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Old 07-01-2003, 08:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Ever wondered what it's like on the Hill?

I'm fairly new here and thought I would start a discussion about Capitol Hill. Have you ever wondered what it's really like? I spent 3 years there on the Senate side. Ask me whatever you want and I'll do my best to give you the inside scoop.
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Old 07-01-2003, 08:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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are senators jerks?? what i mean by that is do they hit on interns, take everything for granted etc...you know what i mean?
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Old 07-01-2003, 09:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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In short, some are and some aren't. I know that sounds like a dodge, but there are definitely some Senators that have a reputation with staff on the hill.

There are absolutely some Senators up there that are drunk with their own power. One well known story among staff is about a Senator who ordered an intern to go to the cafeteria and bring back a sandwich, hold the pickles. When the intern returned with the sandwich, there were pickles. The Senator went ballistic, began chewing out the intern and eventually threw the pickles at the intern, but missed and they stuck to the wall.

And while not in the Senate, there is a House member that will fire her ENTIRE staff, chief of staff on down, about every 2 1/2 years, just because.

As far as hitting on Interns, etc...I don't know how common that is. There are a few that have a reputation for leering and even saying inappropriate things to staff about interns or other staff, but I never witnessed, nor heard firsthand about any Senator actually hitting on an intern. It's more likely that they would hit on/have an affair with staff, simply because it's the staff that works the long hours and is behind the closed doors in pressure situations, not the interns.

Fortunately, my boss (and no I won't say who) was one of the best ones to work for. He had the reputation of being genuine and treating his staff well. In fact, ex members of his staff have a "fraternity" because our collective experience was generally positive and continues to bond us together even in our non-senate jobs.
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Old 07-02-2003, 06:25 AM   #4 (permalink)
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how about their intelligence??

are they smart or do they rely on their staff for info on every issue?
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Old 07-02-2003, 06:34 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Isn't there a Washingtonian popularity contest done by the senate and house staffers? "Most liked, disliked," etc?

The one I remember is 'Would most like to see in a swimsuit' and Sen Landrieu got the most votes. *grin*
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Old 07-02-2003, 08:11 AM   #6 (permalink)
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For the most part they are very intelligent people. Several of them have high enough IQ's to be considered genius. However, there are a few that, in my opinion, are merely party puppets that were chosen because they had a good image, etc..., but do not necessarily belong determining public policy.

As far as relying on staff, all of them rely heavily on staff. Not because they aren't smart enough to handle or comprehend the issues, but because of the volume of information surrounding each issue. A Senator's Legislative staff is comprised of several people who are responsible for knowing and researching everything there is to know in a particular issue area. For example, there will be one person in charge of Health Care policy, one person in charge of Defense, Military policy, one in charge of Tax policy, etc... Each issue is so complex that there isn't a person alive that would have the time, nor ability to be an expert in everything that the Federal Government has to deal with on a daily basis.

Also, I imagine that Sen. Landrieu would win the swimsuit competition. :-) Does anyone remember Senator Paul Simon when he ran for President in the 80's? HAHAHA, that guy wore speedos in a campaign commercial!!
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Old 07-02-2003, 08:18 AM   #7 (permalink)
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so, what position does senator take??

does he/she go w/ what constituents want, what he/she thinks is right, or what they staff tells him/her?

i know this could be diff for each senator, but overall, what would u say
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Old 07-02-2003, 08:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Honestly, it does depend on the Senator and the issue. Every call, letter and email is logged and they do see the numbers of constituents on each side of an issue. Also, they will take into account polling data from their state. It could be that you get 100,000 calls against something because a particular union, company, issue group fires up their supporters, but the polls show that the public is in favor of it. Sometimes, though, they vote their conscience even if the numbers are against them. Then they have to deal with it in the press and during the next election.

Staff does play a role in positions, too, especially on the more technical matters. How it always worked in my office was the Senator would ask for briefings on a bill, amendment or issue. We would then give background on the situation, statistics, constituent feedback and then usually make a recommendation of how to vote. Usually he would agree, but sometimes he would disagree. Luckily for us, he wasn't a jerk if he disagreed. He would allow for dialogue and give you the opportunity to persuade him, but ultimately every decision is his and he as to take the responsibility for it. If staff recommended something and there was huge public backlash for it, he's the one who would have to take the heat, not his staff.
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Old 07-02-2003, 08:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by The_Dude
so, what position does senator take??

does he/she go w/ what constituents want, what he/she thinks is right, or what they staff tells him/her?

i know this could be diff for each senator, but overall, what would u say
Dude - A Senator does not represent the people as such - A Senator represents the state, that's why each state has two - the states have equal representation - Representatives represent the people - that's why they are alloted by population. A Senator is supposed to look out for the best interests of his state. When our government was first established many didn't want a republic some wanted and aristocracy - the Senat was the solution - originally the Senate - Not the people chose the president.
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Old 07-02-2003, 08:58 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Historically accurate, but let's face it, they do have to be responsive to the will of the people...after all, they are still elected.

Politically speaking, here is the timeline of a Senate term.

First 3 years, be aggressive, do things that may not be popular if you think they should be done.

4th year, tone down the aggressiveness of your policy. Get things done, but don't rock the boat too much.

Last 2 years, do things that are popular with your constituents, get plenty of good press.

A 6 year term is a long time. You can do things early on that people will forget about by the time you have to run again. That's why the founders made the terms that way. That way, you could do what's in the best interest of your state for the long term, even if unpopular in the short term. But, in those last 2 years, you'd better make sure you're in the good graces of the voters because they will remember that length of time. Just ask any House member.
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Old 07-02-2003, 09:40 AM   #11 (permalink)
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How much influence do they have back at home with their state legislatures?
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Old 07-02-2003, 11:18 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Liquor Dealer
Dude - A Senator does not represent the people as such - A Senator represents the state, that's why each state has two - the states have equal representation - Representatives represent the people - that's why they are alloted by population. A Senator is supposed to look out for the best interests of his state. When our government was first established many didn't want a republic some wanted and aristocracy - the Senat was the solution - originally the Senate - Not the people chose the president.
well, they get elected by people, not state legislatures.
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Old 07-02-2003, 11:37 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I would say they typically have a good deal of influence with their state legislatures for 2 reasons.

1. Most state legislators are trying to advance some kind of political career, whether it be further elected office, or lobbying, etc. Since the Senator is near, if not the top, of the food chain in the state, it's important to keep them happy. Being on the good side of one of your Senators can go a long way in a number of areas.

2. States rely on a TON of Federal money for any number of things. If a Senator wants to play hardball on an issue, they can trim money from various Federal programs that may be a pet project of people in the State Legislature.
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Old 07-02-2003, 04:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally posted by The_Dude
well, they get elected by people, not state legislatures.
They do now, they didn't use too - they use to be elected by state legislatures. ( Article I, section 3, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote." ) In 1919 the 17th Ammendment changed it to the current system:

(The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.)
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Old 07-02-2003, 07:49 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Liquor Dealer
They do now, they didn't use too - they use to be elected by state legislatures. ( Article I, section 3, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote." ) In 1919 the 17th Ammendment changed it to the current system:

(The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.)
taking even more power away from the state legislatures.
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Old 07-02-2003, 09:34 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I'm not sure which way the 17th amendment came into being, but unless there was a Constitutional Convention, then it was passed by a majority of the State Legislatures at the time.
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Old 07-02-2003, 11:28 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I met a pennsylvania house rep not long ago. Tom Dempsey, good guy, wonder if I have the hookups now? Do you know that guy?
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Old 07-03-2003, 04:27 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Another question:

Did you ever see the out-and-out influences of lobbyists? For example, Senator X meets with a Beef Industry rep for lunch, the next week he's voting yes to Y bill designed to help the beef industry?
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Old 07-03-2003, 08:38 AM   #19 (permalink)
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First answer, sorry, I do not know any of the Pennsylvania House Reps.

Secondly, the relationship of lobbyists to politicians is an interesting one, and I think to some degree misunderstood by the public.

When I first went to the hill I thought, like the majority of Americans, that lobbyists just threw money around and bought a lot of votes. What I discovered, was that they do in fact throw a lot of money around, but I'm not sure how many votes it actually "buys."

Here's why I say this: Lobbyists generally throw their money towards those that ALREADY AGREE with them, not to change their minds. For example, if I'm a lobbyist and I'm dealing with a Senator whose views are contrary to the agenda I'm trying to push, rather than try to persuade him with money, gifts, dinners, etc...I'm more likely to find a candidate who agrees with my position, has a legitimate shot to beat him and help fincance that guy.

Why? It's a question of investment. If I have to buy someone's vote this week, then I'll most likely have to buy it again, and again and again. It becomes expected. However, if I help someone get elected who will already vote my way, then it's a wiser investment. Sure, I will have to continue to schmooze them and show my appreciation for their actions, but I don't have to BUY their support over and over again. Then there isn't pressure everytime a vote comes up that I need to go my way.

Am I saying that all lobbying is good and ethical? Of course, not. There are definitely some elected officials that can be bought and, they will be. Also, there are some sleeze bag lobbyists out there that do try to buy votes, etc. But honestly, they get a reputation pretty quick with the staff and seldom make it very far. Here's why:

The Lobbyist/Staff relationship is a symbiotic one. The Lobbyist seeks access to the Official and the Staff is always seeking information to make better recommendations to their boss. A good lobbyist will be quick to do some of the work and provide accurate information pertaining to the particular group they are representing as well as access to that group as a whole. The key word regarding the informaiton is ACCURATE. If a lobbyist is constantly providing information that is obviously skewed and easily refuted, they won't make it very far either because instead of helping the staff, they have in fact made the job that much harder and will lose respect and access.
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Old 07-08-2003, 07:08 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I'm suprised nobody has any comment on that perspective...
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Old 07-08-2003, 08:57 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sen
I'm suprised nobody has any comment on that perspective...
Sorry I missed your reply, because that's interesting as hell, and very logical.

How about the relationship between staffers and folks in the executive branch. Without giving any details, I do know of one instance of a staffer on the foreign relations committee being an absolute nightmare to those who worked for/with her at DoS.
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Old 07-08-2003, 11:17 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Generally, I had a good relationship with those in the Exec. Branch. It is easy to understand, though, how a staffer could be a bitch to work with.

Some staffers do get very cocky about throwing their weight around, more so in the Legislative Branch than the Executive. I rarely had a problem with the Exec. Branch. However, staffers in the Legislative Branch know that ALL departments depend on the Congress for funding. Without the appropriation bills, the person in the Executive Branch wouldn't have a job. That's why most of the Department staffers, at least those that have to deal personally with the Legislative staffers, are generally very nice and more than willing to help.

The only exception I've seen to that would be the politically appointed members of a Department if they were appointed by the opposite party. They know that their jobs are safe.
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Old 07-09-2003, 09:36 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Silly/fun question:

Did the Senator you work for ever have the:

<a href=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17729-2003Jul6.html">Senate Bean Soup (link)</a>?

Did you??
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Old 07-09-2003, 11:34 AM   #24 (permalink)
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ABSOLUTELY!! It's a Senate institution. It's on the menu in the cafeteria everyday. There's always one other soup, and then "Senate Bean."

Honestly, though, most days we didn't do lunch in the Cafeteria. There's a food court in Union Station 2 blocks away, a Subway and some other places a couple of blocks East, and there are some good restaurants on the House side, specifically a Mexican restaurant and on American one called "Bullfeathers."

If you want to shell out some dough, you can eat at La Coline, a French restuarant next to the Teamsters building, or even go to Capitol Grille for a steak.
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Old 07-10-2003, 07:48 AM   #25 (permalink)
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What do you miss the most about having worked there?
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Old 07-10-2003, 07:58 AM   #26 (permalink)
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how's the competition between the staffers (from the 2 parties)
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Old 07-10-2003, 08:00 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Honestly, I miss the city itself and I miss the perks and access that the job allowed me. I miss being able to have conversations with people that are on the news everyday. I miss the fulfillment that I got from working on bills that I knew were going to be national policy. I miss knowing that this appropriation or that appropriation was going to secure jobs for real people that have families and provide real services or hardware for people that need them.

I also miss the events that we went to after work hours, fundraisers and such. I had the opportunity to meet several celebrities while I was out there, which was very cool.
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Old 07-10-2003, 08:02 AM   #28 (permalink)
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As weird as it sounds, after work, both parties get along pretty well. We all have to live together and go to the same resturaunts, bars, etc... Honestly, that's the way it is with most of the Senators, too. They may yell at each other on the floor or in the news, but believe me, they still go to dinner with each other and their wives.
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Old 07-11-2003, 06:36 AM   #29 (permalink)
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How did you get your job, go about getting your foot in the door (sorry if this is a repeat, but this has been quite a long interview )
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Old 07-11-2003, 07:39 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Most of the time, those jobs come about through networking. I had already sent resumes and subsequently been rejected by many people on the hill, including my eventual boss. Then, a friend of mine knew a State Rep. and called her to see if she had any positions in her office. She said she didn't, but that I should call the Senator's office and tell them that she told me to inquire about the openings. That's what got my foot in the door.

At the same time, one of my distant cousins in another part of the state worked at the Courthouse and saw the other Senator from the state fairly often. She said she would hand deliver my resume to the Senator, so we Fed Ex'd one down to her and she gave it to him.

The funny part is that the 2 Senators were from the same party and got along well together, so they shared offices around the state. So, when I went to interview with one, I would also schedule to interview with the other one immediately after. The process took about 6 weeks, included several interviews and 3 written tests. I went through the entire process with both Senators simultaneously and was eventually offered the same job by both of them. I took the job with the one that offered first and then the other one offered a week later. Within 2 weeks of the offer, I was driving across the country to begin at the bottom rung of a Senate office on the Hill.

From that point on I worked my way up to Legislative Assistant by the time I left the office.
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Old 07-17-2003, 01:46 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Has everyone had their fill of Capitol Hill curriosity?
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Old 11-21-2004, 09:57 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Ask a former Hill Staffer...

A long time ago I posted a similar thread and got quite a few questions. It must have been cleaned out b/c I didn't find it with the Search.

With all of the new members and the newfound interest in politics due to the recent elections, I thought I would post the offer again. I spent 3 yrs. on the Legislative Staff of a US Senator on the Hill. I have been off the Hill for a few yrs. now, but am still very connected and talk almost daily with my friends still there. I would be happy to answer any questions about protocol, processes or any other aspect of the Legislature that I can.

Also, if there are any other current or former Hill staffers on here, feel free to add your perspective to any of the questions asked.
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Old 11-21-2004, 11:44 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Here's a link to your original thread.......

http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/showthread.php?t=14500

I dated a former congressional staffer who previously was shot seven times,
accidentally by her husband......he mistook her for a burglar. She recovered
miraculously and was back at work on the hill when I first met her.
Does that story sound familiar to you?
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Old 11-21-2004, 11:54 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Old 11-22-2004, 07:46 AM   #35 (permalink)
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i was curious what you though of James Talent i used to live near him and he seemed like a nice person. Also did you happen to work for Chris Bond?
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Old 11-23-2004, 12:06 AM   #36 (permalink)
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I've met Sen. Talent numerous times. The first was while he was still in the House of Representatives, before he ran for Governor. He invited my wife and I into his office and we had a very nice conversation for about half an hour. I think he is a very nice man of great character. I think he did a good job as Chairman of the House Small Business committee (with the exception of some of his staffing decisions.) I expect that in 2006 it will be an interesting campaign since it will be Sen. Talent's first run for re-election and I'm sure the Dems will field a Tier 1 candidate.
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Old 11-23-2004, 12:10 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by host
Here's a link to your original thread.......

http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/showthread.php?t=14500

I dated a former congressional staffer who previously was shot seven times,
accidentally by her husband......he mistook her for a burglar. She recovered
miraculously and was back at work on the hill when I first met her.
Does that story sound familiar to you?
Thanks for the link and thanks to SM for merging the thread. I don't know why I couldn't find it when I searched.

I've never heard that story before. What a strange and unfortunate series of events (the shooting, not your dating...) I'll have to ask around and see if any of my friends have heard that. Do you have a time frame of when that happened?
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Old 11-23-2004, 01:19 AM   #38 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Sen
Thanks for the link and thanks to SM for merging the thread. I don't know why I couldn't find it when I searched.

I've never heard that story before. What a strange and unfortunate series of events (the shooting, not your dating...) I'll have to ask around and see if any of my friends have heard that. Do you have a time frame of when that happened?
I sent you a PM ..... it happened back before we all heard about the blue dress.
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Old 11-23-2004, 10:14 AM   #39 (permalink)
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Location: in the backwoods
Which three years you were there?
I was a House Page in 93-94, and could share some amusing anecdotes too.

What are you doing now, and did your time working on the Hill help your career, or was it just fun while it lasted?

I'd ask you questions about Sen. staffers' opinions on certain Senators, but that might put you in an awkward situation.

Did your Senator have one of the "secret" private offices in the capitol building, and if so, did you know where it was and did they ever use it? I always wondered about those things. Being a page, I could find just about any room on the hill, except, of course, for those unmarked offices.

Last edited by dy156; 11-23-2004 at 10:22 AM..
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Old 11-23-2004, 11:19 PM   #40 (permalink)
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