With a burst of energy, Rep. Lamar Smith led me into his Rayburn office one Thursday morning in September. The Texas Republican showed off his office gem: a framed photograph of a picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. He pointed to his tie sprinkled with space shuttles and planets and stars, and then told of another, one adorned with a large picture of a rocket blasting off into space, gifted to him by Buzz Aldrin, the second astronaut to walk on the moon.
Smith sat down on the couch, and, as he dove into a conversation about some of his favorite topics—science, space, and technology—he handed me a piece of paper with a collage of pictures: students working with technology; a DNA strand; a motherboard; an astronaut; a scientist; and a quote in the center that states, “The Science Committee offers members the opportunity to play an exciting part in the discoveries of science, the exploration of space, and the application of new innovations.”
That sheet is part of a PowerPoint presentation he made to the powerful GOP panel—the steering committee—that wound up choosing Smith as chairman. And it’s a tool he uses to recruit members. At the start of the session, Smith analyzed the biographies of incoming freshmen to see if their district or personal interests aligned with the committee's jurisdiction. He then sent an explanation of the committee to almost half of the new class, a recruiting tactic that has helped garner more interest than there are vacancies.