Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Posts in "Transparency"

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.

Full story

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.

Full story

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

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.

Full story

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.

Full story

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

January 28, 2014

Your Neighborhood Newspaper

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Sid Yudain.

It’s only natural the newly installed leader of the publication he founded in 1955 would take some time reflecting on the vision he had for it.

But this particular line of thought is about more than understanding Yudain, who died at age 90 last fall, and his legacy. It’s about recognizing what this newspaper represents to Capitol Hill.

“Over the years I noticed that the national and local newspapers paid little attention to the people in Congress or the community. … As time went on, I thought that maybe we could use a newspaper, just devote it to the Congress,” Yudain told us in 2011. Full story

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