If Clarissa Rojas’s Life-Story Doesn’t Inspire You, Nothing Will

Clarissa Rojas, 23, is one of the youngest communications directors working on Capitol Hill, having begun serving in that position earlier this month for Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.).

Clarissa Rojas, center, is flanked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, left, and Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan, right. (Screen shot from Facebook)

But her latest position is not her first on Capitol Hill. Rojas previously served as press secretary for Rep. Nannette Diaz Barragan (D-Calif.) and before that as press assistant in the same office.

It’s not just her age that makes Rojas noteworthy, it’s the tough road she’s had to travel to get from a hard life in California to a congressional staff position. It’s a journey that Roll Call’s Kathryn Lyons describes well in a superb profile today. If you read nothing else today, read this one.

Congress Needs Bigger, Better-Paid Or More Experienced Staffs?

What do you say if a former boss asks you for a few minutes to chat, then closes the door and explains that she wants to pick your brain about reshaping her staff to advance her legislative agenda more effectively?

Do you say “hire more staff” or “let some people go and pay those you keep more?” Perhaps the solution is to start looking for replacements for all of the key slots, but then how do you avoid merely hiring a new version of the same-old-same-old?

Alan Wiseman of Vanderbilt and Craig Volden of UVA are co-directors of the Center for Effective Law-Making and they recently did a thoughtful memo for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on what makes productive legislative staffs. Some of their conclusions, posted by legbranch.org, will surprise even Hill veterans.

STAFF MOVES: Look Who’s Moving On Up On Capitol Hill

Recent Moves, As Reported By Legistorm:

Kristine Lucius may have one of the toughest jobs on Capitol Hill these days – she’s now chief of staff for Sen. Kamala Harris, the California Democrat who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. That puts Lucius directing traffic at a very busy intersection! Her law degree is from Georgetown University and her BA is from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Jesse Lee has a second act with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, moving over from the Center for American Progress where he was a vice president. Lee previously worked as senior new media adviser for Pelosi in 2007. He’s also a veteran of the Obama White House communications office. He is a 2002 Trinity College graduate in philosophy.

Carina Nichols has her first job on the Hill, as a legislative assistant for Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). Nichols expects to finish her MA in environmental management at Duke University in 2012 and she has a BS in biological sciences and ecology from Colorado State University. Welcome to the Hill, Carina!

Katharine MacGregor has been nominated by President Donald Trump as Deputy Secretary of the Interior. MacGregor is a Hill veteran, having served on the House Natural Resources Committee in various positions for six years.

Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior Katharine MacGregor (Screen shot from DOI web site).

She also worked on the personal staffs of three Republican representatives, including Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Va.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

She is a University of Pennsylvania 2004 graduate with a BA in American history and classical studies, with honors. She is presently the Acting Deputy Secretary.

Ally Kehoe is the new communications director for Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), moving over from the same position with Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ). Kehoe is a 2008 graduate in political science and broadcast journalism from Syracuse University.


Looking for a Hill Job?

Check out this five-part HillFaith series by Bret Bernhardt, former chief of staff for Senators Don Nickle (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Bernhardt has a wealth of experience, insider insight, how-tos and obscure terms (know what a “golden reference” is on the Hill?), plus lots of helpful links.

The Best Resources for Finding a Job On the Hill

Where Your Best Job Lead is on Capitol Hill May Surprise You

Getting in the Door on Capitol Hill

Here’s Nine Valuable Tips for Interviewing Well on Capitol Hill

Working on Capitol Hill is the World’s Best Job (Or at Least My Best Ever)


Got A New Job On The Hill? Tell The World About It Right Here

Just email the details – name of your new boss, your new title, description of duties, where you graduated from school, a great digital photo of yourself, etc. Send to: mt.hillfaith@gmail.com.


 

Kanye West May Be The Canary In America’s Political Coal Mine

Something is happening with the guy and it’s much bigger than Donald Trump

Kanye West is one of those famous people who got that way by being unusually talented at something – in his case, music and entrepreneurship – and being unlike pretty much anybody else in American public life.

Kanye West during his Chicago Sunday Service (Screen shot )

That makes him, depending upon your perspective, either unique and fascinating, or weird and puzzling. Either way, he’s not a take-him-or-leave-him kind of guy.

Love or despise him, though, West is a major influence on contemporary American culture and that makes him relevant in multiple ways for folks working on Capitol Hill.

(For one thing, he may be a canary in the coal mine of American politics, telling us in advance of a coming seismic shift in the way Black Americans see things in Washington, D.C. That, as Sen. Bernie Sanders might say,  would be huuuuge on Capitol Hill.) Continue reading “Kanye West May Be The Canary In America’s Political Coal Mine”

WORKING ON THE HILL: Studies Reveal Unexpected Profiles Of Hill Staff Pay, Demographics

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi released the results of her July survey of Congressional Compensation and Diversity on September 26, it prompted Casey Burgat, senior fellow for the R Street Institute’s Governance Project, to run a comparison with data on HIll staff he uses in his analyses.

Casey Burgat, R Street Institute Governance Project Senior Fellow (screen shot from C-SPAN)

Pelosi’s results were based on responses from more than 5,000 respondents to a survey that was sent to 10,000 Hill employees. Burgat uses data obtained from Legistorm, the widely used compiler of official congressional information about salaries, staff backgrounds, employment histories and much, much more, as of March 2019.

For the most part, the Pelosi and Legistorm data are close, but Burgat found some significant differences, especially with regard to issues like salary and gender distributions by position. Continue reading “WORKING ON THE HILL: Studies Reveal Unexpected Profiles Of Hill Staff Pay, Demographics”

Looking For The Recipe For Your Office’s Culture? Just Add Salt

By Bret Bernhardt

We talk a lot about influencing our culture in the macro, but what about closer to home? What’s the culture like in your office? Is it warm, friendly, selfless, welcoming, and open? Or is it coarse, backstabbing, self-serving, and overly ambitious?

Bret Bernhardt, former chief of staff for senators Don Nickles and Jim DeMint.

Now, what is your role in that culture? Do you strive to bring it to a higher level or do your actions or inactions contribute to an unhealthy environment? We can look for the answer in the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

He said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13) What does this mean? Continue reading “Looking For The Recipe For Your Office’s Culture? Just Add Salt”

WORKING ON THE HILL: Here’s What Modern ‘Tent-Making’ Looks Like

When Paul made his many missionary trips around the known world after his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, he supported himself by making tents.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), left, with Open The Books’ President Adam Adrzejewski, center. (Photo courtesy of Open The Books).

Being a highly educated individual who was formerly part of the Establishment in Jerusalem (Paul studied under Gamaliel, one of the most respected doctors of law in Israel at the time of Jesus), it’s instructive that Paul turned to what we would today likely consider a blue-collar job to support himself.

Without even remotely suggesting that I am in any way comparable to Paul, I am following his approach to supporting himself in his work. In other words, I do have a “real job,” covering Congress as a correspondent for The Epoch Times.

I love Congress and being an old-school journalist who puts a premium on being scrupulously factual, and now this 30-year career makes possible the great privilege of editing HillFaith “on the side.”

This photo is from a recent “pen & pad” session with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is accompanied by Adam Adrejewski, the founder and president of Open The Books, a non-profit group that is achieving amazing successes in making government at all levels more transparent, and thus more accountable. That’s yours truly to Adam’s left.

Ernst was discussing a significant package of reforms in federal spending that I will be reporting on next week.