Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who Works in a Congressional Office?

Knowing your audience is an important part of successful interactions, and this is just as true on Capitol Hill as anywhere else. When, if ever, you visit a Congressional office, you should have some idea of who you are speaking with and what they do. Today’s post provides an overview of the different people who work in these offices, also known as personal staff.

Members of both the House and the Senate employ personal staff. In the Senate, the size of the population of the Member’s state determines the staff budget and thus the number of staff; the average office has 34. Members of the House can only hire 14 full time and 4 part time staff; the average size of a House office is 14.*

Although you won’t see all of them during a visit, the following staff members usually work in Washington offices:

Chief of Staff: the Member's top political adviser, runs the office
Legislative Director: plans legislative initiatives, supervises legislative staff
Legislative Assistants (LA): focus on specific issues, monitor related bills and committee meetings; draft floor statements; draft replies to constituents
Legislative Correspondent (LC): handles communication with constituents
Press Secretary/Communications Director: liaison to the press, drafts press releases
Executive/Personal Assistant to the Member
Office Manager
Computer Systems/Mail Manager

Other staffers also work in the Member’s home state office(s), usually including:

State/District Director: runs office(s) in the home state and acts as political liaison to the community
Projects/Grants Coordinator: seeks federal funding for District/State projects and institutions
Caseworker/Constituent Services: provides constituents with information and assistance with federal agencies

Depending on your reason for visiting, the people you are most likely to meet with in DC are legislative assistants or correspondents. The size of the office will determine how specialized the person you are meeting with is. In larger offices, it is possible that the staffer you meet will be fairly specialized and have a great deal of knowledge about your issue. In smaller offices, you are more likely to meet staffers who are tracking a significant number of issues.

No matter who you meet, though, remember the basic rules for making your case, be respectful, and always thank them for their time.

Photo credit: kimberlyfaye

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