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The Ghost of Drunk Nights Past
Posted at 5:01 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2014
Think your past can come back to haunt you when searching for a job on Capitol Hill? What if it includes a less-than-stellar record that hasn’t been scrubbed? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. If I have a misdemeanor public intoxication on my record from college, will I be able to get a job on Capitol Hill?
A. Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: It depends. Most offices on Capitol Hill don’t do background checks, and those that would go through the trouble are looking for felonies or anti-American activities, not the kind that will earn you a night in the drunk tank.
Where your misdemeanor is most likely to surface as an issue is during a security clearance, which does come with certain Capitol Hill and administration positions.
The legislative branch uses guidelines from the Department of Defense for conducting staff security clearances. (You can find them online here). Disqualifying conditions may include arrest and/or conviction of a felony; frequent involvement with authorities even as a juvenile, and a DWI/DUI. You can also be disqualified for deliberately omitting or concealing information, so while that public intoxication by itself isn’t likely to ruin your security clearance, keeping mum on it could make it worse.
Most Hill staffers went to college, and not all were the upstanding citizens they are now, certainly not at all hours of the day. Consider Bluto from “Animal House.” He wound up a senator in the end.
But keep your tie on straight once you land that Hill job. Another misdemeanor could put you in a tough spot once your boss’ name is attached to it, especially if the news winds up in Roll Call. Hopefully your college mistake is a one-time “lesson learned” and you’re on to bigger and better things.