michael August 8th, 2008
Ella Hoffman, a former POGO intern and current member of the press team for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, spoke on August 8th at POGO’s intern brown bag lunch, providing unique insight into how House committees function.
Ms. Hoffman works to ensure that Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearings receive the press coverage that is essential to the committee”s mission to, as she put it, “shine a light” on problems involving the federal government. Some hearings, such as the high profile investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball, receive massive media attention because of their subject and do not require much work from the press team. Other dry-sounding topics, however, can necessitate concerted efforts by the staff to draw media attention. For one hearing with a rather dowdy and technical-sounding title, the staff managed to get news coverage by inviting Dennis Quaid to testify.
Ms. Hoffman also discussed the extraordinary efforts that go into organizing a hearing. The staff first need to find suitable topics to investigate, which can come from headlines, whistleblower complaints to the committee’s hotline, or even the staff’s personal hunches. Once a topic has been chosen for further investigation, staff members consult experts and subpoena thousands of pages of documents. The staff then has a relatively short period of time to organize the hearing, find witnesses to testify, and coordinate press coverage; final preparations are sometimes finished just moments before a hearing starts.
— John Cappel
Click below to see pictures from the lunch.