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Deciphering Capitol Hill

Keeping track of all the legi-speak volleyed between Capitol Hill and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. could be a full-time job. For now, a handful of civic-minded lobbyists are trying to clear the gobbledygook-filled air via their “dewonkify” project.

The part-time code-crackers monitor health care laws for Drinker Biddle & Reath ( for their day jobs. But the group has taken to boiling down to at least one government-related buzzword per week to help keep folks abreast of what’s really going on around town.

“We hope to take words that people outside the Beltway are hearing at that moment and help people to feel comfortable with their meanings,” Ilisa Halpern Paul, DB&R’s managing director of government relations, tells HOH about their case-specific word sleuthing.

The group got the ball rolling just before the elections by exploring the origin of “super PAC,”and it has since worked on chipping away at headline-grabbing jargon —“Electoral College” (Nov. 6), “fiscal cliff” (Nov. 13), “taxmageddon” (Nov. 16), “sequestration” (Nov. 20) and, in a meta moment, “wonk” (Nov. 27) — incessantly churned out by media outlets.

Paul said a pal planted the seeds for the ongoing debrief by praising the group’s ability to break down complex issues into easily digestible bites for their clients. They have since branched out, soliciting additional head-scratchers from friends, clients and even Twitter followers desperately seeking straight talk.

The plan is to put “SGR,” “offsets/pay fors” and “Christmas tree bill” to rest during the remainder of the lame duck. Paul said they expect to begin tackling appropriations- and budget-related terminology once 2013 rolls around.

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