Hill Staffers Look for Next Paycheck

"Did your boss retire ... or lose ... or are you just looking for a change? We can help!!"

That's the banner on the "New Members" section of the classifieds on Hillzoo.com, a popular Web site for Hill staffers checking out the best happy hours in town, political organizations to join and apartments for rent.

It's now also a top source for Hillites seeking jobs after being uprooted following November's election.

As out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new transitions take place in Congress, Hill staffers are looking for the source of their next paycheck and are counting on an age-old tradition of renewal and replacement.

It's called the "staffer shuffle"; staffers with congressional bosses who are retiring, lost the November elections or, in some rare cases, have been shamed by the public and legal system, shop their resumes around Capitol Hill in hopes of finding new employment in the next Congress.

Senate Democratic staffers are in an extra bind this year since the party lost the majority and therefore all the committee chairmanships with their commensurate budgets. Democrats also lost seats in the House, where Republicans will keep their reign over chairmanships there.

The Democratic leadership is hoping to help out their wayward aides by providing freshly unemployed staffers with the services of the Democratic Steering and Coordination Committee, which will sort through resumes and match them to prospective employers.

"I really want to encourage you all to post jobs there and help hire some of our displaced colleagues," an aide to outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle recently wrote to Democratic offices.

The House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also is informally passing around resumes to interested lawmakers.

"The new leadership has been very good about setting up ways for new staffers to put things together," said a DCCC spokeswoman.

As new House members filed onto Capitol Hill for their freshman orientation, the House Administration Committee, led by Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, provided rooms where lawmakers could interview potential staffers. A resume distribution service also was provided.

But while nearly jobless Hill staffers compete for the same positions that many of their colleagues are hoping to snare, they are additionally challenged by the fact that lawmakers won't know their committee assignments until January, and so are holding off hiring a legislative staff.

Some Democratic staffers are also concerned about their futures after learning that incoming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may or may not honor promises made by outgoing leader Rep. Dick Gephardt to various lawmakers for committee assignments.

Of course, not everyone is looking to stay put.

Rep. Jim Traficant's staff has already left the Hill. The Ohio Democrat is in federal prison in Pennsylvania after being convicted of racketeering charges in April. He ran a campaign as an independent from his cell, but lost the seat. The phones in his Hill office have been disconnected and his Web site is no longer online.

Then there's the staff of Rep. Gary Condit, the California Democrat who lost his party's primary to keep his House seat after the Chandra Levy scandal in which he was intimately tied to the 24-year-old woman who disappeared in May 2001 and whose body was found a year later. No one from Condit's staff would comment on their political future.

Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., is leaving the Hill after 48 years in the chamber, and some of his staffers have been with him for decades.

Thurmond's chief of staff, Duke Short, who joined the Thurmond team in 1974, plans to retire, maybe do some consulting and write a book of vignettes on his career with a South Carolina historical figure.

But despite Short's plans, Thurmond had a sizeable staff.

"Other than [Short], the rest of us are passing out resumes, looking for jobs," said Thurmond spokeswoman Becky Fleming.

Meanwhile, incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was expected to ask the chamber to elect Susan Wooten Wells as the new secretary of the Senate and Robert Maxwell as the new Senate sergeant at arms, and was to propose David Schiappa as the secretary for the majority.

Lott, who is embattled over recent comments indicating support for past segregation policies, is facing calls for him to resign his leadership post, making their futures a bit more uncertain.