Top Aide to House Appropriations Chairman Heading to K Street

Higdon: His last month on the Hill.
National Journal
Nov. 11, 2013, 4:26 p.m.

House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers, R-Ky., will lose one of his closest aides next month when his chief of staff, Mi­chael Hig­don, joins the lob­by­ing world at Corner­stone Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs.

Hig­don, a mem­ber of Ro­gers’s staff for 11 years, will be­come a vice pres­id­ent at Corner­stone on Dec. 9. As a mem­ber of the firm’s budget and ap­pro­pri­ations team, Hig­don will help Corner­stone woo po­ten­tial cli­ents in Ken­tucky — while mak­ing it home in time to help care for his in­fant daugh­ter.

“My sleep­less nights on Ap­pro­pri­ations are now sleep­less nights with a baby,” he said.

Hig­don ac­know­ledged that “it has been tough sled­ding” for ap­pro­pri­at­ors in re­cent years as ar­gu­ments over the budget de­volved in­to a 16-day gov­ern­ment shut­down.

“But I don’t think the shut­down di­min­ished Chair­man Ro­gers’s role on the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee in any way,” he ar­gued. “In fact, I think it’s el­ev­at­ing the re­cog­ni­tion that [the pan­el] is the place where busi­ness can and should get done. It’s one of the few places where we’ve got to move ap­pro­pri­ations bills, where you’ve got to pass agency budgets, even when we find ourselves in these pro­trac­ted, in­transigent mo­ments. The Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee couldn’t be more im­port­ant, try­ing to un­tangle that.”

Hig­don praised Ro­gers’s zeal for prun­ing the budget. One of the con­gress­man’s most “prized pos­ses­sions,” Hig­don said, is a 2011 is­sue of Na­tion­al Journ­al magazine in which he is pic­tured on the cov­er bran­dish­ing a pair of scis­sors.

In a state­ment, Ro­gers hailed his former aide. “For over a dec­ade, Mi­chael has served in my in­ner circle as a trus­ted friend, eru­dite lead­er, and thought­ful ad­viser on a wide spec­trum of polit­ic­al and policy is­sues be­fore the Con­gress,” said the 17-term con­gress­man.

Hig­don was raised in Vis­alia, a small town in Cali­for­nia’s San Joa­quin Val­ley. His fath­er coached the base­ball team and cut the grass at the church the fam­ily at­ten­ded. “I usu­ally de­scribe [the eth­os] as “˜every­body pitches in,’ “ Hig­don said.

His af­fin­ity for pub­lic policy mani­fes­ted it­self early on. When Hig­don was in sixth grade, his fa­vor­ite sub­ject was cur­rent events. He was elec­ted to stu­dent gov­ern­ment in high school, and by the time he was an un­der­gradu­ate at La­fay­ette Col­lege in Pennsylvania, Hig­don had already vo­lun­teered on a couple of state and fed­er­al cam­paigns.

Hig­don moved to Wash­ing­ton the day after his col­lege gradu­ation and worked briefly as an aide to then-Rep. Ron Pack­ard, R-Cal­if., a mem­ber of the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee, be­fore join­ing the of­fice of former Rep. Ro­s­coe Bart­lett, R-Md., and then Ro­gers’s staff in 2002. He be­came chief of staff in Janu­ary 2011.

He still has a month to go on Cap­it­ol Hill, but Hig­don already has some ideas about his strategy on K Street.

“If you want “¦ to achieve your policy ob­ject­ives, you’ve got to [ad­opt] a mul­ti­fa­ceted and asym­met­ric ap­proach,” he said. “You build co­ali­tions, you do PR when ne­ces­sary, you do it all.”

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