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Culberson welcomes Winning lobbyist as new LA

Posted by Steve Shapiro on Oct. 15, 2015

In the immortal words of Charlie Sheen, Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) is "Winning!" with his newest staff addition.

Culberson welcomed Scott Mackenzie as his new legislative assistant to his office last month from D.C. lobbying firm Winning Strategies Washington LLC. It will be Mackenzie's first position on Capitol Hill despite leaving a firm that prides itself on employing professionals with previous staff connections to Congress.

Mackenzie joined WSW in 2009 after an internship with the company turned into a full-time associate position. In 2011, he registered as a lobbyist with WSW and went on to represent a dynamic set of clients over the next four years. Mackenzie covered issues such as homeland security, energy, pharmaceuticals, and most recently, Department of Defense appropriations.

Mackenzie also briefly served as a communications aide for Mitt Romney in the closing months of his presidential campaign.

Syngenta lobbyist replants self in Ernst's Des Moines office

Posted by Steve Shapiro on Oct. 14, 2015

A former lobbyist for Syngenta has found fertile ground in Sen. Joni Ernst's (R-Iowa) Des Moines office as a special assistant for agriculture.

Michael Dolch joined Ernst in July following a four-year career with Swiss-based agricultural giant Syngenta. Starting in 2011, Dolch worked as a fellow for corporate affairs North America and became a specialist for Syngenta's federal government relations in 2013. During his tenure with the company he lobbied on a variety of agricultural issues including the 2014 Farm Bill, biofuels, biotechnology and the use of pesticides. Syngenta is the world's leading manufacturer of crop chemicals.

In addition to his years at Syngenta, Dolch also worked a three-month stint at Monsanto as a conservation specialist in 2008.

Ernst currently serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and chairs the Rural Development and Energy Subcommittee. She has also recently come out against new Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines for the handling and selling of certain chemicals used in crop production.

Granger's struggles with staff turnovers continues

Posted by Steve Shapiro on Oct. 13, 2015

It must feel like Groundhog Day in the office of Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas). She just brought on a new chief of staff making him the fifth person to hold that title this year.

Bill Zito has replaced Darin Gardner, who left the office one month after replacing Steve Ruhlen. Ruhlen, in turn, also left after a several-week stint from July to August. Overall, Granger has had three chiefs of staff since July and five since the start of 2015. Matt Leffingwell had served as her chief of staff since 2012 but departed in January of this year. His position was filled by Shannon Meade who stayed until July when she was replaced by Ruhlen.

Bill Zito joins Granger after serving for two years as the deputy chief of staff for Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) since late 2013. He began his Hill career as an U.S. Army congressional fellow in 2012.

The turnover rate for other top office positions is not much better. Granger's current legislative director, Corey Inglee, took over from Jonathan Blyth in September who had only held the position for six months.

Granger has also gone through four schedulers this year. Her current scheduler, Nathan Zapf, has held the position for less than a month, taking over from Laura Kennedy who was onboard from June until August. She in turn took over from Brenan Tjelmeland when he left after six months. Since 2014, Granger's office has had eight schedulers.

Communications directors also come and go with some frequency. Ted Monoson left as Granger's communication director this month after joining in June. His departure marks the third this year after Steven Dutton and Todd Winer.

Happy Columbus Day!

Posted by LegiStorm on Oct. 12, 2015
Caught our Eye is taking a break for Columbus Day. We will return Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Congress reacts to McCarthy's decision on Twitter, unites behind cynicism

Posted by Steve Shapiro on Oct. 9, 2015

Rep. Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) decision to drop out of the speakership race moments before the GOP vote shocked political observers and Congress alike. Twitter did not take kindly.

Throughout the day, tweets from congressional staffers gradually shifted from initial surprise to tolerant cynicism, eventually culminating in House of Cards references and nominations for Brett Favre and Don Rickles as the next speaker.

Spencer Pederson, legislative assistant, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

"WHAT THE ACTUAL FFFFFFFFFFFFFFF is going on in the House right now?"

Nicole Hager, staff assistant, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)

"It's days like today that I'm sad I don't work on the house side."

Jason Botelho, media relations coordinator, Senate Sergeant at Arms - Capitol Division

"Wait, so Kevin McCarthy met with the Pope yesterday???"  

Natalie Krings, communications director, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

"Safe to assume productivity has dropped significantly on Capitol Hill in the last 30 minutes. #McCarthy #House #speakersrace"

J.P. Freire, communications director, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

"Man, House Republicans won't even let Speaker Boehner resign."

Kim Conrad, legislative correspondent, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.)

"McCarthy: 'I don't want to get 220 votes...We've got to be 100% united.' Good. F---ing. Luck."

Dante Atkins, press secretary, Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.)

"Everyone thought McCarthy was unbeatable. But then we created the Benghazi Select Committee, and look where his Speaker chances are now"

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)

"Music blaring in House gym "Another one bites the dust" as some of my GOP colleagues exercise. I suggested they consider another song."

Jason Galanes, deputy chief of staff/communications director, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.)

"Surprise of McCarthy dropping out of Speaker race on level of @HouseofCards metro scene with Zoe. Hopefully not as equally foreshadowing"

Aaron S. Fritschner, staff assistant, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.)

"Urgent alert: there were other artistic portrayals of political machinations before Game of Thrones and House of Cards. Some are... better?"

Matt Wainwright, district representative, Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.)

"@HouseGOP can't find anyone to be Speaker. Sounds like a job for an immigrant... #SpeakerSchwarzenegger #hellbeback"  

Jason Gagnon, communications director, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)

"We need a constitutional amendment clarifying the Speaker MUST be a member of the House. It would eliminate half the nonsense in my feed."

Brian Rell, chief of staff, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.)

"Political irony: the only thing standing between a new Speaker vs continuation of Boehner as Speaker is House Freedom Caucus" 

Ric Andersen, second assistant superintendent, House Press Gallery

"Anything new going on in the House?"

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.