sorts — the Senate Press Secretaries Association.
Ryan Taylor, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker’s communications director, is finishing up a term as the president of the group, opening the door for a Democratic successor.
“SPSA is a special organization. It is the largest, most active, bipartisan staff organization on Capitol Hill. It has existed for more than 40 years. That is not an easy feat, considering where we work,” Taylor said. “SPSA gives our members opportunities to further develop their craft, learn best practices from each other, as well as from their counterparts in the media and off the Hill. You can find our alumni from coast to coast, doing a wide variety of influential and cutting-edge jobs.”
The presidency alternates each year between the parties, as it has since the group’s inception, though unofficial attendance has tended to lean Republican in recent years.
Meghan Roh, a past SPSA president who worked in the press shops of Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Tammy Baldwin before leaving the Hill, stressed the networking opportunities for those on the minority side of the aisle.
“In an increasingly polarizing political climate, SPSA offers an incredible opportunity for Senate communicators to not only connect with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but hear from experts and influencers on ways to improve your messaging and strategic communications skills,” Roh said. “Some of my closest professional relationships during my time on Capitol Hill were with Republican counterparts, and I doubt that would have been the case had it not been for SPSA.”
Members from both parties often stay involved even when they leave the Capitol, as is the case with Christopher Gindlesperger, who worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee years ago and is now a vice president at the National Confectioners Association. The trade group has partnered with the SPSA and sponsored a number of its events, including the yearly Christmas party.
“As a former Senate committee communications director, I have maintained my membership as i transitioned off the Hill because I believe there is value in participating in SPSA meetings, panel discussions and events, both as active Senate staff and alumni,” Gindlesperger said.
The SPSA takes an annual trip to New York City, which this year will come at the beginning of February, to give members, new and old, the chance to meet with TV producers and other communications pros. They also have an active speaker series, which has included recent visits with “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
“Over the past year, we have pushed to get our members off the Hill more often, and we are always looking to partner with new groups, trade associations, and media outlets for events that keep our members engaged in the ever-changing media landscape,” said Megan Whittemore, an SPSA board member and events chairwoman.