Thanks to all who sent in questions last week. If YOU have any questions, you can submit them here. On to our Ideology Edition!
“When applying for a job on the Hill, does it matter if I share the member’s ideology, so long as I am a part of the same party? For example, would a conservative republican have trouble finding work at a moderate Republican’s office?”
Yeah, but odds are you won’t enjoy it. At first, you may tell yourself: “It’s a challenge! I’m open minded.” But as time goes on, you will slowly hate your job, your boss, and yourself. Can it be done? Sure, tons of people do this everyday.
Do I think it’s a good idea? No. Based on personal experience, I don’t recommend working for members you don’t align with ideologically. Working for a boss you don’t have to guess which way he’s going to vote this month is a lot harder than working for somebody you know will vote a certain way. Call me crazy.
Plus, if you take policy seriously, you’ll really have a hard time dealing with it. As mentioned previously, I dated a Democrat and worked for a moderate Republican and a girl in my office was a hardcore Republican and it blew her mind. I know the other contributors to this may not agree with my political leanings because I could work for either party and sleep just fine at night, but you really do want to find someone who is close to your politics otherwise you may not get along with not only the member’s staff, but the member as well, and that does not lend itself to a very positive career trajectory.
An Architect of the Capitol Employee was recently caught stealing Senate furniture and selling it, does stuff like this happen often?
In my experience, more often in the House. Each office is run differently, and it’s harder to keep track of equipment. The Senate has little stickers or metal stamps they put on everything. They do a better job of tracking blackberries, chairs, etc. Staffers steal things, too. But recently, the news has focused on the cleaning and administrative employees for yoinking things. Readers, they’re stealing from taxpayers. Put another way, they’re stealing from you.
How long do people typically work on the Hill?
It varies, and based on where you start on the Hill, it could be a long career or a short one. Senate staffers out of college typically go to the House for a while, and return to the Senate. Some people pick one body and stay there. I’ve found that where you start is where your allegiances lie. As a staffer who started on the House side then left after 2 years to go to law school, I embody one of the possibilities a staffer may undertake. However, I have seen what the real world is like in terms of salary, and I like it. Now that I am back, I miss it. The money, that is.
Does Congress take stupid bills seriously?
Yes. Members all have their pet project. Usually it’s some stupid thing their constituents are asking for. My personal favorite is H. Con. Res. 404 “Supporting the goals and ideals of Complaint Free Wednesday.” The bill’s a few years old now, but it pops up again and again.
The amount of stupid proposals we’re asked to get our boss involved in is actually quite high, which is sad. Congress has more important things to do than say we should be grateful the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and to name Post Offices that are going to close soon anyway. (You wonder why Postal Reform is so contentious?) You know how many Post Offices we have in this country? Neither do I, but they all have a name and Congress has to vote on the name every time there is a name changed or adopted.
Do you ever want to become a lobbyist?
Isn’t that why we all work on the hill in the first place? Sometimes I think it’s just an indentured servitude before getting called up to the majors. Seriously, though, not really. I’m pretty ideological, and there aren’t many places I could lobby where I wouldn’t have to advocate views I disagree with.
An example: I like Ford, but I don’t want to push for tariffs on Hondas and Toyotas. I like Google, but I don’t like Net Neutrality. I like Big Tobacco, but I don’t like how they got in bed with Ted Kennedy to quelch future competition. I like Walmart, but I don’t like that they support raising the minimum wage (because it hurts competitors more, maybe?)
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Anonymous Hill Staffer
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