My short bio: Former Congressional staffer, with years on Capitol Hill. Too many campaigns to count, including Presidential. US politics are weird.

My Proof: Last AMA verification

Comments: 920 • Responses: 107  • Date: 

thisguystaint51 karma

there's been a recent movement on the internet to institute congressional pillow fights, to help those guys lighten up a bit and to humanize them for the populace.

who do you think would be the Pillow Fight Champion of the Senate?

somehillguy78 karma

man this is the best question I've heard... ever.

Incoming Sen Tom Cotton. Long reach, Army Ranger. Decades younger than most of those guys. Though Harry Reid was a former boxer...

Coloradoperson47 karma

How corrupt are politics really in washington? Im just a regular american citizen and don't really think about whats going on behind the curtains.

somehillguy101 karma

In the old days? Very high. Today? Meh, not so much. I've been through the former Soviet sphere, a lot of 'Stans. That's where you'll see real, no shit corruption up close -- and it's ugly.

House and Senate both have ethics committees that watch very closely. So does the FBI. Both Republicans and Democrats would love to hit a Member with corruption charges so they can steal the seat -- so everyone's always watching and waiting.

Don't get me wrong, it happens. But it's kind of rare these days, as oversight has gotten really stinking thorough.

ssflanders45 karma

This answer is a little disingenuous IMO. No, we don't have people in sheik costumes handing bags of cash to congressmen anymore, for the reasons you mention. But please address the systemic corruption that I think we all think/know is killing our democracy -- the revolving door from Capitol Hill to K Street, the SuperPACS that allow nearly unregulated anonymous, unlimited donations to electeds, and so on. You can't speak to corruption in DC without addressing these. What's your take - is DC in the pocket of special interests that have moved beyond improperly influencing to straight-up buying their own legislation?

somehillguy64 karma

Well I've done my best to not be disingenuous.

I think you're conflating lobbying with outright corruption. Those are two very different creatures. Lobbying is representing a business to government in the same way a lawyer represents one in court. It's very regulated, with incredibly amounts of oversight.

When my family and friends say "but lobbyists!" I go "Ok. Tell me exactly which lobbyist broke exactly which law to help pass exactly which legislation." Very rarely can people answer -- because lobbying gets overstated somewhat.

Amadeus_McDowell51 karma

The exact problem is that they're not breaking the law by and large. It's legalized patronage/corruption, and it's a huge problem. You can't just dismiss it because is not illegal. A better approach is to question the efficacy of the system in the first place in light of the resulting skewed allegiances of politicians to moneyed interests.

somehillguy45 karma

One of the things I watch for in politics is this.

Do you have questions, or do you have answers? It's a fair question, right?

People who have answers are tuned out -- unless they have specific policy expertise. Sorry that sounds harsh, not my intent, just trying to be as honest as possible in this AMA.

magic_purple_lemons18 karma

Well that's the point is that it's technically not illegal. But you can't say that wealthy individuals or large corporations donating large sums of money to congressional campaigns and then turning around and lobbying those same members for legislative action (or more often inaction) doesn't create a worrying conflict of interest.

somehillguy28 karma

You know how those donations work?

A Member holds a fundraiser. A businesses lobbyist attends and pays, say, $10,000 a plate. They listen to what the member says and reports back to their office.

That's the biggest misconception about lobbyists. People think they're mostly outputs of policy rather than inputs. That job is about listening to what members will do in law. It costs money to listen.

linecrossed3 karma

It's implied that in paying that $10,000 a plate, the politician will do more than talk. You don't need to be in politics to know that big checks buy more than a thank you note. They're the kind of thing that ends in nonsense like putting net neutrality on the chopping block.

I don't think you're being dishonest with us. I think you're being dishonest with yourself - justifying obviously scumbag activities by hiding behind the legal definition of corruption. Quite frankly it's not accepting a donation. In cases where the corporate interest clearly do not benefit the American people, it's treason.

somehillguy12 karma

I read a really interesting column recently, called The Death of Expertise.

In it, the author talks about how the internet's empowered people to believe that they're experts in everything, even in the face of actual experience.

Capitol623 karma

People think they're mostly outputs of policy rather than inputs. That job is about listening to what members will do in law. It costs money to listen.

This isn't totally true. In reality a lot of lobbyists do both. Sure, most corporate trade associations are more about listening and expressing member concerns to elected officials and are less about drafting/creating specific policy. That said, a lot of issue driven lobby shops do draft policy with some frequency in addition to listening and reporting to their supporters.

The biggest misconception about corporate politics, I think, is where corporations and interest groups derive their power from. You're right on about them gaining very little power from direct campaign contributions, fundraisers, and lobbying in general. They gain most of their power from their ability to buy the support of the electorate for politicians they know support their positions and/or for positions in order to influence politicians. Advertising works.

Lobbyists just happen to be the public face of corporations/interest groups in politics.

somehillguy6 karma

they definitely do both. The ouputs I've experienced is one of them sitting down, saying "this [thing] will save you money and meet the government's contract request." I said, "we disagree, and I'm sorry about that. But best of luck to you."

They still show up for fundraisers, because.. well, that's their job. To get those inputs.

jaminman2209 karma

Exactly. It's not corruption in terms of looking the other way when someone breaks a law. Instead, the laws have been intentionally written to codify backslapping.

somehillguy37 karma

eh, that's not my experience. Lobbying laws have gotten insanely strict over the past couple years, especially post-Abramoff.

My buddy says that ever since Jon Stewart's 25 year old producers decided lobbying is a problem, it's become the biggest red herring in Washington. He's fine with that, because he says it distracts people from Congress' actual failures.

shortsightedsid17 karma

Both Republicans and Democrats would love to hit a Member with corruption charges so they can steal the seat -- so everyone's always watching and waiting.

Send a thief to catch a thief?

somehillguy36 karma

hah, can't help but to laugh here.

I've had the pleasure of working for some very honorable Members. So I'm not that much fun in this AMA, it'd be much more entertaining if I could air the dirty laundry. I bet House and Senate Ethics staffers have lots of great stories.

M40539464 karma

I'm intrigued that you define corruption as specifically being things that are illegal or things that the ethics committees would object to. The ethics committees are, after all, part of the same group. So the two major parties make it extremely difficult for someone not in those parties to even get on the ballot. The two parties also decide who will be part of the primaries, which means we don't really get to vote for "change", we get to vote for whomever the parties have selected. This is corruption. But the ethics committees are part of this process, and wouldn't be on the ethics committee if it wasn't for this process, so they say everything is ok.

somehillguy12 karma

I've said it before, but I've been through the third world and seen actual corruption up close. So when people throw that term around on the US system, which isn't perfect but it's pretty darn good, I think they're overstating things a bit.

Sorry, I know you probably want to hear all they're all crooks -- but it just hasn't been my experience :/

OracleDBA41 karma

I love your AMA. Very good "realist" answers; that tells me you are not a shit-head.

My question: Do you ever think a third party like Libertarians will make inroads to holding congressional seat?

somehillguy36 karma

They're best option is to caucus with Republicans and run as Republicans. Otherwise they run as spoilers who get Democrats elected

Maybe that changes in a few years, but for now... reality.

odsdaniel31 karma

what's ahead in 2016?

somehillguy75 karma

Rumor is an election! Here's your tiers of candidates:

Tier 1: People who have a real shot Hillary. Maybe Biden, unlikely. Then Rubio, Jeb Bush, Christie on GOP side. Tier 2: People who don't have a great shot but could in 2020. Andrew Cuomo. Rand Paul. Scott Walker. Rick Perry. Tier 3: Your clown car. People who do it for Fox or MSNBC contracts. Dennis Kucinich, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain.

Hillary's campaign started months ago even though she didn't announce. She'll be tough to beat. She has the money and the organization and the famed "Clinton Machine" behind her. Dems have a shallow bench and will line up behind her to nudge into position for 2020.

GOP isn't out, we'll have to see how their candidates perform on the stump. Right now it's Hillary's to lose

endmatter77 karma


somehillguy80 karma

Dynasties man. Not that uncommon. Think Adams and Kennedys. You inherit donors and political organizations. We just lost a big one in Arkansas, there had been a Pryor in office for decades -- just got unseated in the Senate.

plausible-rationale33 karma

Andrew Cuomo in 2020? Please no.

I'm a life long democrat, really rather liberal and I refuse to vote for that man (and I didn't last week). He is a power monger control freak who is just plain bad for anyone but his own interests.

somehillguy51 karma

Oh I left out Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Warren's a tier 2, Sanders a tier 3.

The ones to watch are the ones who get the big money backers. Money is what separates a serious candidate from an unserious one -- that applies to both parties.

chaz34532 karma

Money is what separates a serious candidate from an unserious one --

Which precisely sums up the entire problem with the US political system and which is why "Joe Average" rarely sees his interests represented, no matter which party he belongs to.

somehillguy27 karma

Actually money is what grabs Average Joe by the ear and drags him to the polls. It's done through mailers, radio/tv/internet ads, flyers, and paid door knockers. Money turns non-voters into voters.

VeggieLomein5 karma

What are the odds of Warren actually running? I thought she made a statement about not wanting to run? She's my first pick.

somehillguy16 karma

No idea. She might run to get her name out there, but I think she doesn't want to cause Hillary problems. If she runs she'll steal donors and voters from HRC, who will then have to spend money in the primary that should be used in the general. Only EW knows..

das_thorn8 karma

I'm not sure how you consider both Bush and Rubio Tier 1 and Rand Paul Tier 2. So long as Bush is a Tier 1 candidate, there's no chance Rubio runs.

Everything you said about Hillary was true in 2008 as well.

somehillguy25 karma

They'll get the donors. And I have friends close to Rubio who think he's going to do it.

Re HRC, no argument there.

These are my tiers. Ask another politico and you'll get a different answer. Just my opinion :)

cust716 karma

Hi, Wisconsin resident here. Do you see the nation actually voting for a guy that doesn't have a college degree (Walker) in today's political climate? I can understand the GOP conservative base, but outside of that, I don't see how he appeals nationally.

somehillguy19 karma

I don't know much about Walker. I do know that Democratic Super PACs pumped millions into beating him three times and yet he won in Democratic Wisconsin three times. Does that translate into national appeal? I dunno, he kind of seems like another Pawlenty to me -- boring.

cust716 karma

That's what I thought...except Pawlenty had a bit more middle of the road appeal. I worked for a local county Dem HQ, and while there was passion to support Burke here, there wasn't much elsewhere in the state. The Dems ran 2 fairly weak candidates in the 3 elections, as opposed to, say, someone like Feingold (who's adamantly not interested), who at least was polling even or ahead of Walker.

Any advice for a 36 year old late bloomer that's interested in campaign/political work?

somehillguy10 karma

well it sounds like you're doing the right thing. Remember this is a young man's game and experience counts. I'd keep working as many campaigns as I can, develop a policy expertise if you can, and then leverage that into a hill job. I'd also recommend state staffer jobs too -- there's more power in state offices than people realize. Good luck to you!

jaminman2205 karma

You're forgetting Dr. Ben Carson. 😉

somehillguy7 karma

Tier 3

reefercrazy30 karma

oh and one more question from me. Do these tv shows like House of Cards etc even slightly portray Capitol somewhat accurately? i've always wanted to know.

somehillguy115 karma

It was for a while. They really did their homework. Then Kevin Spacey started pushing people in front of Green Line trains and I was like, yeesh guys.

The most fictionalized part of House of Cards is the idea of a Member that competent :)

josephtutora27 karma

Recreational Marijuana? What states, do you think, will have a recreation pot "law" on the ballot? Arizona? What do you see in the NATIONS future in regard to recreational marijuana?

somehillguy54 karma

Colorado will be the litmus test. Washington to a lesser extent. They need to get it right and I'm rooting for them. That will affect other state's decisions.

I personally support legalization and even stronger support the State's right to choose if they want it legal. It's their police forces that are tasked with enforcing federal law and many of them think it's a waste of their resources to harass recreational weed users.

Tsing_Tao25 karma

Do you not find it disgusting that so many billions were spent on the election? What do you think about giving each candidate a cap so the extra money can be used in a much more beneficial way?

somehillguy73 karma

There's an old Republican saying, "The first thing in politics is money and I can't remember what the second one is."

You know the closer I get to campaigns, the less I care about the issue. Because I've been the one who gets tasked to go listen to a big donor's stupid ideas just because he gave money.

And that's the entire bit right there. Donors (the big ones, at least) give money because they think it gives them influence. What it actually gets them is some stupid young staffer like me, telling them how seriously we'll consider their idiotic ideas.

There's a rule in politics, I learned it the hard way. Passion and knowledge are an inverse relationship. The more you know about an issue, the less passionate you are about it. Money's one of those for me -- it makes campaigns run, and I'm not sure how that changes.

reefercrazy12 karma

but do these donors ever influence policy making in a big way?

somehillguy40 karma

not really. The one place I think they could foreseeably do it is through staffing. If the donor is big enough to have a sophisticated political operation behind them -- not just a donor but think PACs here, the winning member will hit that shop up for staffer ideas.

Then that PAC looks for staffers who share their ideas.

If a donor walked up to a member and said "you should vote this way," he'd first get laughed at and then reported to Ethics.

MrStump13 karma

I think the issue with that much money in politics isn't the suggestions that someone gets to make to directly influence policy. It is that money aids the person with shared ideals in getting elected in the first place.

More money = better change of being elected. Which does not break the "all votes are equal" laws but it certainly doesn't seem to line up with the sentiment. A person with a billion dollars can influence who becomes elected far better than a person with a thousand, despite the person with a billion representing a minority of voters.

somehillguy20 karma

I don't disagree with any of this. I just think it gets overstated somewhat. Ask me at the beginning of my career I'd probably agree with you -- but just spent years seeing the limits of what money can do. Let's just say I've dealt with far more disappointed donors than happy donors.

ragingpandaberr6 karma

If it was magically switched to a process where outside money was either banned or heavily restricted/reported on for special interests, do you think the quality of governance would change? Or is it the personality of a representative that is able to convince constituents to choose them still one who would prevail without the need to fund raise?

somehillguy33 karma

Not really. You know where most money is spent? Turnout. Getting voters to the polls. That's robocalls and mailers and flyers and community bbqs.

The Obama Campaign won in '12 because their turnout operation was impeccable. Just revolutionary. Republicans still salivate over how good it was. They got voters to the polls who hadn't been once in their lives.

It's a reason I don't get all that upset about money. If it gets more people involved, so be it.

Styx20622 karma

In your own experiences - do you think women, minorities, gays, etc. are well represented in campaign staff?

I would expect there isn't much difference between the parties when you get to the upper echelons.

somehillguy70 karma

oh hell yes. They're gold. White males' time is over.

That's why I'm glad I'm a veteran. It's the closest thing a white guy like me can get to being a minority, and all the hiring preferences that go with it :)

mrbildo20 karma

Thanks for doing this. I love your straight forward answers.

My question: my son is a recent college grad who just finished up his first paid regional field op job. He made so many connections and has been involved with campaigns throughout school. He's going through a post-election let down as the phone hasn't rang yet. What are his best moves to get a staff position at least at the state level? Or should he be looking in other directions?

somehillguy26 karma

He needs to make the phone ring, not wait for it to ring!

He needs to ask and ask. Knock on doors, offer to intern for free for a while, do anything he can to get his foot in the door. I saw one guy knock doors until an office let him have an unpaid internship. 3 years later he was the legislative director, pretty high up in a Congressional office.

If your son worked for the Democrats, it's going to be really hard. They lost a lot of seats and there's going to be a lot of unemployed Dem staffers. I'd recommend he gets a paid gig on a Dem campaign, and hope for the best in 2016.

mrbildo13 karma

Thank you!

Actually MI GOP. (on reddit? what?) The state candidate he worked with won the primary. Then he worked field office.

somehillguy10 karma

ah, let me guess- Western Michigan. Just knock on doors and do those internships. Needs to be in DC. Good things will happen if he works hard.

SouthernJeb18 karma

Are there really as many sex scandals/hookup as portrayed on tv and movie dramas? (i.e. Scandal, house of cards, etc)

and who's your number one politician dream hook-up/bromance?

somehillguy45 karma

Sadly, I don't have any carnal knowledge on any Congressmen :( I did have to weave through camera crews after Anthony Weiner showed his weiner, his office was on my way to the cafeteria.

Kristi Noem or Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard's single, so you're saying there's a chance!

reefercrazy17 karma

how do you feel about the election system? do you find it strange that the President isn't directly elected by the people?

somehillguy44 karma

No I love the electoral system (weird, right?). We were always designed as a Republic with balance between the states and population. Republics avoid pure populist votes -- the tyranny of the masses if you will :)

kakallak5 karma

But the system has been gerrymandered and votes have been suppressed, you are in love with the way the system is designed and the idea behind the design and not the way it is. How can you say the system is great when incumbents with overwhelmingly dissatisfied constituents still win elections, time and time again?

somehillguy15 karma

oh I have a gerrymandered answer in here somewhere. If you look at the numbers it's not that big of a problem. Like many things is politics, gets blown out of proportion and distracts from real issues.

Sorry it sounds like it's something your passionate about and I don't mean to belittle that in any way -- because it's a fair question to ask. I'd look at Cook's Partisan Voting Index for the strong seats that are bellwethers for gerrymandering, you'll find it's pretty even.

reefercrazy5 karma

have you seen a lot of corruption/illegal campaining during elections?

somehillguy38 karma

Not much, honestly. The bastions of corruption are in Chicago and then the south. You see it much more frequently in the races were no one is paying attention, the Councilmen and Wardsmen, Mayors and state senators.

FBI pays real close attention to national offices -- and every FBI agent worth his salt would kill to bag a Congressman or Senator on corruption charges.

reefercrazy13 karma

uh huh. its a pretty dog eat dog situation to get to the hill. seems like everyone is waiting for you to fuck up.

somehillguy50 karma

two rules in washington. if you want a friend, get a dog. 2nd is watch your back.

theeemaster13 karma

you should be on the writers team for "house of cards" :)

somehillguy10 karma


RonDumsfeld17 karma

Three questions:

1) Any chance gerrymandered districts get re-drawn to make house seats more equal to share of the vote?

2) How can the corrupting $ problem be fixed? Seems like Congress-folks have to be constantly fundraising instead of governing

3) Any fun stories about Congressmen/women who genuinely hate each other? Or folks who appear to hate each other but really do not?

somehillguy41 karma

Three really good Qs.

  1. Gerrymandering's been around forever. If you look at Cook's Partisan Voting Index, you'll see a pretty equal breakdown of those hyper strong R+17 or D+30 seats -- the ones where state legislatures put all the opposition voters in one area. Dems think this is more of a problem than it actually is because most of their voters are in high-density urban areas -- but in reality, it's not that big of a deal. Just an old political trick that's news to no one.

  2. We have House and Senate Ethics Committees circling like sharks, just waiting to unseat an opposition Member who screws up. Then you have the FBI on them too. You also have the FEC in the mix. You'd be surprised just how hard it is to screw around as a member -- lots of people want their blood. It mostly happens at the state and local levels.

  3. Oh God yes. The Congressional Black Caucus hated Allen West with a passion like no other. Mainly because he existed just to troll them. Nancy Pelosi has chased members around the floor. Some Republicans won't talk to the few gay members -- really petty shit, exactly what you'd expect of the people representing flawed people like the American electorate :)

Tripleshotlatte18 karma

Nancy Pelosi has chased members around the floor.

Wait, what? She suddenly just runs after someone and then...?

somehillguy44 karma

gave them a tongue lashing if I remember right. Like straight up chased this dude across the floor until she caught him.

I like Nancy.

happyneandertal16 karma

What are your thoughts on Elizabeth Warren as a potential 2016 candidate or at the very least vice-presidential candidate to Hillary?

somehillguy60 karma

Both my Republican and Democratic friends really, really want her. GOP thinks she's too far left, kind of like a Ted Cruz of the Dems, and my liberal friends want her because they love her.

She's really popular on Reddit because of the state she reps. What does Mass have? Lots of... what? College students! So she pushes bills and agenda items that play to that age group. What does Reddit have a lot of? College students! So she's really popular here too.

I have a suspicion, unconfirmed, that her staff really pushes EW stories on Reddit. Good for them if true, that's what your'e supposed to do as a staffer. Get your boss' name out there.

ocdblackmage16 karma

Thank you for doing this ama, and for answering in the manner you are. Every election, I understand why the candidates don't answer questions like this, but wish they would.

Do you see any signs of more moderates coming on? It seems that every big candidate is either waaaaay one way or another, as if there is zero chance of a serious candidate supporting gay marriage and opposing harsher gun control. What's a voter to do when is seems candidates just go right down these party lines? Vote independent, knowing it won't matter?

somehillguy61 karma

I am a very moderate guy, so I really hope that's the case.

We have been more divided than we are now. Civil War, anyone? But a couple of things worry me. The biggest one is that people can now shop for the news they want to hear, rather than the actually news.

Want to hear Republicans are evil? Go to MSNBC. Want to hear Democrats hate America? Go to Fox.

Some legislative dynamics in the House and possibly soon the Senate have also encouraged partisanship. Getting rid of earmarks on the House GOP gave hardline conservatives no incentive to vote for compromise bills with the President. Earmarks weren't pretty but they got shit done.

And the President himself hasn't helped. If given the choice between getting something done that helps everyone (through compromise), or packing up his toys, going home, and then crying about the Republican Congress -- he's always chosen packing up his toys.

Clinton was legendary for getting Congressmen and a room and say "hey buddy, now look we can figure this out." Obama says "I'm right, and that's it." Forgive me, I hope we NEVER elected another college professor as President again -- and this isn't partisan -- you will hear that from Democratic Senate staffer after Senate staffer.

TLDR, we've been coming apart for years now and I hope it gets better. Both parties are responsible.

ec2xs10 karma

For the sake of accuracy, Obama was a part-time lecturer that taught one law school course. Even if you consider him a professor (an issue during his first election, and U of Chicago had to defend the title), the "arrogant college professor" narrative is something that has been drummed up by partisan media types. He has had many failings, but I certainly don't attribute that to his role as a one-course teacher.

somehillguy11 karma

ok, fair enough correction

djazzbass5 karma


somehillguy17 karma

Sure, check the literacy in the 1800s. Radio revolutionized politics. So did TV. So did the internet.

temp132412 karma

Do congress people ever actually talk to their constituents or am i always going to be stuck talking to a staffer when i call, write a letter, email?

somehillguy26 karma

Go to a town hall and ask a question. Members do those all the time.

Contact the office and you'll get a staffer who has memorized the phrase "Thank you, I'll pass your concerns along to the Congressman/Senator"

JudgeKredd12 karma

What are the chances these newly elected officials get to work on issues like global warming in earnest? I want to see an eco friendly USA!

somehillguy39 karma

It's a Republican Senate and House, so low. I advise all my Dem friends to talk about Climate Change in ways Republicans understand -- like appealing to their (shared) desire to have a clean place to live. We all want that.

Many people have been turned off by the Climate Change campaigns. That's their failure to find common ground with independent and conservative voters, in my opinion. That's what politics is -- figuring out a way to make your issue win.

fendokencer13 karma

I'm surprised that a retired Rear Admiral presenting climate change as a national security issue didn't get their attention at all. It seems like the only people who care about the issue are environmentalists, the Navy, and low elevation east coast communities who are already seeing the change.

somehillguy29 karma

naw Rear Admirals are a dime a dozen. You can find one that thinks the moon landing was faked if you try hard enough. The message counts more than the messenger, in my opinion at least.

fendokencer5 karma

Considering the one they decided to send was the director of Task Force Climate Change I would hope his message would count for a lot. Not enough it seems.

somehillguy15 karma

task forces are also a dime a dozen

lamebrainfamegame11 karma

Why is there so little cooperation now as opposed to days of yore? What do you think really gave rise to the polarization of the House?

somehillguy88 karma

the really, really unpopular answer?

GOP banning earmarks. Earmarks were the grease that got laws passed. If you opposed something, I'd say "hey, here's the funding you wanted for that library in Witchita Falls." That's how you get votes!

Now there's no incentive. It sounds dirty, but you're talking about $20k in funding to get a $100 billion bill through. Chalk it up as the cost of doing business.

Sorry, promised you guys answers -- not popular answers, lol

legaffairs18 karma

Speaking from the exec branch side, the ban on earmarks goes further than that as well. The days pre-earmark-ban, there was a tremendous amount of oversight and transparency on the process. Members' disclosures to the authorizing and appropriations committees for their earmarks made it readily apparent on how things got done, as abhorrent it may have been to the average American. Now though, earmarks still occur, but in a completely opaque manner. Rather than Members and staff lobbying other members and the appropriations committee staff, Members lobby the executive branch directly to fund their projects and there's no record of those actions. Previously, a member who was say the Chairman of a Senate Subcommittee (who really doesn't wield any more power than any other member of the full committee, at least for most of the authorizing committees) would push his earmarks with the appropriations committee who had no issues telling him no and having the support of the party conference. Now though, that Senator will push on the career-government official who can't handle the pressure and will likely cave.

I said it elsewhere, but however unpopular your responses may be with the reddit masses, you are providing the most insightful and honest responses I've seen to one of the AMAs by hill staff. Most of the others that I've seen are really low-level staff with no real clue or someone with a political agenda.

somehillguy11 karma

thanks! "LegAffairs." Heh. I know what you do. I even know how to pronounce that right.

SoMuchPorn697 karma

I know that there were a ton of GOP reps who hated "pork" and earmarks. Did that hate come from constituents, or did those politicians actually hate it?

I've heard your answer before, and it makes sense.

somehillguy17 karma

was mostly tea partiers in the 2010 wave. They had no equities in pork yet. But it was also Boehner responding to the electorate, and he's been dug in for years.

bridgehater3 karma

When did earmarks get banned? I don't remember them being made illegal or anything.

somehillguy6 karma

Still good to go in the Senate, they were banned in 2011 when GOP took the House.

Axel92711 karma

So, Congress has been getting older (I think avg. ages are 57 in the House, 62 in the Senate). Do you think this has been a problem in regards to passing legislation, or the general business of Congress? How so?

Also, how do we get those averages ages down? Where can we get some young blood, because I would argue that both parties benches are getting older and starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel (if you only have one Tier 1 Dem, and your Tier 1 GOP is Rubio/Christie/Bush, the parties have a problem).

Thank you for your service, in all forms!

somehillguy25 karma

Yeah it's a great question. I think there's a growing divide on issues. Prior generations have borrowed a ton of money and dumped it on the younger generation, and then saddled them with a huge amount of debt in the form of student loans.

It's not a republican or democratic issue -- it's just a numbers thing. Old people defend their equities just like everyone else. And they vote more than young people.

harDCore1828 karma

Hello from Capitol Hill! Interning now at BLS but am very interested in data analysis/data science and how it applies to the political scene - aka Nate Silver. Are there many jobs/internships in that category, is it contracted out, or does some poor staffer have to just make due with excel?

Also, how useful is the HoR email blast of openings? Are those already filled and they just need to publicly announce openings?


somehillguy23 karma

dude, yes. Data analytics, especially web-based t is the hottest ticket in town! Hold onto that and you'll be a rich man one day.

We ignore the blasts. Most go to my spam box.

Aznb01p8 karma

What's your opinion of the obscene amounts of money that is being spent on campaigns?

Do you think "better" candidates are being weeded out by the arduous campaigning process?

somehillguy62 karma

I think I did a money answer earlier. It's always been part of the process. Both sides do it, and it might surprise you, but Democrats consistently out raise Republicans both with both big donors and small ones. But they're close in numbers.

You hear Koch brothers a lot, but a single Democratic Superpac was responsible for something like 1/3 of all the advertisements this past election.

A friend put it like this. "Republicans are scumbags because they'll take a crook's money, but Democrat's are even bigger scumbags because they'll take a crook's money and then accuse the Republicans of taking a crook's money."

Hypocrisy is not in short supply in this business -- and it is not limited to a specific party.

ichegoya7 karma

This is a good thread, thanks for doing it. So what do you think is the biggest thing keeping Congress from actually addressing the public's concerns? Is it that they are all fundamentally disconnected from the actual struggle a lot of people face by virtue of their wealth and circle of people?

somehillguy16 karma

I actually think they do. Nothing spurs a Congressman to action like getting 5,000 phone calls in a day. One phone call does nothing. Get enough of them, and they'll respond.

jeangm77 karma

Hi there! I wanted to ask you how much intrigue goes inside the Senate. Is it as much as we can see in shows like "House of Cards"? Thanks for your time!

somehillguy17 karma

lots of backdoor wheeling and dealing -- House of Cards level? Well that's a level of competence that I have yet to see out of a Congressman or Senator :)

redditer797 karma

What's the relationship like between senators/congressman across the party line behind the scene? How well do they work together? Are there some who are genuinely hate one another?

somehillguy13 karma

oh, great. I go to so many parties that are equal R + D staffers. I've seen members shit on each other on the house floor, then be laughing and joking in the Cloakroom 5 minutes later.

So much of what we do is theater.

lilkhobs7 karma

What has been the strangest part of your job? How have you handled working for different campaigns?

somehillguy34 karma

Y'know it's funny how similar campaigns are. You picture these highly organized machines, backed by millions of dollars. Then you walk into a HQ and there's card tables and folding chairs, wires everywhere, empty pizza boxes and the floor smelling like a frat house. Every damn time.

Weird stuff? Being in some tiny county courthouse in the middle of the south, calling in returns, and having some local yahoo throwing shit at me because I represented a candidate he didn't like. The items were, a ball of paper, a pen, a hardwood inbox, and finally a stapler before he was escorted out.

chaz34513 karma

finally a stapler

A red Swingline? :-)

somehillguy10 karma


pipisapap6 karma

There have been a lot of questions about corruption, but I'm curious to know your opinion on the idea that lobbying is "legalized corruption/bribery." I feel like that idea gets thrown around a lot, and as an outsider looking in, it does appear to me that there is SOME truth to the idea. But obviously I have no actual idea. What are your thoughts?

somehillguy29 karma

I don't. And believe me every instinct I have doing this AMA is to talk about how lobbying is the worst thing ever and damn them all to hell.

In reality, those guys pay to go to fundraisers, listen to Members, and then tell them if a bill will impact their business. If a bill would mean 10k lost jobs in a district, and the lobbyist didn't report that to the member, that'd be a problem.

It's a very regulated industry and regulations have only got more strict. There used to be the good old days of 22 year old staffers going to parties that gave out Kobe steak and shucked oysters right in front of you. Now you can get fired if a lobbyist buys you a $5 burger :(

When lobbyists break the law, like Jack Abramoff, they are prosecuted and thrown in jail. And that is as it should be. Most though are former hill staffers who know the rules and don't do anything stupid -- likely because they know they'd be reported.

elmarko446 karma

Where can a concerned citizen go to get, to use your term, non-"theatrical" news and information? If I want to avoid the "opiate of the asses", where should I get my news? I currently get most of my news from NPR.

somehillguy3 karma

NPR's pretty good, I think. Business journals are "just the facts" because they deal in statistics and numbers, not opinion. CQ and National Journal cater to the Hill and pretty straight reported.

Radeon36 karma

Hey and thanks for doing this! How does somebody work their way into a high level position such as yours? What experience does somebody like you need to have?

Also, what happens to you after the election?

somehillguy10 karma

Lots and lots of work. Military experience is also highly valued and respected, but not until you're out of service -- obviously. You have to really do your time in the mud. One year I shelled out $700 of my own money to travel West and volunteer for a week on a campaign. It takes dedication, but that's the good news! Dedication and commitment are great equalizers :)

sendakattack5 karma

I worked in local politics for 4 years, and got out because it was too much of a boys club. It's not that I couldn't do my job, it's that it wore on me so much that it was no longer a job I enjoyed doing. (It also didn't help that I am young and everyone else was 50+)

What's it going to take to make politics more female-friendly: thick-skinned ladies who are really that passionate for politics, old men/old logic finally dying, overt gender policies, male champions of the cause (those handing out appointment letters based on diversity do not count)?

What are your thoughts?

somehillguy2 karma

Really? My experience is the opposite. My buddy is an african american, gay, army veteran. Went to Ranger School. I was like man, you fill three quotas -- you're a freaking gold mine!

Everyone wants more women -- they've gotten very central to both parties' messaging these days.

VeggieLomein5 karma

How accurate do you find the Julianne Moore TV movie "Game Change" about the 2008 Palin/McCain campaign? One of the best quotes in regards to that movie was, "the movie represented not Sarah Palin or the Republican party, but our political landscape."

somehillguy9 karma

Mark Halperin is very well respected and so is his reporting. I have friends who staffed McCain campaign and said the structure of the story was right, most of the dialogue was very fictionalized.

Jfain1895 karma

Any chance of the US legalizing marijuana anytime soon? if not soon how long do you think it will take?

somehillguy5 karma

US? Not for decades. Individual states? Watch the dominoes fall...

OrangeHaze245 karma

Do you think memes will be essential for the attention of young people throughout the near future? Do you know of any voting memes i can look at?

somehillguy7 karma

Yes. Or some variation. Social media ads should be more important than TV ads by the next election. It was close in 2014.

meowsif_stalin4 karma

Just wanted to thank you for doing this AMA. I know the internet can get a little heated when it comes to politics. What do you see as some of the major issues that will be up for debate for this election?

somehillguy10 karma

you're welcome! There's a golden rule amongst many long-time political guys. That is, politics and religion invoke really strong feelings in people. So whenever it comes up in casual conversation, I change the subject. Some people can be polite when they talk politics, but most can't and it's not worth losing a friend or a colleague over :/

somehillguy5 karma

size of government and role of government is the big one. Republicans want it smaller. Dems want it larger. That is what's dominating all other issue areas.

chazmacq4 karma

Hi there thanks for doing this. Due to our recent referendum I've become more aware of politics and politicking and although there are differences between uk and us politics as a whole both electorates are presented with only two options (democrat republicans in us labour and conservative in uk ). Both described as left or right why do you think this is ? Appreciate that its an awkward question but one that has puzzled me as it seems to be polemic and more traditional rather than a progressive state.

somehillguy8 karma

well the big one, obviously, is the parliamentary system. But I don't know much about the UK's system of government so I can't give you a great answer, sorry :/

kupiakos4 karma

What do you think of alternative voting systems like STV, Alternative Vote, and Mixed-Member Proportional Vote?

somehillguy5 karma

well I grew up in the current system. So my experience, the tactics I know, the messaging I know, the rules I know... they're all tied up in what we have now.

I'm not opposed to change in the slightest. But I'll just say that if you want to change something that radically, you need a really good reason to do it. People prefer things that are familiar to them, so it takes a hell of an effort to change rigid structures -- esp ones built by government.

bogedy4 karma

Republicans control the senate. What does this mean for the future? They don't have override numbers, so what will they end up passing? Are abortion laws going to be a part of that?

somehillguy34 karma

traditionally, US govt is at its best when power is divided between Congress and the Executive.

It means Pres Obama won't be able to pass whatever he pleases. It means GOP Congress can't pass whatever they please. So they compromise, or do nothing. Clinton comprised. 90s were a pretty good decade. Though Clinton was also an exceptional politician.

Wriiight5 karma

Want to comment on Obama? He's no Clinton, I take it.

somehillguy14 karma

You know who hates Obama the most? Democratic Hill staffers. Just read some of the shit they've said about him in the press, ouch.

You shouldn't do that when you're the party in power. Circular firing squads are the quickest way to lose power in DC.

tama_chan4 karma

Attack ads

Do candidates do anything to quell sucks ads? Some of them have become childish and I have not voted for the candidate they support because of it.

Can't there be a cleaner way to campaign?

somehillguy11 karma

I hate attack ads. One of the reasons I think Gillespie surprised everyone in Virginia was that the only ones he ran tied Warner, who is really popular, to Obama. The rest was very upbeat, very optimistic.

I'd run zero attack ads if I could. They're nothing more than sewing circle gossip and it's no way to form an opinion about a candidate.

twitchy_cat4 karma

What effect do you see the Republican control of Congress having on the ACA?

somehillguy20 karma

well Obama still has a veto. My best guess -- they vote in both chambers to repeal ACA, Obama vetoes, then they take it apart piece by piece -- starting with the funding.

jiml783 karma

So where do you see the ACA in 4 years?

somehillguy12 karma

Either heavily modified or repealed. First thing a Republican president would do is repeal. But they'd have to hold the Senate in 2016 to do it.

Lord_Galahad4 karma

In your opinion, what is the largest hurdle that someone like Gary Johnson has in front of him as far as being elected President in 2016 or 2020?

somehillguy30 karma

Gary Johnson's biggest hurdle to being elected is the fact that he's Gary Johnson.

Believe me, I've met the guy. You don't want him running a Dairy Queen.

JungeeFC4 karma

These days, seems like everyone has a political view and a political show to back themselves and their arguments. What's your opinion on The Daily Show and Colbert Report?

somehillguy10 karma

I'm very scared of them. Because, from social media, I am told they are destroyers. And merciless.

I mean, how else do you describe the dozen Facebook headlines a day like "Jon Stewart DESTROYS Obama's foreign policy" or "Stephen Colbert ANNIHILATES John Boehner's tax law?"

Jackmack654 karma

Serious question: do you ever hear members discussing the possibility of violent revolution? It seems to me that we are 50 to 70 years or more away from it, but it also seems inevitable given our current course. Does anyone ever talk about this in an even half-serious way?

Captain_Whale11 karma

Why would there ever be a violent revolution here? Life is good. I have a big roof over my head and plenty of food to eat. Not to mention my nice car and big TV.

somehillguy14 karma

yeah this guy's response

Lifes6N7s4 karma

How exactly (in ELI5 terms) does someone like the Koch brothers affect the influence of politics?

I saw your comment about paying 10,000 a plate. Could you slightly elaborate?

somehillguy15 karma

Kochs are a slightly different creature because they built a political machine around their donors. So they go in, vet a candidate before they support, and if they do, they will run ads, do mailers, anything to help get out conservative/GOP voters.

Both parties do it, so I don't really see it as a problem. One kind of cancels out the other. In fact Democrats dwarf Republicans in terms of Super PAC donors -- the difference is, Democrats take the money and then accuse Republicans of... taking their money.

Man like I said early, we're comfortable with hypocirsy in this game. It's all about getting people to believe what we want them to believe. High on theater, low on civics.

It's worn on me a little. I can't wait to be able to afford a little plot of land somewhere, where I can live the rest of my life in peace and away from the hateful mudslinging of politics. It's a dirty business, this.

Red_0ctober_3 karma

If you're still answering questions, what's the general atmosphere surrounding the net neutrality issue? I know some members of congress have been trying to come up with a way to get around the FCC, is there anything going on there still?

somehillguy5 karma

confusion, mostly

lolexecs3 karma

A lot of people have put out election post-mortems that seem to indicate that voter preferences have changed.

However, given that the folks that "showed up" in 2014 are different from 2012 and 2010, how much of the preference change is real and how much of it is simply sampling bias?

somehillguy10 karma

good q -- I've read so much blathering shit about 2014. "What does this mean for Hillary, what does this mean for Republicans! This is a new ballgame! Reps/Dems are losing/gaining influence with XXX minority group!"

It was an off-year election that historically favors the opposition party, with a President in the sub 40% approval and a bunch of Democrats who stayed home. It ain't rocket science.

TanCarpet3 karma

What are your thoughts on Bobby Rush and his free rent? Is some FBI guy getting a promotion right now?

somehillguy5 karma

hmm don't know him?

sunsethacker3 karma

Why are Roberts/Brownback re-elected when the state is a shit hole?

somehillguy11 karma

Cook's Partisan Voting Index has Kansas at R+20. Don't need to be smart enough to split the atom to figure that one out.

sixspeedtibby3 karma

best way to get a liveable wage in politics?

I volunteered with staffers from Elizabeth Esty and DNCC staffers this past cycle, and they all get paid like shit. Their work was fun and the atmosphere is too, but i'd be homeless if i had to live on their salary.

any back doors? i have management experience in retail business if that makes it easier to find me a spot to land.

somehillguy6 karma

I'll be blunt. Plan on sleeping on a lot of couches for a few years.

Rufiox24x3 karma

What advice would you give someone who wants to get involved in state politics?

somehillguy9 karma

  1. Build a base of support. Key clubs, Kiwanis, Churches.
  2. Find donors.
  3. Target the right seat in the right area.
  4. Find more donors.

chazmacq3 karma

Thanks for answering anyways. In your years in politics what would you say has been the greatest missed opportunity? (Law passed that shouldn't have one that should but didn't for example)

somehillguy4 karma

I worked on a campaign that lost, later found out it would have led to my dream job.

TKardinal3 karma

I have heard that, in order to get your Congressperson to actually pay attention to you, the more effort you put into the communication, the more it matters. So visits count more than letters count more than phone calls count more than emails. Any truth to that? What is the most effective way to influence our Congresspeople?

And will pressuring our Congressperson about Net Neutrality actually have any impact given that the FCC is an independent agency?

somehillguy5 karma

I think net neutrality's biggest hurdle is that people don't know anything about it.

nm4423 karma

There's a lot of "promises" made by political candidates, but it is so common place to see the not kept. Is there a lot of strong arming or blackmail that deters a candidate once elected?

somehillguy5 karma

I've advised not to make promises unless they can absolutely be executed on. Especially if you're a Congressman and face the voters every two years.

VentureIndustries3 karma

I love your vibe in this AMA: blunt and snarky, but not overly cynical. The system simply marches on :)

Here's a question: what does it say about the American electorate when large numbers of the conservative party are voted into a congressional majority, but those same constituents also surprisingly voted for largely "liberal" policies (recreational marihuana, higher minimum wages, looser abortion laws, etc) as well?

Do you think the Republicans in congress are going to finally become more moderate?

somehillguy7 karma

I think the population is moderate. Most people don't hoot and holler about politics. But we tend to only hear the screamers

epgenius3 karma

I'm looking to eventually run for political office. Would you recommend becoming a staffer, or working within the upper echelon of a Presidential or Congressional campaign, to gain insight into the ins and outs of campaigning, or do you think time can be better spent elsewhere? I'm currently a 2L in law school but am increasingly convinced that I don't want to practice law at all. Thank you!

somehillguy6 karma

YES. Learn what's involved first. And try running for a smaller seat before going whole hog with a Congressional seat. Get a good rolodex of donors, too.

somehillguy3 karma

Yeah gotta figure out how the wheels turn before jumping in the drivers seat. You should make that a long term goal and maybe start with a state office after staffing for a few years.

sdfghs3 karma

How influent are lobbyist in politics? And how does a lobbyist works

somehillguy15 karma

A lobbyist represents a business to government in the same way a lawyer represents a client in court.

My experience with lobbyists is this. They come in, talk about their issue, talk about why it is beneficial. I listen. If it's not in our district's best interest, I tell them that politely and they thank me and leave.

I've never had a lobbyist threaten me or threaten to pull funding. Take a look at the most liberal members of Congress -- you will see a spattering of defense industry donations. That's because lobbyists pay to listen. Not just to people that back their industry, like say Armed Services Committee members, but also to the people that attack their interests.

It's not popular to say on Reddit, but my experience with lobbyists have been that they have two ears and one mouth. They're also a very valuable intelligence asset for staffers, because they talk to both republicans and democrats.

ReverandDave3 karma

I saw this in another response:

Money is what separates a serious candidate from an unserious one -- that applies to both parties.

So what do you think should be done to address the fact that Money = Election success vs qualified competent candidate = Election success?

somehillguy1 karma

Nothing. Money's always made campaigns tick. Money gets voters to the polls, especially new and inconsistent voters. I just don't think it's that big of an issue -- though I've said in this AMA that the easy thing for me to do would be to say it's the worst ever and damn money in politics to hell.

Brrbank553 karma

It makes no sense to me that the GOP swept last week, despite Obama's record on shrinking the deficit, unemployment dropping, and the Dow skyrocketing. Does everyone on the Hill think the electorate are idiots? Surely the Republicans know that they continue to be the party of the wealthy and that the middle class voters who elect them aren't aware of that. Are there a lot of knowing looks and quiet snickers? Or are they drinking their own Kool-Aid?

somehillguy79 karma

Ok -- breath deep.

Here's how I look at a question like this. You are someone who has opinions. What you wrote here is opinion. You want your issues represented, and I get that.

But a lot of this stuff is what we jokingly call the "opiate of the asses." It's the stuff political pros like me feed to well meaning people like you who care about the country and where it goes. Politics is dirty, what can I say?

So when you say something like "Koch brothers" or "party of the wealthy," I kind of rub my hands evilly together because you're regurgitating everything I have painstakingly fed to the dumb young twenty-somethings who populate the world of political reporting and blogging.

Politics is theater. And that's why I'm trying to do with this AMA. Get past the talking points and the silly things we feed to people, and get down to the mechanics of it. The shit that makes the government and politicians tick.

Now I hope I wasn't too harsh on you, because believe me -- I've been where you are and I've believed a lot of this stuff.

The reason Republicans won? It's not rocket science and it's not a conspiracy. The incumbent's party historically gets its assed kicked in the final mid-term before the lame duck. Pres Obama has 40% approval rating. This has happened many times before, to Republicans and Democrats. That's really all there was to 2014 -- historical gravity.

ragingpandaberr3 karma

I love this answer, but I want to know a bit more about this:

Get past the talking points and the silly things we feed to people, and get down to the mechanics of it. The shit that makes the government and politicians tick.

Do you have any opinions of what changes (if any, depending on how much you like our system) can be had to improve the political climate and effectiveness of government? I don't know your affiliation, but there is a seemingly overwhelming amount of polarization that is creating gridlock in a fashion that is becoming purely theater - as opposed to theater to get elected, then go get things done. I believe the amount of theater we have witnessed is harming us within the country as well as globally in terms of our legitimacy and to some extent, influence.

somehillguy3 karma

Yes. Great question. Stop reading blogs. They're selling you something. Stop reading Fox. They exist to scare old people for ratings.

Find good, non-partisan sources to get your news from. You know the gold mine for those? Business rags. Businessmen don't give a hunk of shit about political opinions -- they care about their bottom lines. They want to know the ins and outs of legislation, and business journals report those impeccably (ok, maybe not impeccably -- but pretty damn good).

Best reporters I ever worked with? WSJ and Bloomberg.

MONT4N43 karma

Can you describe legislation which you think would be good for the country if only it could be legally enacted, but which is unconstitutional?

somehillguy13 karma

Anyone who uses the phrase "we need a democracy of ideas" would be immediately sent to a prison camp

Spiker84203 karma

As a twenty-one year old college student who's interested in politics but still understands very little of it, what sources can I turn to that will be less biased than the popular media?

ps. great AMA. It's been very insightful

somehillguy8 karma

Business journals. They report facts because business leaders care about numbers, not politics. Also National Journal and CQ track The Hill specific and cater to Hill staffers. Those are pretty even.

Stay the hell away from blogs, Fox, MSNBC, talk radio. Those people want you to be angry, not informed.

KCfan62 karma

Why should I not hate you?

somehillguy23 karma

I read a really interesting study recently, that showed that people rarely discriminate on basis of sex/race/religion/preference these days -- but discriminating on basis of political beliefs is incredibly common. Like a Republican would not hire a Democrat, that sort of stuff.

So it depends. Personally I'm against hating anyone unless you have a really good reason.

mastermind6252 karma

My dream is to work behind the scenes in politics. How did you get where you are now? What advice do you have for someone who wants to be where you are?

somehillguy3 karma

I'm in a job that's not on the Hill, but deals with the Hill :) Not lobbying, you guys can relax :)

You have to work hard, work your ass off actually. You have to intern in an office for no pay. You have to go to every happy hour and every event you can. You have meet as many people as you can. Believe it or not, elbow grease really does count in this business.

fruit_salad6662 karma

Any advice for someone considering a major in political science?

somehillguy10 karma

As a political science major, yes. Go study history instead. Far more relevant in politics.

top_procrastinator3 karma

Could you give some examples of how a history degree directly applies to a career in politics?

somehillguy5 karma

Understanding politics is understanding historical gravity. Real political pros have a long view of the rise and fall of power in this country. They understand that dynamic and harness it.

My history minor did far more for me than my political science major.