Monday, January 11, 2010

Congressional Staff: Your Key to Congress

Calling all policy wonks! In 2009, we blogged about online sources for tracking legislation, where to find your members of Congress on Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking havens, and how to access campaign finance and lobbying data. Today we suggest sources for locating the unsung heroes of Capitol Hill – congressional staffers and legislative aides. Whether you’re angling for a job in your favorite representative’s office, or you’re hoping to meet with your senator to make an impassioned appeal for your pet issue, cultivating a personal relationship with a congressional staffer can make the difference between getting face time with the legislator…or getting no response at all.

The Duke University community has access to two major sources for congressional staff data: CQ’s Congressional Staff Directory (current year available also at Law Library Reference JK1012 .C62) and the Congressional Yellow Book (available to Duke University students, faculty and staff through the Leadership Library on the Internet, with password from the Law Library’s reference desk). Both sources list names and contact information (phone numbers and email) for congressional staff, in D.C. as well as at any local offices. CQ’s Congressional Staff Directory includes only data about the staffer’s current position, while the Yellow Book also offers a useful “career history” backgrounder listing previous positions of congressional staff. Each online source is searchable by name of the legislator or name of the staff member; there are also options to browse biographies by state or search by issue/keyword.

Do any free Internet sources stack up to CQ and the Yellow Book? The Government Printing Office’s official Congressional Directory includes contact information for “key staff” (chief of staff, press secretary, legislative director), but is not updated as regularly as CQ or the Yellow Book. Legistorm is another free Internet source which may provide staff names, but no contact information (it is designed to provide transparent information about congressional staff salaries).

Need a crash course in the terminology of congressional staff before you reach out to the wrong person? Check out’s Advocacy 101 outline of common congressional staff positions and duties. Now you’re ready to make contact!