Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 27, 2015

Posts in "CVC"

April 22, 2015

Senate Contractors to Join Federal Workers Strike at Capitol

Reginald Lewis (center), a CVC food services worker, goes on strike for higher wages in November. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Reginald Lewis (center), a CVC food services worker, goes on strike for higher wages in November. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Contract workers in the U.S. Senate will walk off their jobs Wednesday to join contractors from across the District of Columbia in a strike calling for preference to be given to contractors who offer better wages, benefits and collective bargaining rights.

The Senate janitors and food service workers will join workers from the Capitol Visitor Center, the Pentagon, Union Station, the National Zoo and Smithsonian Institution at the rally on the West Front of the Capitol Wednesday morning.   Full story

March 19, 2015

New CVC Exhibit Highlights Congressional Investigations

The Watergate burglar's address book that linked the White House to the break-in. (Photo courtesy of  Records of District Courts of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration).

The Watergate burglar’s address book that linked the White House to the break-in. (Courtesy
Records of District Courts of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration)

In the Capitol Visitor Center, behind the replica of the Statue of Freedom, a small address book sits in a glass case.

Under the name “HH” are two phone numbers: one for “home” and the other listed as “WH,” aka the White House.

The address book belonged to Watergate burglar Bernard Barker, and the HH stood for E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA officer who worked in the White House during President Richard M. Nixon’s administration.

Hunt directed the infamous break-in, and this small blue book helped link the burglary to the White House, ultimately leading to Nixon’s political demise.

It’s one of a number of artifacts on display in the CVC as part of a new “Congress Investigates” exhibit, highlighting congressional investigations spanning nearly 200 years. Every six months, the CVC displays documents in Exhibition Hall around a central theme and last week, latest display was unveiled.

“Investigations are a fascinating topic, and many of the investigations highlighted in the exhibit focused on important issues that are still relevant today,” CVC spokeswoman Sharon Gang wrote in an email. Gang said the exhibits “help illustrate the role of Congress in defining and helping to realize national goals and aspirations.”

Though the investigation into the Watergate break-in is one of the more high-profile probes in the exhibit, the documents on display highlight 18 different investigations that fall under general topics: exploration, common defense, unity, general welfare and knowledge. Each topic is tied to a congressional power dictated in the Constitution.

In a glass case for the exploration section sits S Res 283, dated April 17, 1912, which authorized an investigation into the Titanic disaster. In the next case is a handwritten House resolution dating back to 1792, which authorized the first congressional investigation into the executive branch. That probe delved into the defeat of Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair during a battle with American Indians.

Other investigations highlighted in the exhibit included the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the 1929 stock market crash, Union Army defeats in the Civil War and cheating on TV game shows.

Gang said the artifacts, which range from resolutions and committee reports to newspaper articles and photographs, are on loan from the Library of Congress and the National Archives. CVC exhibit staff worked to develop the exhibit along with staff at Library of Congress, the National Archives and the House and Senate Historians’ offices.

In addition to displaying the documents, the exhibit also explains how the investigations sparked new policies. During the 1950s, Congress investigated how comic books were affecting a “dramatic rise in juvenile delinquency” and conducted televised hearings on the subject. After the hearings, comic book publishers revamped their content standards, though likely to the disappointment of a 14-year-old from Pennsylvania, whose letter displayed in the exhibit argued that comic books deter crime.

“The person or persons committing the crime always gets caught. The fear of this stops crime and stops juvenile delinquency,” the teen wrote in his June 1954 letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. “In fact there is not a sufficient number of the comic books on the book stands.”

The final display explores limits to Congress’ investigative powers, highlighting a Supreme Court case in 1954 when labor organizer John Thomas Watkins questioned the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

“The Bill of Rights is applicable to congressional investigations, as it is to all forms of governmental action,” wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1957 opinion displayed in the exhibit.

Visitors to the Capitol can see these artifacts for themselves now until Congress Investigates closes on Sept. 12.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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By Bridget Bowman Posted at 5 a.m.
Campus, CVC

January 12, 2015

21 Guantánamo Protesters Arrested in the Capitol (Updated) (Video)

Protesters outside of the Hart Senate Office Building in July 2013. Some of the demonstrators arrested Monday were also wearing an orange jumpsuit and black hood. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Protesters outside of the Hart Senate Office Building in July 2013. Some of the demonstrators arrested Monday were also wearing an orange jumpsuit and black hood. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:31 p.m. | Nearly two dozen protesters from “Witness Against Torture,” a group dedicated to closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were arrested in the Capitol Building Monday afternoon, after demonstrating in the Senate gallery and the Capitol Visitor Center.

According to the U.S. Capitol Police, 21 protesters were arrested: 11 in the Senate and 10 in the CVC. The gallery protesters were charged with disorderly conduct, while the CVC demonstrators were charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.” Full story

September 15, 2014

Beth Plemmons, the Capitol Visitor Center’s Guide to Southern Hospitality

Beth Plemmons, CEO for Visitor Services at the Capitol Visitor Center, is photographed near the senate side of the CVC, August 19, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Plemmons is CEO for Visitor Services at the Capitol Visitor Center. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

North Carolina native Beth Plemmons, CEO of visitor services at the Capitol Visitor Center, is a pro at Southern hospitality.

She spent 17 years working in reservations and ticketing positions at the grandiose 19th century Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., then transitioned to guest services at Virginia’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. The Virginia Tech alumna, who studied hotel, restaurant and institutional management, joined the leadership team of the CVC just a few months before the 580,000-foot complex’s Dec. 2, 2008, grand opening.

Touring the CVC with CQ Roll Call this August, Plemmons showed off her favorite item in the Exhibition Hall collection: a marble gavel and wooden triangle that Mount Vernon resident George Washington used to lay the Capitol’s cornerstone in 1793. She stopped just short of calling the Capitol grounds an estate at one point, explaining, “This is the first time I’ve ever not worked as part of an estate.”

Plemmons accepted her first federal government post “on the heels of some controversy,” she said during a wide-ranging interview about her six-year tenure. She took a job as director of visitor services after years of negative press about construction delays and the $621-million structure’s ever-increasing price tag. While such issues are in the rearview mirror, other contentious ones have bubbled up in the intervening years, particularly surrounding the relationship between managers and the front-line employees at the CVC — its tour guides.  Full story

September 5, 2014

Capitol Tour Guides Say They’ve Lost the Right to Drink Water

Capitol tour guides say CVC management has made it nearly impossible to drink water during their physically demanding workday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol tour guides say CVC management has made it nearly impossible to drink water during their physically demanding workdays. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“No food, no drinks,” instructed Capitol Police officers posted outside the doors of the Capitol Visitor Center as tourists approached the complex on a recent muggy day.

A blonde woman sporting a ponytail and backpack drained her 8-ounce plastic bottle and held it up to show the cops it was empty. She was waved toward the doors.

While visitors are allowed to carry water bottles, and can fill them up once they are inside, the guides who spend eight hours a day walking them through the Capitol and talking about Congress complain that their access to water has been severely limited by CVC management. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 12:46 p.m.

July 22, 2014

Capitol Police Complete Investigation of Suspicious Substance in Capitol Visitor Center (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Police investigating a suspicious substance Tuesday carry their equipment back to the hazmat truck after declaring the area clear. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 10:38 a.m. | Capitol Police sealed entrances to the Capitol Visitor Center shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, in response to a suspicious substance.

Trapped groups of tourists and tour guides milled about in the main level, waiting for an all-clear so that they could enter the Capitol as police investigated in Emancipation Hall.

Escalators to and from the Capitol and outside entrances were ordered closed, as police implemented a shelter in place.

Capitol Police spokesman Shennell Antrobus confirmed the investigation to CQ Roll Call.

At about 9:50 a.m. Capitol Police radios began buzzing with the news that the suspicious substance tested negative and normal operations would soon resume, once the HAZMAT team cleared the scene.

A group of about 30 tourists who had been led out of the CVC theatre during the 45-minute investigation geared up for their tour of the Capitol. An officer joked with them that the well-rested CVC tour guides, also waiting for an all-clear signal, would show them a great time once operations resumed.

Shortly before 10 a.m., word spread that the doors and escalators were re-opening. A handful of Capitol employees who had been waiting in the Crypt boarded the escalator down to the CVC. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 9:39 a.m.
Capitol Police, CVC

June 5, 2014

Visiting the Capitol? There’s an App for That

(Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Early Wednesday afternoon, Daidis Mayedo peered up at the Capitol Dome through the lens of her iPhone camera.

She snapped some pictures of the Statue of Freedom and of her daughter, Claudia Garcia, who was having her own iPhone photo shoot on the East Front. Mayedo then reviewed the images through her dark sunglasses.

The mother-daughter duo, in town from Franklin, Tenn., appeared completely absorbed with the content on their screens, like many of the tourists milling about the Capitol grounds that afternoon. Capitol Visitor Center staff are convinced the campus-wide iPhone fixation can help enhance the tourists’ experience. In other words: Visiting the Capitol? There’s an app for that.

Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 1:19 p.m.
AOC, Campus, CVC

‘Koch Brothers Exposed’ Screening Set for David Koch’s Apartment

Image from the Facebook invite to the protest on New York's Park Avenue.

(Image from the Facebook invite to the protest)

When clips from “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition” were aired in the Capitol Visitor Center, Republicans cried foul and Democrats lashed back.

Now, two days after a heated Senate hearing focused on political spending, activists in New York plan to take the film about the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch straight to David Koch’s door.

Liberal organizers, including members of and Common Cause, will hold a protest on Thursday night outside Koch’s Park Avenue apartment. As part of what they’ve deemed a block party, the activists plan to project clips from the film onto the sides of neighborhood buildings, along with images of 2014 candidates who they say have taken money from the Koch brothers. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 11:45 a.m.
Campus, CVC

May 21, 2014

Koch Brothers Movie Saga Continues With Democrats Pointing to Precedent

The Capitol Hill premiere of a film about billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch sparked outrage from Republicans on Tuesday, but it wasn’t all that long ago that a movie co-produced by Citizens United was being screened in the Capitol Visitor Center.

In September 2009, Republicans hosted former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and his wife, Callista, for an on-campus premiere of their documentary, “Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage.” A joint production of Gingrich Productions and Citizens United, the film explores the role of religion in early American history.

Full story

‘Koch Brothers Exposed’ Film Premieres, but Democrats Take No Questions

'Koch Brothers Exposed' has been championed by Democrats like Sanders as they talk about needing to reform campaign finance law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

‘Koch Brothers Exposed’ has been championed by Democrats like Sanders as they talk about needing to reform campaign finance law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Call it a screening, a press conference, a meeting, or a get-together of like-minded friends. Regardless, the [insert event term here] for the “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition” documentary still happened Tuesday evening in the Capitol Visitors Center despite Republican accusations of Democratic impropriety.

“The Koch brothers’ tentacles have sunken deep into our democracy and deep into the Republican Party,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the few dozen interested people and reporters in attendance.  “That’s evident by the fact they even tried to stop us from having this meeting.”

Controversy swirled around the screening as Republicans charged that the event focusing on billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch violated rules about film premieres on Capitol grounds. Democrats responded that the rules did not apply to the room in the CVC and that the event was a press conference.

But a press release characterized the event as a screening.  Although the release advertised a Q&A with Pelosi and Reid, neither took questions after their speeches.

Full story

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