pam July 9th, 2010
At the end of June, POGO handed out graduation certificates to 13 congressional staffers for attending at least five seminars in our Congressional Oversight Training Series (COTS). The Series is going to take a summer vacation, and also lay low during the election season. But, we may schedule another seminar before the end of the year.
We thought it would be fun to learn what kind of impact COTS has on staffers. One investigator, who works in a Republican office, volunteered to answer some of our questions.
1. What was the most valuable thing you learned at COTS?
I can’t point my finger to a single critical issue. I think it was mostly just listening to other people explain how they worked through an investigation. It helps you understand the process.
2. Who else do you think would benefit from attending a COTS session?
I think that any journalist or Hill person would be helped, especially some Members of Congress who don’t understand how to go about doing oversight.
3. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in congressional oversight?
Be very careful about your work. There are a ton of interested parties who would like to saw off the branch you are venturing onto.
4. What makes your job interesting?
Getting to figure out a puzzle, uncovering a mystery. And going after the bad guys.
5. What drew you to oversight?
Journalism is dead. It’s all bloggers patting each other on the backs for saying something clever. I wanted to do something that moved the needle, and this is what is available that you can’t get in journalism.
6. What changes (cultural or structural) would you like to see occur over the next few years in oversight?
There needs to be more appreciation and resources developed to oversight from members. Getting a bill out of committee with your name on it is a lot less important than making an agency or area of the private sector alter their behavior.
POGO continues to distribute copies of its oversight handbook, The Art of Congressional Oversight: A User’s Guide to Doing It Right, to congressional staff. If you are a staffer who hasn’t yet received a copy, we would like to offer you a copy. If you send an email to email@example.com we’ll arrange for a delivery.
— Ingrid Drake and Janet Su