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Republican lawmakers double Democrats in town halls in the first half of 2015

Posted by Jenna Ebersole on July 13, 2015

Republican members of Congress continue to trounce Democrats in the contest to host the most town hall meetings, more than doubling Democratic numbers in the first six months of this year.

Lawmakers have hosted 1,335 town halls so far this year, including 945 by Republican members through the end of June and 385 by Democrats, according to LegiStorm data. The figure includes town halls tracked on social media, websites and news articles where the member was a direct participant, either in person, on the phone or online.

Senate Republicans have hosted an average of 3.4 town halls to Democrats' 1.7 during the first six months of 2015. The ratio is similar in the House, with 3.1 town halls on average per Republican and 1.6 per Democrat.

Republican lawmakers also took eight of the top 10 slots for most town halls hosted in the first half of the year. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) leads with 62 town halls, followed by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) with 41, according to LegiStorm tracking.

This year's score for Republicans versus Democrats so far mirrors a past trend; Republicans hosted 1,751 town halls to Democrats' 990 last year.


Shaheen adds AFL-CIO transportation lobbyist to cover same issues

Posted by Jenna Ebersole on July 10, 2015

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's (D-N.H.) newest legislative assistant is already familiar with the halls of Congress -- as both a lobbyist and former staffer.

Kelly Misselwitz has made her return to the Hill after a three year absence, which she spent as a registered lobbyist in the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department. She now covers a similar range of issues for Shaheen, including transportation and public works as well as labor and employment.

Misselwitz first came to the Hill after college in 2008, interning for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio). She later held legislative jobs for Reps. John Boccieri (D-Ohio) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) until 2012. She staffed Shuler on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, according to her LinkedIn page.

In the first quarter of this year, the new staffer lobbied on issues including transportation appropriations, transit worker labor protections and Amtrak. She has a bachelor's in English and international studies from Capital University.



Loudermilk hires wife of his chief of staff

Posted by Jenna Ebersole on July 9, 2015

Rep. Barry Loudermilk's (R-Ga.) chief of staff and his wife are sharing more than just the married life.

Rob Adkerson came to the Hill with Loudermilk in January after running the congressman's campaign. His wife for nearly three decades, Ashley Adkerson, joined the congressman's staff in May as a staff assistant. 

Federal law prohibits employees from hiring or recommending the hiring of close relatives, though House ethics rules allow members to employ staffers who are related to each other but not to the member. Loudermilk's spokeswoman Shawna Mercer said Rob Adkerson "recused himself from the final decision" on his wife's hiring.

"As with many of our current staff, there was a previous relationship, and as a need arose a position was filled," Mercer said by email.

Mercer said Ashley Adkerson joined the staff on May 22 and Loudermilk is not concerned about a conflict of interest with the hire. Ashley Adkerson has no previous congressional experience, according to salary records since 2000.

Democrats take top spots this year for most expensive privately sponsored travel

Posted by Jenna Ebersole on July 8, 2015

Democratic members of Congress hold eight of the top 10 slots for dollars spent on privately sponsored travel so far this year.

Of 1,250 trips, private sponsors have paid $1.4 million for 863 Republican-approved trips for members and staffers and $1.2 million for 371 Democrat-approved trips filed so far. Last year, by comparison, Republicans took more trips at a higher cost than Democrats out of 1,953 paid for by private groups.

Democratic members took all but the second and fifth spots in the top 10 for their own private travel by cost so far this year. Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-Texas) four trips have collectively cost the most in Congress this year at $38,880. 

Only Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) have trip totals tabulating over $30,000 for the first half of the year. 

Members and staff have traveled most often this year so far to Germany, Israel and Canada outside the U.S. Last year, Israel, Turkey and Japan were in the top three.

So far in 2015, the Aspen Institute has footed the highest bill at $513,683 for 57 trips.

Wilson staffer goes nuclear

Posted by Jenna Ebersole on July 7, 2015

Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-S.C.) top legislative staffer has taken the nuclear option by becoming director of federal programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Baker Elmore got his Hill start as an intern for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in 2009 after graduating from the University of South Carolina. He has worked for Wilson since, beginning in the fall of 2009 as a special assistant and leaving last month as legislative director.

Elmore covered issues including energy, trade and foreign affairs for Wilson and worked specifically on nuclear issues, according to his LinkedIn page. He has not filed a lobbying registration yet with his new employer, but NEI regularly lobbies on a range of topics such as appropriations, the environment and energy.

Elmore's replacement as Wilson's new legislative director, Taylor Andreae, was promoted from military legislative assistant last month and has several years of legislative experience with both Graham and Wilson.

About Caught Our Eye

We spend a large part of our days looking at data. Documents often come in by the dozens and hundreds. And while most are boring - how interesting can staring at a phone directory or salary records be, for example? - we find daily reasons for interest, amusement or even concern packed in the documents. So we are launching a new running feature that we call "Caught our Eye."

Longer than tweets but shorter than most blog posts, Caught our Eye items will bring back the interest in reviewing documents and researching people. Some items might bring hard, breaking news. Others will raise eyebrows and lead some into further inquiry. Others might be good for a joke or two around the water cooler. All will enlighten about the people or workings of Capitol Hill.

Caught our Eye items will be published each morning for LegiStorm Pro subscribers. Non-Pro site users will be able to receive the news items a few hours later. In addition to having immediate access to the news, LegiStorm Pro users will have a handy way to search and browse all past items.