Frank Larkin is the new United States Senate Sergeant at Arms.National Journal

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Frank Larkin

Frank Larkin (Chet Susslin)The Senate's new sergeant at arms is learning how to keep the people's house open — but also safe.

Many of Frank Larkin's friends found themselves doing a double-take on the evening of Jan. 20: Was their buddy really the guy escorting President Obama up the aisle of the House chamber, through all the applause and outstretched hands, to the podium where he'd deliver his State of the Union address? Sure enough. Larkin had been the Senate's sergeant at arms for only three weeks when that position's most visible duty of the year arrived. He hadn't had time to call everybody with the good news.

Television viewers also might have seen Larkin lead the Senate procession through Statuary Hall to the House chamber before the president's arrival. What they didn't see were the complicated security plans that Larkin had to coordinate with the House sergeant at arms, the U.S. Capitol Police, and the Secret Service; after all, the State of the Union is the only occasion where senior leaders from all three branches of government (minus a few Supreme Court justices and one Cabinet member) are together under one roof. "It's not a trivial event when you consider that," Larkin says. "Behind the scenes, it's really about the security and having contingency plans, should we have to exercise them, available at a split-second's notice."

Larkin knows what a national security disaster looks like. On September 11, 2001, he was working at the Secret Service's New York City headquarters in the World Trade Center and had just returned from a run when the first plane hit. Larkin sprinted into the North Tower, the first to be struck, as people were running out, and rescued as many people as he could; it wasn't until midnight that he realized both towers had collapsed. "When you witness almost 3,000 people almost instantly perish — that really was another threshold event that, if anything, created a level of commitment for me to contribute to this nation so that doesn't happen again," Larkin says. "So when I was asked to be the Senate sergeant at arms, to me it was another opportunity to protect a vital institution for this nation any way that I can."

The 59-year-old Philadelphia native began his public service as a Navy SEAL; since then, he's worked as a homicide detective, a state trooper flight paramedic, and a Secret Service agent; he also did a stint as acting director of the Defense Department's task force on eliminating improvised explosive devices. Larkin had been experiencing "a different side of life" in the private sector, lending his expertise to defense contractor Lockheed Martin, when an email popped up from newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office, asking him to call at his earliest convenience. Larkin soon knew the job was for him. "I have been a public servant since day one," he says. "That's where my heart is."

Historically, one of the sergeant at arms' chief responsibilities was to herd senators onto the floor for votes. Technology and Senate staffers have largely taken over those duties, but the other challenges of Larkin's job have multiplied over the decades. Along with the House sergeant at arms and the Architect of the Capitol, he oversees the Capitol Police. From his sprawling Capitol office overlooking the Washington Monument, Larkin also manages the Senate's largest staff and budget — yes, even larger than McConnell's — and keeps the technology humming, offices furnished, and supply closets full. His ceremonial duties include being the keeper of the Senate's ivory gavel, a gift from the government of India in 1954, which Larkin (or a deputy) carries in and out at the opening and closing of each day's business.

Keeping the Senate chamber secure is Larkin's No. 1 job, however — and he certainly has the powers to ensure it. As chief law-enforcement officer of the Senate, Larkin is the only person in the United States with the authority to arrest even a sitting president — if, that is, the president ventured into the Senate chamber and disobeyed the rules of the body. (He doesn't foresee that happening anytime soon.)

As sergeant at arms, Larkin has to tread a fine line between maintaining the openness of Congress and having appropriate levels of security for its members. "This is the people's house," he says, "and there's a need for the people to see their members and the members to see their people and have contact." But there have to be limits — which, at this point, he's still navigating. "Sometimes you make decisions that may not be popular," Larkin says, "but they may be in the best interest of maintaining that level of security and safety."

— Laura Ryan

Frank Larkin

Frank Larkin (Chet Susslin)The Senate's new sergeant at arms is learning how to keep the people's house open — but also safe.

Many of Frank Larkin's friends found themselves doing a double-take on the evening of Jan. 20: Was their buddy really the guy escorting President Obama up the aisle of the House chamber, through all the applause and outstretched hands, to the podium where he'd deliver his State of the Union address? Sure enough. Larkin had been the Senate's sergeant at arms for only three weeks when that position's most visible duty of the year arrived. He hadn't had time to call everybody with the good news.

Television viewers also might have seen Larkin lead the Senate procession through Statuary Hall to the House chamber before the president's arrival. What they didn't see were the complicated security plans that Larkin had to coordinate with the House sergeant at arms, the U.S. Capitol Police, and the Secret Service; after all, the State of the Union is the only occasion where senior leaders from all three branches of government (minus a few Supreme Court justices and one Cabinet member) are together under one roof. "It's not a trivial event when you consider that," Larkin says. "Behind the scenes, it's really about the security and having contingency plans, should we have to exercise them, available at a split-second's notice."

Larkin knows what a national security disaster looks like. On September 11, 2001, he was working at the Secret Service's New York City headquarters in the World Trade Center and had just returned from a run when the first plane hit. Larkin sprinted into the North Tower, the first to be struck, as people were running out, and rescued as many people as he could; it wasn't until midnight that he realized both towers had collapsed. "When you witness almost 3,000 people almost instantly perish — that really was another threshold event that, if anything, created a level of commitment for me to contribute to this nation so that doesn't happen again," Larkin says. "So when I was asked to be the Senate sergeant at arms, to me it was another opportunity to protect a vital institution for this nation any way that I can."

The 59-year-old Philadelphia native began his public service as a Navy SEAL; since then, he's worked as a homicide detective, a state trooper flight paramedic, and a Secret Service agent; he also did a stint as acting director of the Defense Department's task force on eliminating improvised explosive devices. Larkin had been experiencing "a different side of life" in the private sector, lending his expertise to defense contractor Lockheed Martin, when an email popped up from newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office, asking him to call at his earliest convenience. Larkin soon knew the job was for him. "I have been a public servant since day one," he says. "That's where my heart is."

Historically, one of the sergeant at arms' chief responsibilities was to herd senators onto the floor for votes. Technology and Senate staffers have largely taken over those duties, but the other challenges of Larkin's job have multiplied over the decades. Along with the House sergeant at arms and the Architect of the Capitol, he oversees the Capitol Police. From his sprawling Capitol office overlooking the Washington Monument, Larkin also manages the Senate's largest staff and budget — yes, even larger than McConnell's — and keeps the technology humming, offices furnished, and supply closets full. His ceremonial duties include being the keeper of the Senate's ivory gavel, a gift from the government of India in 1954, which Larkin (or a deputy) carries in and out at the opening and closing of each day's business.

Keeping the Senate chamber secure is Larkin's No. 1 job, however — and he certainly has the powers to ensure it. As chief law-enforcement officer of the Senate, Larkin is the only person in the United States with the authority to arrest even a sitting president — if, that is, the president ventured into the Senate chamber and disobeyed the rules of the body. (He doesn't foresee that happening anytime soon.)

As sergeant at arms, Larkin has to tread a fine line between maintaining the openness of Congress and having appropriate levels of security for its members. "This is the people's house," he says, "and there's a need for the people to see their members and the members to see their people and have contact." But there have to be limits — which, at this point, he's still navigating. "Sometimes you make decisions that may not be popular," Larkin says, "but they may be in the best interest of maintaining that level of security and safety."

— Laura Ryan

Mark Lagon

Mark Lagon (Chet Susslin)Freedom House's new president looks to shine a light on the world's "forgotten" human-rights abusers.

Mark Lagon, the new president of the human-rights watchdog Freedom House, enjoys making connections between his hobbies and his work, and as we chat in his downtown office he quickly finds his way to Captain Kirk. In the original Star Trek, he says, the "prime directive" was to not interfere in the internal affairs of other planets. "This is important to U.S. foreign policy and, frankly, to Freedom House's work — that we need to be involved in promoting freedom and human rights, but it's their fight and it's not ours to take away their agency," he says.

Admittedly, that's not always an easy balance to strike, especially when one is confronted with abuses such as those that Lagon, now 49, saw in 2007. Back then, he was an ambassador-at-large and the head of the State Department's human-trafficking office — an office he had helped write the legislation to create as a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During his tenure, he recalls, he was introduced to a Nepalese guest worker in Kuwait who still bore scars from having been beaten with an iron by her employer. He had been working on human-trafficking issues before then, but the direct contact with survivors — and those who were fighting such abuses — inspired him. "Not only did I meet survivors of human trafficking who transcended it, but all over the world I saw civil-society organizations fighting for people who were not given access to justice," says Lagon, who held the position until 2009, when he became the executive director of the nonprofit Polaris Project, which assists human-trafficking victims.

Although the fight against human trafficking has shaped much of the Concord, Mass., native's career, Lagon tells me he's ready for the broader reach of Freedom House, which uses research and advocacy to go after major human-rights abusers around the globe. The first paper Lagon promoted as head of the organization in January was called "The Forgotten Five: Autocratic Regimes That Avoid International Criticism," and that's in keeping with Lagon's plan to shine a light on abusers who normally escape scrutiny. The focus shouldn't just be on the usual suspects in the Middle East and Russia, he says, but also on U.S. allies and, sometimes, on the U.S. itself.

"It's very important for the United States to live its values," Lagon says, referring to the nation's detainee and drone policies. "We need to make sure that there's no excuse, like counterterrorism, that leads us to go soft on speaking truth to power with allies."

He also says he wants Freedom House to become a stronger leader in promoting women's rights and in going after China, whose model "suggests to the world that somehow you can grow economically while keeping a lid on civil society," Lagon says. You don't have to be Mr. Spock to realize that's illogical, he contends: "No country is going to be fully prosperous — or people have dignity — if there isn't political expression and innovation."

— Matt Vasilogambros

Andrea Bozek

Andrea Bozek is the new communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Chet Susslin)The NRSC's new communications chief will soon be training candidates and staffers to avoid " a Todd Akin moment."

When I catch up with her in mid-January, Andrea Bozek has barely had time to revel in the 2014 House victories she helped make possible as communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. After a quick vacation in St. Lucia, she's already thinking about 2016 — and her new gig, running communications for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and "making sure Republicans now maintain the Senate majority."

Over coffee at her new hangout — Ebenezers Coffeehouse, one block from NRSC headquarters — Bozek says the new job brings a fresh challenge, because Republicans will be playing "a little more defense this cycle." Bozek's party will be defending 24 Senate seats, seven of them in states that President Obama won twice. But the basics are the same: giving candidates and their staffers the tools to ace a debate, handle a tricky reporter, and control the campaign narrative. "Our top priority is making sure that our incumbents have the necessary messaging tools that they need to effectively communicate why they should be elected," Bozek explains. The flip side, she says, is equally important: "defining early and often" why Democratic opponents are "unacceptable."

For a 31-year-old, Bozek, a Buffalo native, brings hefty credentials to her new role — she worked on Sen. John McCain's presidential bid in 2007 and Chris Lee's successful congressional campaign in 2008, before rising to deputy communications director for the NRCC in 2012. In that post, she helped create a two-day boot camp for House candidates' communications directors and press secretaries. She taught more than 90 members of Congress and 100 staffers how to read polls, create media calendars, and avoid crippling mistakes. Apparently, it worked. "Knock on wood, we didn't have a Todd Akin moment," Bozek says, "and I think that was due in part to the trainings."

Bozek is bringing the boot-camp model to the NRSC — which will be crucial in 2016, as she expects the Republican presidential field to "suck up" many of the more seasoned operatives, leaving congressional candidates with less-experienced press hands. One key piece of advice she'll give them: "That old saying that you are only one quote away from getting fired." Learning to be tough without alienating the press is also crucial. "I like being attack dog, I like being forceful," Bozek says, "but I think there is a classy way to do it. "

Bozek hopes to travel widely to work hands-on with individual candidates and staffers in their states. Though she says some general rules always apply — when the candidate's in trouble, for instance, "make sure you get the whole truth and nothing but the truth [out] on day one, or else it will be a disaster" — no two candidates or campaigns are alike. "A campaign is like a chess game," she says. "It's challenging in the sense that you are always being tested, you are always having to think outside the box for a solution."

One of Bozek's specialties is helping train candidates for debates and interviews — in particular, "asking the tricky questions that maybe the press secretaries don't want to ask their bosses." Seeing the results can be the most rewarding part of her job, she says; watching one candidate she worked with closely in 2012 nail a debate "was sort of like being a proud parent watching my child on TV doing a great job."

— Laura Ryan

DEMOCRATIC SHOPS

Kate Hansen

Kate Hansen is the new vice president of communications for Global Strategy Group. (Chet Susslin)Global Strategy Group

In 2013, while working for Mark Zuckerberg's immigration-reform group, FWD.us, Kate Hansen helped organize what was called the "DREAMer Hackathon": For 24 hours at LinkedIn's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., 20 computer whizzes who were undocumented immigrants coded apps aimed at promoting immigration reform. Hansen, who recently left FWD.us to become vice president for communications at the Global Strategy Group, won't soon forget it. "If you work in D.C. long enough, you get a little jaded," she says. "You certainly know why you are doing it every day, but it's really meaningful to meet some of the people you want to get this done for." At 31, the Atlanta native may seem a bit young to be jaded, but she's already had quite a career, working on Hillary Clinton's 2008 advance team before joining the staffs of Rep. Patrick Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and the Democratic Governors Association. In her new post, she'll continue to work with FWD.us, along with other nonprofit clients.

— Laura Ryan

HILL PEOPLE

Jeff Shockey

Jeff Shockey is the new staff director for the House Intelligence Committee. (Chet Susslin)House Intelligence Committee

In the late 1980s, when he wandered into the district office of then-Rep. Jerry Lewis, Jeff Shockey had no idea what he was getting himself into. The Southern California native was only looking for the internship he needed to finish his master's degree at California State University (San Bernadino); instead, he found a career. By 1991, Shockey had become a staff assistant to Lewis and would rise to legislative director. He left for a lobbying job but returned in 2005 to work for Lewis, who was then chairing the powerful House Appropriations Committee. After leaving Capitol Hill again to form his own lobbying firm, Shockey Scofield Solutions, Shockey is back; this time he's working in the top-secret committee room of the House Intelligence Committee as staff director for its new chairman, Devin Nunes. After the turns he's taken through the revolving door, Shockey, 48, has some advice for young staffers: Volunteer for anything you can handle, and take advantage of every day you're on the Hill, because "you are getting experiences hard to replicate in the private sector."

— Laura Ryan

LOBBY SHOPS

Annette Guarisco Fildes

Annette Guarisco Fildes is the new CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee. (Chet Susslin)ERISA Industry Committee

Shortly after graduating from Hofstra University School of Law, Annette Guarisco Fildes was working at the IRS when her boss asked if anyone was interested in "fringe benefits." Thinking he was offering extra benefits (in the tax world, "fringe benefits" means compensation that goes beyond salary, such as stock options or company cars), she raised her hand — only to find out that she'd be writing tax regulations for fringe benefits. That turned into a three-decade career shaping corporate tax policies. "These issues are very complicated," she says, "and a lot of times you'll have the eyes glaze over when you try to explain something." Her specialty, she says, is explaining those issues in a way that gets lawmakers and industries ready to "roll up their sleeves." Fildes, a 56-year-old Brooklyn native, recently became CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee, which lobbies on employee-benefit issues on behalf of major companies.

— Laura Ryan

CONSULTING GAME

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is a new senior principal at the Podesta Group. (Chet Susslin)Podesta Group

Back in his days on Capitol Hill, Matt Johnson and his colleagues had a motto: "The politics are impossible, so you might as well get the policy right." After graduating from the Notre Dame Law School in 2005, the Houston native worked on technology and immigration issues for Sen. John Cornyn — and also helped the senator whip votes for the Senate Republican Conference. The combination of roles provided invaluable experience, he says: "You're at the intersection of conservative politics, leadership politics, and the rest of the caucus. You have to learn how to work with everyone. You aren't just in your little corner." After serving as the top Republican lawyer on the Senate Judiciary Committee's Immigration Subcommittee, Johnson converted that experience into a job working with IT clients at McBee Strategies. In December, he joined the Podesta Group as a principal; he'll focus mainly on technology policy.

— Matt Vasilogambros

Mark Lagon

Mark Lagon (Chet Susslin)Freedom House's new president looks to shine a light on the world's "forgotten" human-rights abusers.

Mark Lagon, the new president of the human-rights watchdog Freedom House, enjoys making connections between his hobbies and his work, and as we chat in his downtown office he quickly finds his way to Captain Kirk. In the original Star Trek, he says, the "prime directive" was to not interfere in the internal affairs of other planets. "This is important to U.S. foreign policy and, frankly, to Freedom House's work — that we need to be involved in promoting freedom and human rights, but it's their fight and it's not ours to take away their agency," he says.

Admittedly, that's not always an easy balance to strike, especially when one is confronted with abuses such as those that Lagon, now 49, saw in 2007. Back then, he was an ambassador-at-large and the head of the State Department's human-trafficking office — an office he had helped write the legislation to create as a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During his tenure, he recalls, he was introduced to a Nepalese guest worker in Kuwait who still bore scars from having been beaten with an iron by her employer. He had been working on human-trafficking issues before then, but the direct contact with survivors — and those who were fighting such abuses — inspired him. "Not only did I meet survivors of human trafficking who transcended it, but all over the world I saw civil-society organizations fighting for people who were not given access to justice," says Lagon, who held the position until 2009, when he became the executive director of the nonprofit Polaris Project, which assists human-trafficking victims.

Although the fight against human trafficking has shaped much of the Concord, Mass., native's career, Lagon tells me he's ready for the broader reach of Freedom House, which uses research and advocacy to go after major human-rights abusers around the globe. The first paper Lagon promoted as head of the organization in January was called "The Forgotten Five: Autocratic Regimes That Avoid International Criticism," and that's in keeping with Lagon's plan to shine a light on abusers who normally escape scrutiny. The focus shouldn't just be on the usual suspects in the Middle East and Russia, he says, but also on U.S. allies and, sometimes, on the U.S. itself.

"It's very important for the United States to live its values," Lagon says, referring to the nation's detainee and drone policies. "We need to make sure that there's no excuse, like counterterrorism, that leads us to go soft on speaking truth to power with allies."

He also says he wants Freedom House to become a stronger leader in promoting women's rights and in going after China, whose model "suggests to the world that somehow you can grow economically while keeping a lid on civil society," Lagon says. You don't have to be Mr. Spock to realize that's illogical, he contends: "No country is going to be fully prosperous — or people have dignity — if there isn't political expression and innovation."

— Matt Vasilogambros

Andrea Bozek

Andrea Bozek is the new communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Chet Susslin)The NRSC's new communications chief will soon be training candidates and staffers to avoid " a Todd Akin moment."

When I catch up with her in mid-January, Andrea Bozek has barely had time to revel in the 2014 House victories she helped make possible as communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. After a quick vacation in St. Lucia, she's already thinking about 2016 — and her new gig, running communications for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and "making sure Republicans now maintain the Senate majority."

Over coffee at her new hangout — Ebenezers Coffeehouse, one block from NRSC headquarters — Bozek says the new job brings a fresh challenge, because Republicans will be playing "a little more defense this cycle." Bozek's party will be defending 24 Senate seats, seven of them in states that President Obama won twice. But the basics are the same: giving candidates and their staffers the tools to ace a debate, handle a tricky reporter, and control the campaign narrative. "Our top priority is making sure that our incumbents have the necessary messaging tools that they need to effectively communicate why they should be elected," Bozek explains. The flip side, she says, is equally important: "defining early and often" why Democratic opponents are "unacceptable."

For a 31-year-old, Bozek, a Buffalo native, brings hefty credentials to her new role — she worked on Sen. John McCain's presidential bid in 2007 and Chris Lee's successful congressional campaign in 2008, before rising to deputy communications director for the NRCC in 2012. In that post, she helped create a two-day boot camp for House candidates' communications directors and press secretaries. She taught more than 90 members of Congress and 100 staffers how to read polls, create media calendars, and avoid crippling mistakes. Apparently, it worked. "Knock on wood, we didn't have a Todd Akin moment," Bozek says, "and I think that was due in part to the trainings."

Bozek is bringing the boot-camp model to the NRSC — which will be crucial in 2016, as she expects the Republican presidential field to "suck up" many of the more seasoned operatives, leaving congressional candidates with less-experienced press hands. One key piece of advice she'll give them: "That old saying that you are only one quote away from getting fired." Learning to be tough without alienating the press is also crucial. "I like being attack dog, I like being forceful," Bozek says, "but I think there is a classy way to do it. "

Bozek hopes to travel widely to work hands-on with individual candidates and staffers in their states. Though she says some general rules always apply — when the candidate's in trouble, for instance, "make sure you get the whole truth and nothing but the truth [out] on day one, or else it will be a disaster" — no two candidates or campaigns are alike. "A campaign is like a chess game," she says. "It's challenging in the sense that you are always being tested, you are always having to think outside the box for a solution."

One of Bozek's specialties is helping train candidates for debates and interviews — in particular, "asking the tricky questions that maybe the press secretaries don't want to ask their bosses." Seeing the results can be the most rewarding part of her job, she says; watching one candidate she worked with closely in 2012 nail a debate "was sort of like being a proud parent watching my child on TV doing a great job."

— Laura Ryan

DEMOCRATIC SHOPS

Kate Hansen

Kate Hansen is the new vice president of communications for Global Strategy Group. (Chet Susslin)Global Strategy Group

In 2013, while working for Mark Zuckerberg's immigration-reform group, FWD.us, Kate Hansen helped organize what was called the "DREAMer Hackathon": For 24 hours at LinkedIn's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., 20 computer whizzes who were undocumented immigrants coded apps aimed at promoting immigration reform. Hansen, who recently left FWD.us to become vice president for communications at the Global Strategy Group, won't soon forget it. "If you work in D.C. long enough, you get a little jaded," she says. "You certainly know why you are doing it every day, but it's really meaningful to meet some of the people you want to get this done for." At 31, the Atlanta native may seem a bit young to be jaded, but she's already had quite a career, working on Hillary Clinton's 2008 advance team before joining the staffs of Rep. Patrick Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and the Democratic Governors Association. In her new post, she'll continue to work with FWD.us, along with other nonprofit clients.

— Laura Ryan

HILL PEOPLE

Jeff Shockey

Jeff Shockey is the new staff director for the House Intelligence Committee. (Chet Susslin)House Intelligence Committee

In the late 1980s, when he wandered into the district office of then-Rep. Jerry Lewis, Jeff Shockey had no idea what he was getting himself into. The Southern California native was only looking for the internship he needed to finish his master's degree at California State University (San Bernadino); instead, he found a career. By 1991, Shockey had become a staff assistant to Lewis and would rise to legislative director. He left for a lobbying job but returned in 2005 to work for Lewis, who was then chairing the powerful House Appropriations Committee. After leaving Capitol Hill again to form his own lobbying firm, Shockey Scofield Solutions, Shockey is back; this time he's working in the top-secret committee room of the House Intelligence Committee as staff director for its new chairman, Devin Nunes. After the turns he's taken through the revolving door, Shockey, 48, has some advice for young staffers: Volunteer for anything you can handle, and take advantage of every day you're on the Hill, because "you are getting experiences hard to replicate in the private sector."

— Laura Ryan

LOBBY SHOPS

Annette Guarisco Fildes

Annette Guarisco Fildes is the new CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee. (Chet Susslin)ERISA Industry Committee

Shortly after graduating from Hofstra University School of Law, Annette Guarisco Fildes was working at the IRS when her boss asked if anyone was interested in "fringe benefits." Thinking he was offering extra benefits (in the tax world, "fringe benefits" means compensation that goes beyond salary, such as stock options or company cars), she raised her hand — only to find out that she'd be writing tax regulations for fringe benefits. That turned into a three-decade career shaping corporate tax policies. "These issues are very complicated," she says, "and a lot of times you'll have the eyes glaze over when you try to explain something." Her specialty, she says, is explaining those issues in a way that gets lawmakers and industries ready to "roll up their sleeves." Fildes, a 56-year-old Brooklyn native, recently became CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee, which lobbies on employee-benefit issues on behalf of major companies.

— Laura Ryan

CONSULTING GAME

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is a new senior principal at the Podesta Group. (Chet Susslin)Podesta Group

Back in his days on Capitol Hill, Matt Johnson and his colleagues had a motto: "The politics are impossible, so you might as well get the policy right." After graduating from the Notre Dame Law School in 2005, the Houston native worked on technology and immigration issues for Sen. John Cornyn — and also helped the senator whip votes for the Senate Republican Conference. The combination of roles provided invaluable experience, he says: "You're at the intersection of conservative politics, leadership politics, and the rest of the caucus. You have to learn how to work with everyone. You aren't just in your little corner." After serving as the top Republican lawyer on the Senate Judiciary Committee's Immigration Subcommittee, Johnson converted that experience into a job working with IT clients at McBee Strategies. In December, he joined the Podesta Group as a principal; he'll focus mainly on technology policy.

— Matt Vasilogambros

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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