Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Posts by Christina Bellantoni

16 Posts

June 16, 2015

From Showcasing Sexy Staffers to Boozing With Members, Roll Call Has Endured

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

When you have 60 years of congressional and journalism history to sort through, where do you even begin? It can be a struggle to fully comprehend every twist and turn, to get your arms around the vastness that is six decades. So I return to Sid.

Sid Yudain, the man who founded this scrappy newspaper in 1955 as an aide to a freshman Republican from Connecticut, loved Congress. And over the years, Congress grew to love him back. Sid was Roll Call.

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April 1, 2015

Having Fun With Congress

Boehner crying is not a tough slideshow to put together. But we didn't. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Boehner crying in public would not be a tough slideshow to put together. But we didn’t. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Back in 2010 during my first stint at Roll Call, I suggested creating a “tear tally” to track how often Speaker John A. Boehner needs to pull out a hankie. Not to make fun of him, of course, but to use data to remind our readers that we track Congress like no one else. It never quite came together, even though there has certainly been plenty of material.

Boehner isn’t afraid to show his softer side. He gets enough grief about it, so we decided not to give him much more — other than the tease to this post in today’s print edition of Roll Call.

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January 20, 2015

Roll Call Presents: State of the Union Watch Party

This is a town full of nerds, so I don’t feel all that worried admitting I love State of the Union night.

Sure, the speech is just theatrics for the camera, and the stand-up, sit-down, grimace-chuckle-cheer thing gets a little old. And the promises of working together typically fall to the wayside before the president’s motorcade makes it back up Pennsylvania Avenue. But Washington loves its pomp and circumstance, and nights like Tuesday are one reason I left California to work here more than 11 years ago.

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December 16, 2014

A Tribute to Michele Bachmann (Video)

Bachmann says farewell to Congress this month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photo)

Bachmann says farewell to Congress this month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Would it surprise you if I disclose that one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten came from Rep. Michele Bachmann?

As the Minnesota Republican bids farewell to Congress, I’m not reflecting about her bombast or her penchant for causing trouble within her party.

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November 4, 2014

6 Awesome Scenarios to Ponder Ahead of Election Results

An 8-year-old Kentucky boy waves to a plane with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on board. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

An 8-year-old Kentuckian waves to a plane with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on board. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The last few days before an election, an eerie sort of calm falls over a newsroom.

Plans are laid, the final lists of the most vulnerable House members and senators are published, every ad that could possibly run has already been shipped off to the television station, and we’re done with race profiles.

Nothing to do but wait.

This is when I let my mind wander. What if something truly awesome happens?

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September 23, 2014

The Roll Call Fab 50: An Evolution Begins

Fab·u·lous (adjective): extraordinary, especially extraordinarily large.
amazingly good; wonderful.

What exactly is it that makes a Capitol Hill staffer so fabulous?

Roll Call has been publishing the Fabulous 50 list of the leading Democratic and Republican staffers for at least 26 years — possibly longer than some of the people striving to be on it have been alive.

To be honest, I hate it. Maybe that’s residual anxiety because when I was a kid, I used to want to make People’s Most Intriguing list, and let’s face it, that’s not likely to ever happen. Or maybe it’s just time the Fab 50 gets a newsroom makeover.

The twice-yearly project is compiled by Roll Call editors and reporters, and it details top aides who fit into four criteria. That’s “Mastery” for the Hill’s policy and procedural experts; “Influence” for individuals who drive the agenda, cut the deals, craft legislation and sway members; “Spin” for Congress’ best communicators who help set the tone and frame the debate; and “Access” for staffers who are in the room when decisions are made.

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September 9, 2014

Roll Call’s #50Richest Project, Explained (Video)

Nephron is less interested in the 50 Richest Members of Congress than I am.

Nephron apparently is less interested in the 50 Richest Members of Congress than I am. (Christina Bellantoni/CQ Roll Call)

There was a moment recently when I worried I had gone a little crazy. It was somewhere between realizing I’d skipped a page of Rep. Peter Welch’s assets and posting a photo of my cat Nephron laying on Sen. Tim Kaine’s financial disclosure forms on Instagram with the hashtag #catsof50Richest.

Why, you might ask, would the woman who runs Roll Call be doing this kind of data entry? Right about then I was asking myself the same question.


I’ve always been a believer in exposing as much publicly available information about taxpayer-funded operations as possible. I’ll never forget when Brian Bothun, my editor at my first daily newspaper job in California, asked me to collect the addresses for each member of the Los Gatos Town Council so we could print their home values on the front page.

I wasn’t sure it was the best idea, but Brian reminded me the information was public and any citizen could go look it up at any time. Our job, he said, was to push things like this into the sunlight.

He was right. And I feel the same way about Roll Call’s 50 Richest Members of Congress list. Full story

June 30, 2014

Could Congressional Sports Fix Washington? It’s a Start

Patrick Meehan and William Lacy Clay share a warm moment after the 53rd annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Patrick Meehan and William Lacy Clay share a warm moment after the 53rd annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the sixth inning of the 53rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, Republican Vance McAllister stepped up to the plate, snagging one of Democrat Cedric L. Richmond’s pitches and launching a grounder between second and third base.

Turns out, Richmond was giving McAllister exactly what he wanted. The two members of the Louisiana House delegation were on rival teams that night and are from warring parties, but one did the other the tiniest favor at Nationals Park on June 25.

The lawmakers quipped about the home-state camaraderie at the after-party, as McAllister’s kids eyed the snack bar and Richmond’s colleagues noted that even though the Democrats prevailed, his pitching suffered this year because he has a new baby at home. Even the coaches figured out the New Orleans-area congressman had helped his politically beleaguered pal from northern Louisiana belt a single, not that it really mattered.

They called each other “good friends.” And it actually sounded like they meant it.

When the game was called due to an impending lightning storm at the end of the sixth, I took the field to deliver the coveted Roll Call trophy to the Democratic victors.

As I stepped onto the grass, freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy of Florida asked me for a favor of his own — could I please snap a shot of him with Pennsylvania Republican Lou Barletta and text it to him later? The two grinned, and you could tell they had bonded on the field this year, setting party labels aside.

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June 16, 2014

Softball, Sunshine and Sisters: Why I Play

Bellantoni greets fellow Bad News Babe Abby Livingston. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bellantoni greets fellow Bad News Babe Abby Livingston at the 2013 game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

About 75 minutes into the morning, I took a softball to my left shin.

The purple welt that formed soon after served as a nice distraction from the bruise about 2 inches above it, the result of a stray toss at a scrimmage last weekend.

It was my third consecutive day with less than five hours of sleep, after an intense and unpredictable week in the political news business. I’d started out on the field at 7 a.m., groggy and grouchy, mentally ticking off everything on the to-do list and preparing for a television hit in a few hours.

My leg hurt, but I was pleased I’d been a swift backup for the other outfielder, and that I’d gotten the ball into the shortstop’s glove.

As I walked into CNN later, someone remarked, “You sure look happy for getting up at 5:30 a.m.”

And this is why I play.

I have several goals for Wednesday’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which pits lady journalists against female members of Congress.

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June 11, 2014

Mame Reiley: Loyal to the End, Celebrated With Champagne

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — “Her passion was contagious and energizing.”

That’s how Mame Reiley was memorialized Tuesday at her hometown church in Mount Vernon, by friends and loved ones who each said she inspired them to keep up the political fight to make the world better.

The Virginia Democrats most closely associated with the longtime campaign strategist, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. James P. Moran, sat in the third row in tribute, but they were hardly the only lawmakers cramming the pews of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. It was perhaps fitting that the service boasted at least three of the men vying to replace Moran in a Democratic primary being held the very day of her funeral.

The official license plates in the overflowing parking lot foreshadowed the crowd of city council members, former congressmen and state representatives in attendance — including former Republican state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, married to ex-Rep. Tom Davis , as well as former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

McDonnell, under indictment on federal corruption charges, joined others in receiving communion at the Mass. He told me he is going through “hell,” but wanted to celebrate the woman he’d known most of his life, having grown up on the same street as the Reiley family.

The politicians were but one testament to Mame being what so many dubbed, simply, “a force of nature.”

I was there because of everyone else. I’d heard stories about Mame from my friends in Virginia politics long before I had the pleasure of meeting her or hearing her hearty laugh.

And there they were, sprinkled among the elected officials — the state government workers, congressional aides and political staffers whose lives Mame touched in ways she may never have even realized.

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May 20, 2014

I Went to Rand Paul’s Liberty School, and All I Got Was a Free Cup of Coffee

Campaign for Liberty training — before I got the boot. (Christina Bellantoni/CQ Roll Call)

The view from the Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership training in on a recent Saturday — before I got the boot. (Christina Bellantoni/CQ Roll Call)

“You Owe It to Yourself to Learn How to Win,” Sen. Rand Paul told me in an email on Tax Day.

The message came with an invitation to attend a one-day political leadership school, led by an instructor with “years of experience running and winning campaigns and legislative projects in multiple state legislatures.” The course would teach how to pressure lawmakers and how to “work effectively” in the Capitol by getting sponsors for legislation.

I am fascinated by both the senator’s political ambition and his seemingly inherited ability to excite young people. And anyone who has listened to me speculate about the 2016 presidential campaign knows I believe the Kentucky Republican will appeal especially to Iowa caucus-goers, in addition to the voters up north who proudly “Live Free or Die.”

Critical to that happening is a grass-roots organization, a network of believers who can, as Paul put it in the email, “advance the cause of liberty.” Could the people attending this May 10 training in tiny Arbutus, Md., be activated to pound the pavement for Paul? What kind of person would devote an entire Saturday to the Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership?

The answer, it turns out, isn’t much different than other political events.

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April 28, 2014

A New Day: 6 Questions With CQ’s David Ellis

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A few days ago, Vice President of News David Ellis gathered every person in our newsroom.

This is my second stint at Roll Call —> CQ Roll Call —> The Economist Group, but in all the years I’ve been affiliated with this company, I had never actually seen all of our journalists gathered in one place. It was exciting.

The purpose was explaining a series of changes that are going to help our entire business stay competitive. Because CQ clients are paying customers, and most people read Roll Call online for free, our models for making money are quite different. The changes on that side of our newsroom just up the street from the Capitol don’t really affect Roll Call, but our fates are intertwined, and everyone within the organization benefits from the brains supplying CQ customers with the sharpest policy news in the industry.

David, now six weeks on the job, took the helm of this organization after many years at Bloomberg. He had already mapped out his initial plans to me over corncakes and catfish one afternoon, but seeing them in real time helped me understand the improvements.

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April 8, 2014

Hey, Congress: This Might Be Why They Hate You

A protester during the partial government shutdown in fall 2013. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A protester during the partial government shutdown in fall 2013. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The median American household income was $51,371 in 2012. That’s $122,000 and change less than a rank-and-file member of Congress.

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March 7, 2014

Roll Call Round Table: After Cummings-Issa Dust-Up, a Look Back at Nasty House Fights (Video)

CQ Roll Call Photo

(CQ Roll Call Photo)

So, how nasty was the brouhaha between Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, anyway? And how did the resulting floor fight over a resolution to rap Issa on the knuckles compare to other partisan stunts?

These are questions that came up Thursday morning in our editorial meeting as Congressional Black Caucus members put forth the measure, and once you got us going, the stories started flying. Bill Thomas, crying! Nancy Pelosi turning out the lights and locking the House chamber! The days when legislative spats were settled with fisticuffs! Sure, partisan rancor these days is bad, but things have definitely been worse. (This is something I recently was asked about before giving a speech in Massachusetts.) Full story

February 4, 2014

Why We Changed Our Labrador Story

I hate corrections.

Surely no intelligent journalist would disagree with that sentiment.

And in the case of this particular correction, I really hate having to do them when it’s not something I reported on myself.

In the spirit of transparency I promised readers in my debut “Newsroom Confidential” column last week, I want to explain why this story, first published at 5:59 p.m. Tuesday, now includes a correction and a partial transcript of the interview.

What transpired today happens in newsrooms all the time. Full story

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