CONGRESSIONAL STAFFS: The Invisible Force in American Lawmaking by Harrison W. & Susan Webb Hammond Fox

CONGRESSIONAL STAFFS: The Invisible Force in American Lawmaking

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Most everyone knows the name of his Senator and/or Representative, but hardly anyone knows his staff. And yet, Congressional aides are the real movers and doers on Capitol Hill, according to this investigation of the anonymous retinue who free the Member for debate, caucus, and voting. Fox and Hammond, who quantify their findings in the voluminous appendix, dispute the notion that the staff is a bureaucracy--though lately Congress, like the Executive branch, has become more institutionalized. In the clubby, generalist atmosphere of the Hill, ""professionalism"" and ""personalism"" still predominate because of the ""flat"" and decentralized organizational structure of Congress itself. ""A case can be made that staff have too much influence, authority, and power""--but the authors, two ex-staffers, do not make such a case (though a persistent minority of Congressmen do). Primarily this is a neutral, exploratory study which wonders only whether aides, similar in background and outlook to the Members they serve, may not ""reinforce existing Congressional norms."" UPF (UpwardPositive-Forward) personality types are the rule and no less than 50% are age 35 or under--""whiz kids,"" as they're frequently dubbed. Their numbers will probably continue to swell due to the increased workload and, most important, the recent wealth of technical developments that require expertise. Among the more striking conclusions in a book which, one suspects, could have been far more illuminating, is the finding that coordinative or individualistic staffs are more productive--in terms of measures sponsored--than those that are hierarchically organized; also, junior staffs have the highest output. A neglected area of Congressional activity, examined methodically though without verve.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan