WORKING ON THE HILL: If You Use Your Office’s CRM, You Need To Know This About That

Every one of the 535 congressional offices has one of these, and every one of them requires continuous attention from at least one staffer and helps everybody else do their jobs.

Screenshot from legbranch.org.

They are the Constituent Management Systems (aka CRMs) that, according to legbranch.org’s Samantha McDonald and Melissa Mazmanian, “help offices manage the ever-growing volume of constituent communication.

“They enable communication with citizens by logging, tracking, and categorizing, and responding to incoming contact. When a person calls a Member’s office, attends a meeting with a Member, sends an email, postal mail, fax, or shares a social media post, that information is logged into the CRM.” But CRMs are not unmixed blessings and here’s why: Continue reading “WORKING ON THE HILL: If You Use Your Office’s CRM, You Need To Know This About That”

WORKING ON CAPITOL HILL: Young Congressional Aide Reveals How He Makes It In D.C. On $45K

Victor Yang has worked on Capitol Hill for three years, presently as legislative assistant to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and previously as a staff assistant to Rep. Charlies Crist (D-Fla.) and an intern for Rep. Juan Vargas, another California Democrat.

Victor Yang (screen shot from Facebook).

Even if you’ve never met Victor, he may look familiar to you because he appeared on CNBC last week in the cable outlet’s “Millennial Money” series of profiles.

He talked at length about how he lives in one of the most expensive cities in America on a salary that is well below the median national household income of $55,880.28 (for 2018, the most recent available full year). Continue reading “WORKING ON CAPITOL HILL: Young Congressional Aide Reveals How He Makes It In D.C. On $45K”

Task Force Says Congress Needs Bigger, Better-Paid Staff

Congress, as the First Branch, has the power of the purse, but not enough staff to carry it where it needs to go

A report by the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Task Force Project on Congressional Reform finds that Congress desperately needs to enlarge its staff and improve pay and working conditions if it hopes to regain equal footing with the executive branch.

If you work here, you need to read this report. (Congress by Stephen Walker on Unsplash)

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, liberal or conservative, the issue of restoring the ability of Congress to go toe-to-toe with the executive branch is a constitutional priority. And the task force makes clear that expanding congressional staff and paying staff better is a key first step in that effort.

“Congress today is overwhelmed. After decades of self-imposed disinvestment in expertise and staffing, Congress lacks the resources and knowledge to stand on an equal footing either with the executive branch, or with the tens of thousands of lobbyists employed in Washington (many of whom are former staffers now earning multiples of their Capitol Hill pay),” the task force wrote. Continue reading “Task Force Says Congress Needs Bigger, Better-Paid Staff”

Moved By Compassion, Jesus Put Forth His Hand And The Leper Was Healed

Here’s the backstory to the amazing encounter of a hurting Hill aide and a searching Vietnam veteran

By Bret Bernhardt

When was the last time you felt compassion in your work on the Hill?

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

This challenge shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially if you’ve ever spent time answering calls as a staff assistant. Or try listening to a constituent’s opinion as a legislative correspondent or a legislative assistant.

And try working with a difficult person for months as a caseworker, not to mention our interactions with our fellow staffers. Continue reading “Moved By Compassion, Jesus Put Forth His Hand And The Leper Was Healed”

WORKING ON THE HILL: Not Happy In Your Job? Step One To Healthy Change — Count Your Blessings

This post came about today because early this morning as I was walking Twister, our exuberant Black Lab, I was somehow reminded by a magnificent oak of the fact I couldn’t see the trees for the forest on my first “bad” job on Capitol Hill.

My backyard, as seen from my home office. Lovely old Silver Maple on the left, Rose of Sharon and pines in the back, neighbor’s cherry tree on the right.

Here’s the background: My first job on the Hill was as press secretary for a Maryland congressman. It was a great experience, as I learned so much from Don Baker, a superb Washington Post reporter, about journalism and the news process, and I absorbed volumes about the ways of the Hill.

But then I got over-confident, talked my way into a job working for an older Texas congressman as his chief of staff, and promptly realized I had screwed up royally.

It truly was not a good fit. He was set in his ways, which, after all, had gotten him re-elected multiple times during an era when old-guard conservative Democrats still ruled the Lone Star State. Continue reading “WORKING ON THE HILL: Not Happy In Your Job? Step One To Healthy Change — Count Your Blessings”

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”