If you work on Capitol Hill you see, hear, and overhear many things that the rest of the mortal world isn’t privy to. These privileged professionals that serve our US government acquire a wealth of knowledge that sometimes is just too good not to share. We’ve provided a platform on which they can unload.
CONFESSIONS OF A CAPITOL HILL STAFFER
The Cast of Capitol Hill
While clicking back and forth between the Oscars and the movie Waiting earlier this week, I started thinking about Capitol Hill as a movie set; its staffers as actors on the grand stage of American politics.
Waiting is a fan favorite because it perfectly sums up what it’s like to work in a restaurant. They nailed each character – from the promiscuous hostess to the “hot” server everyone wants to hook up with to the over-aggressive waitress with a chip on her shoulder – every restaurant worker in America is represented.
If Steven Spielberg were to create the Capitol Hill version of Waiting, it wouldn’t take him long to accurately type-cast the characters. In fact, it’s so easy I’ll save him the trouble and write up a casting roadmap for him. Steve, when the time comes to create this masterpiece, I accept cash, check, and Venmo. Also, I would make an excellent campaigner. Just sayin’.
1. The Idealist
The idealist heads to Washington thinking they can make a difference in the world, change the way D.C. works, and generally make this country a better place to live. This person often becomes the most cynical and bitter of all the Hill characters because it doesn’t take long for them to realize that, just like the daytime SOAPS, the story never changes, only the characters.
2. The Box Checker
The box checker is a professional animal that would rather be in the private sector making bank than slaving away on the Hill, but being a smart, savvy DC professional, the box checker realizes that Capitol Hill experience is a must-have to make bank. They are networking vipers, amassing an impressive collection of business cards, while constantly angling for something bigger and better.
3. The Campaigner
The campaigner can be identified as the staffer constantly pacing, talking on the phone, taking smoking breaks, or most often, all of the above simultaneously. They are the ground game gurus who win elections and get swept up to Washington with their Member, only to find that the devastatingly slow pace of the Hill can’t sustain the political beast within. Campaigners do their best to enjoy the relatively normal hours, stable living situation, and steady paychecks, but most of the time they return to their former lives – living out of suitcases, sustaining on Red Bull, cigarettes, and vending machines, and putting in a 15-hour day before retiring to the local watering hole and making bad decisions.
4. The “Hot Shot”
The hot shot is perfectly content to do menial and downright boring work for any Member, just as long as they can tell everyone back home they work on Capitol Hill. Hot shots love to smugly dole out their business cards at networking events, insinuate they are in their Member’s inner circle, and have extensive knowledge about the intricate and sensitive workings of legislative procedures. They exude confidence like Donald Trump and are welcomed into D.C.’s elite groups like Edward Snowden.
5. The Killer
The killer gives “silent but deadly” a new meaning. These staffers are smarter than everyone and could easily pull a Remy Danton and blow off this Popsicle Stand to make seven figures at the prestigious lobbying firm of their choosing. But they don’t because they get off on writing laws, making deals, and being the most powerful people that no one has ever heard of.
6. The Lifer
The lifer went to the Hill to gain experience but became too comfortable and never left. A cross between the idealist and the box checker, lifers usually have professional goals but trade them in for relative job security and a guaranteed pension. They’re often disgruntled and disappointed in their career choices, but too entrenched to change them. They also know Congressional rules and procedures better than anyone – even the Members.
7. The Aspiring Politician
The aspiring politician is a young buck looking to get a feel for the lay of the land, be seen around town, and network with lobbyists and fundraisers… all while pulling in a government paycheck and building street cred for their eventual political campaign. To them, the Hill is the best place to get their feet wet, learn the ropes, and decide what type of politician they want to be. These are the staffers who are often cautious about getting their photos taken at pub crawls in Adams Morgan, volunteer at every swanky D.C. function, and forgo participating in the Student Loan Repayment Program because they fear it will look bad to the hardworking taxpayers of [enter state name here] who have to pay their own debts.
8. The Former Journalist
The former journalist is the staffer who was tired of getting underpaid, overworked, and disrespected by Hill staffers, so they cashed in their media knowledge and accepted a job as someone’s communications director. They either get ostracized by their former colleagues or they are constantly tapped for insider information, depending on political affiliation, and they learn the hard way that taking a job on the Hill means getting underpaid, overworked, and disrespected by constituents, Members, Committee Staff, and the public at large.
9. The Relative
The relative may or may not be interested in the legislative process, but because they are related to a Member, political figure, big dollar donor, or influential campaign operative, they get cushy jobs with the best views of the National Mall. Relatives are often ineffective and lazy, and draw the ire of every staffer who had to work to secure their job.
10. The Millennial
The millennial probably manages a Member’s social media accounts and speaks exclusively in hashtags. They have no greater ambition than taking as many selfies with Members as possible before ditching the Hill for a tech job that allows them to create gifs and compile listicles about the 10 hottest Members on the Hill – a task they are now uniquely qualified to do.