Help for Republican LDs

House Legislative Directors Group Creates Forum for Ideas

Posted February 10, 2004 at 1:58pm

One could tell how quickly the room was filling up at this month’s GOP LD Group meeting by the gradually increasing tapping sound that emanated from dozens of BlackBerrys — the ever-present tool of the Congressional legislative director. Even as the meeting progressed, the constant clicking gave off a steady hum as the 30 or so young Republican staffers sat down for what might be described as a new support group for legislative directors.

The GOP LD Group, which was formed late last year and has just begun to meet regularly, was created as an organizational tool and social network for Republican staffers serving in House offices. The idea for creating the group — which is not unlike similar groups for chiefs of staffs and communications directors — was formulated in October 2003. It was the brainchild of a few legislative directors who wanted a better way to coordinate on legislative issues than just a mass e-mail.

“We all have so many balls in the air we have to juggle,” said Mike Platt, legislative director for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) who was recently elected director of the group. “The idea is to share good ideas on how to do it.”

One of the group’s first big projects is to create a GOP legislative director Web site where members can exchange ideas on best practices for running a policy shop. Damon Nelson, who works for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and heads up one of the group’s 12 regions (the legislative directors are divided into geographical subgroups), explained that the members could also use the Web site to list helpful contacts for specific policy issues and exchange job listings.

“This will be a huge reduction in time,” Platt said. The site “will allow us to share inside information amongst ourselves.”

Nelson said he hopes to have the Web site up by March, pending figuring out security issues.

“I know some people are nervous about the Democrats finding out the best way we do things,” he said.

But the group may not have to worry too much about competition from their counterparts on the left side of the aisle; a similar group doesn’t exist for the Democratic legislative directors, who communicate through an e-mail list.

“It should be done, but I don’t think is,” said Steve Fought, legislative director for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). “I don’t know of a similar kumbaya component … at least they haven’t told me about one.”

At this month’s meeting, the atmosphere among the Republican staffers seemed upbeat. The group of late 20- and early 30-year-old legislative gurus bounced questions off each other about deadlines in upcoming bills, working with leadership offices and training ideas for legislative staffers. They also cracked a few legislative director inside jokes about appropriation timeline requirements and dealing with district offices.

“We want this group to be a nexus between events that are fun and social and events that are professional in nature,” Platt told his fellow directors, who plan to meet every two weeks.

The group’s most recent event was a beer and pizza gathering during the State of the Union address that drew around 60 people.

As the meeting ended, phone numbers and e-mails were eagerly typed into BlackBerrys and cards were exchanged.

Nelson said he was pleased by the results. “We’re really hoping this will be a two-part organization, where first-time legislative directors can learn to build a leg shop but which will also include veteran legislative directors,” he said. “It would be great if it was a constant mentoring program.”