What makes Congress Tick?

Capitol Hill is a goldmine for Washington reporters because it’s one of the few remaining government buildings where journalists can roam freely.

In November , journalists in NPF’s Paul Miller program toured the Capitol to learn the best places to stake out lawmakers. They got briefings from top officials in the media galleries: John Mulligan in the Senate Press Gallery, Justin Supon in the House Press Gallery, and Olga Ramirez Kornacki in the Radio-TV Gallery. All have backgrounds in the news business, and offered tips for reporting on Congress.

Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for USA Today, described how Congress works and some of the arcane rules that dominate the Capitol inthis video. He listed a number of avenues for reporters to dig into documents and produce exclusive stories, including lawmakers’ personal financial disclosures and their office spending disbursement reports. For example, Republican Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois was forced to resign after journalists used these reports to dig up lavish spending on office décor and questionable requests for mileage reimbursement.

Michael Palaschak, director of business development and customer relations at LegiStorm, showed reporters how to track the “revolving door” of staffers who leave the Hill and move into lobbying. Reporters can track congressional travel expenses, congressional tweets and news releases, congressional town hall meetings, and more. As an example, Palaschak said LegiStorm analyzed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ staff by gender after Hillary Clinton accused him of being sexist. Sanders’ staff from 2000-2015 turned out to be 55 percent male, 45 percent female, which Palaschak said tracks the congressional average.

Three journalists offered their best practices for covering Congress: Jonathan Tamari of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Shawn Zeller of CQ Roll Call, and Tracie Mauriello of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. As Mauriello said, the congressional media credential gets you into almost every corner of the Capitol.

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