EAOP student and Progressive Caucus Fellow
I have been here for more than a month, and the biggest transition is getting used to getting anything done with so many others in the same room as I am, talking on the phone, typing, conversing with each other, and just breathing. At times I have been unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time, and struggled to get anything done. Apparently two years of cloistering oneself in a library during graduate school leaves one ill equipped for office life. Well, that’s probably for the best since I hope to work outside, or at least out in the field and away from an office, anyway.
Since I have been here I have had the opportunity to work on little pieces of different ongoing projects, as well as doing the research for the project that is the reason I am here.
My major project is to compile a list of the many different NGOs that are working on public lands issues. I am looking at their media strategies and trying to gauge how effective their newsletters are; how well they educate their members on their websites. Part of the work is to call each of the organizations I add to the list and conduct a mini interview as to how they are engaging their members with Congressional issues. I ask them about their successes and failures with this, and inquire as to how they are recruiting young people into their ranks and teaching them political skills. The list serves two purposes: first it provides Congressman Grijalva’s office with a networking tool that allows them to easily identify what organizations might be interested in legislation they are working on that is related to the environment and public lands so they can be contacted to garner support. Second it has provided me with the beginnings of a best practices list as to how to engage the members of my future employer with federal issues (more on this in the next installment).
In addition to the work I do in the office, I try to attend as many hearings, briefings, lectures, committee meetings, and bill mark up sessions as possible. In this I am taking my cues from what is probably the best piece of advice given to me during this fellowship. In my first week here, the Chief of Staff told me that although I was here to help out with the work being done in the office, it was equally, if not more important, that I learn how things on Capitol Hill work. She said the only way to do this was to get out of the offices and go to as many of the above-mentioned events as possible. And I have.
Read a piece written by Morey in response to an op-ed published in the same newspaper (Nogales International) by Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, in which he argued that high gas prices are linked to a shortage in the domestic supply, and that the current crisis can be quickly remedied by opening more public land and federal coastal waters to exploration and drilling. There has been much controversy and debate on Capitol Hill in recent weeks on energy policy, and in particular regarding the Drill Act, which did not pass last week in the House of Representatives. The act essentially forces oil companies to prove that they are actively using their leased land or risk losing it. It is often referred to as the “use it or lose it act”. The act has been controversial because it seems to represent a shift in Democratic Party thinking towards a more pro-drilling policy than the Party previously held, while at the same time suggesting that the leased public lands that oil companies hold contain more oil than the coveted Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge or the coastal waters off the state of Florida.