We’ve been working on Progressive Congress News since last April and during that time we’ve been to a few events where district staff were present. Our trip to D.C. this week has been all about enhancing our connections with staffers of the Progressive Caucus.
So we’ve had a mixer at the Progressive Congress office, and yesterday we actually got to hang out in a working office.
Here’s a look at a Capitol Hill cocktail party and a day at the office ...
First, Progressive Congress staffers tore the conference room apart, setting it up for our mixer.
And I made sure there were plenty of cocktail weenies. We got many compliments on the quality and quantity of food and drink - these staffers are young, underpaid, over worked, and very grateful for a quality meal just a few blocks from their offices.
We had a little slide show on Beth’s laptop and I did a quick drawing of the major pieces of the system. We only got a few detailed questions about this, but there were a burst of new signups the morning after the event.
Alan Rosenblatt from the Center for American Progress, who goes by @drdigipol on Twitter, was present.
And we finally got to meet Jonathan from Congressman Hank Johnson’s office. Hank was the first to notice us on Twitter, the first to praise the work of Progressive Congress News, and he actually gave us an interview the day after the health care reform vote. About thirty people turned up and we made many good contacts, but this is the only one I’m sure I can display publicly since it’s already known that we have a connection here.
The next day we got to go and hang out in a working Congressional office. There was some sort of drama outside Cannon, but we were going to Longworth.
The halls are very, very long - these buildings are huge.
Each member’s office has a plaque with their name and state, but they don’t show their district number. Some office entrances are bare except for the plaque. Some have the U.S. flag and if they do they almost always have their state flag present as well. Many Congressmen display a black POW/MIA flag and they’ll offset it with another flag related to their state, keeping a balance of a pair on each side of the door.
Longworth has a massive lunch room. There are half a dozen different ‘shops’ with different sorts of fare, a really good salad bar in the middle, and all sorts of drink choices. This panorama shows a little seating area and the main floor. There is seating for several hundred around the corner from this location, but it was far too busy for me to shoot when I was picking up our lunch today.
I was given one of eight cubicles in the staffer area to use while we were there. I regret not getting a closeup of the item on top of the computer - it’s a Little Punk Staffer button from Congressman Barney Frank :-)
I was mostly free to do as I pleased - I was just there to answer a few technical questions in a couple of different meetings, as well as meeting key members of the staff. Beth had a full day, training people on various social media tools, getting input on what we should do next, and making new friends.
I wish I’d shot more of the office tchachkas. One staffer had a large collection of tiny stuffed animals, another in a leadership position had a miniature pink Louisville Slugger, and the walls were full of maps and other memorabilia from the district.
My big impression after the mixer and a day spent in a working office is how young these people are. The chief of staff for this office has a masters, but she’s not quite thirty. I got to talk to another chief of staff and he also seemed very young, perhaps in his early thirties.
The other thing I got from watching, listening, and overhearing is that the budget cuts being enforced by the incoming Republican majority are going to hurt. People are being shuffled to cover various duties and this move more than ever puts policy decisions in the hands of lobbyists rather than citizens, unless we step in and do something about that.
Progressive Congress News is a calculated effort to do just that, and it’s become an important part of the overall Progressive Congress mission of supporting our caucus. We’re cutting the noise out, handing staffers just the best of the best policy news on a daily basis. Out netroots outreach is helping with the outbound messaging and keeping an eye on what Progressive activists are most interested in accomplishing.
We’re doing something important here and we’re very frugal, but we can’t accomplish these things for nothing. Our Salsa service runs $100/month. We did our own catering and still spent $200 for the event. The next staff mixer, planned for late April or early May, will have double or triple the attendees as word gets around about the quality of the event as well as the networking benefits. Gas was $3.22/gallon on the drive out. We have a couple of friends in the area who let us stay so we have no hotel costs and we cook at ‘home’ quite a bit, minimizing our restaurant costs.
We stand to win up to $400,000 from the Knight Foundation News Challenge but that won’t be decided until June, and even if we do close on that one it won’t pay for things like the quarterly staff mixers we’d like to do. We need your help - $5 pays for a big bag of chips, or a jar of salsa, or a package of those all important cocktail weenies.
You can support our efforts by donating here. Be sure to mention PCN in the dedication box or the money goes into the general fund rather than to our project.
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