Skydiving Enthusiast Helps Transportation Committee Plunge Deeper Into Digital

National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Add to Briefcase
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Aug. 12, 2013, 12:09 p.m.

Fa­ce­Time with mem­bers of Con­gress? It may not be that far off.

At the House Trans­port­a­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Com­mit­tee, the com­mu­nic­a­tions staff is ex­per­i­ment­ing with a host of di­git­al plat­forms and pro­jects, from a sleek You­Tube chan­nel to one-on-one in­ter­ac­tions with Chair­man Bill Shuster, R-Pa. Over­see­ing the ef­fort is a Chica­go Bears fan­at­ic with a pen­chant for ex­treme sports.

“One of Mr. Shuster’s goals when he be­came chair­man “¦ was to look bey­ond Wash­ing­ton, D.C., be­cause trans­port­a­tion af­fects all Amer­ic­ans, wheth­er they know it or not,” said Jim Bil­li­mor­ia, the com­mit­tee’s com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or.

As part of the ef­fort, the com­mit­tee re­cently in­tro­duced a suave blue-and-gray em­blem that looks like it be­longs on the nose of a fight­er jet. Just the fact that the pan­el refers to its in­signia as a “logo” is an in­dic­a­tion of its at­ten­tion to brand­ing. One of the more un­ortho­dox ideas Bil­li­mor­ia is con­sid­er­ing is “crowd­sourcing le­gis­la­tion,” which would al­low the gen­er­al pub­lic to com­ment on pending bills.

In the month to come, the com­mit­tee will un­veil a new web­site, spruce up its Face­book page and in­tro­duce new Twit­ter and Face­book handles. The em­phas­is will be on in­fograph­ics, video, and in­ter­act­ive tools. “The pur­pose is not just to dis­play policy and is­sues, but to en­gage the audi­ence with dates and his­tory,” Bil­li­mor­ia said.

The 33-year-old was raised in Pal­at­ine, Ill., north­w­est of Chica­go, and re­ceived a bach­el­or’s de­gree in fin­ance from the Uni­versity of Illinois (Urb­ana-Cham­paign). Upon gradu­at­ing, he “packed up two suit­cases” and headed to Wash­ing­ton, where his first job was a press as­sist­ant for then-Rep. De­borah Pryce, R-Ohio. Asked why he chose not to pur­sue a ca­reer in fin­ance, Bil­li­mor­ia replied, “Just be­cause you’re good at something doesn’t mean you want to do it for the rest of your life.”

In the years that fol­lowed, he served as com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and later un­der House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dave Camp, R-Mich. Be­fore com­ing to the House Trans­port­a­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Com­mit­tee, Bil­li­mor­ia spent a year in the private sec­tor work­ing in crisis com­mu­nic­a­tions.

In 2005, he cofoun­ded a club for Chica­go Bears fans in­side the Belt­way. “For years, the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area was a bar­ren waste­land for Bears fans,” the club’s web­site ex­plains. “In the land where people still played Cow­boys and In­di­ans each week, there seemed to be no room for fans of the noble Bear. Though hun­dreds lived in the area, each drif­ted, like tumble­weed, search­ing for a home to watch their be­loved team. But they were lost.”

That is no longer the case. On game day, club mem­bers gath­er in the Uni­on Pub, in North­east Wash­ing­ton, to wor­ship at a “shrine to Ditka,” which con­sists of a photo of gruff former coach Mike Ditka, three candles, and a pint of la­ger.

When not swill­ing beer at Uni­on Pub, Bil­li­mor­ia is tum­bling through the tro­po­sphere. “I go sky­diving on oc­ca­sion,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Pocketed Insurance Money Following 2005 Hurricane
39 minutes ago

Donald Trump has said he received a $17 million insurance payment in 2005 following Hurricane Wilma, which he claimed did severe damage to his private club in Florida. However, an Associated Press investigation could not find any evidence of the large-scale damage that Trump has mentioned. Additionally, Trump claimed that he transferred some of the $17 million to his personal account thanks to a "very good insurance policy."

Trump Admits He’s Behind
49 minutes ago
GSA Delays Decision on New FBI HQ Until 2017
53 minutes ago

The General Services Administration "will not choose a location for a FBI headquarters until after the new year, a potential setback for Prince George's County and its aim to land the agency and its 11,000 employees. ... It had hoped to make a decision by the end of 2016, timing which would have favored Maryland in terms of political clout on Capitol Hill. Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker had been pressing for a decision before 2017," while veteran Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who's retiring, can still influence the outcome.

McCarthy, Pelosi Team Up on National Guard Bonuses
1 hours ago

The majority and minority leader of the House are both saying "California's veterans are not to blame for being mistakenly overpaid, after a Los Angeles Times story revealed that officials are trying to claw back millions in bonuses from California National Guardsmen. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the efforts to recoup the money 'disgraceful,' and asked for the Department of Defense to waive the repayments soldiers would be forced to make if they inappropriately received re-enlistment bonuses for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she's looking for a "legislative fix" in the lame-duck session.

IBD/TIPP Poll Shows a Dead Heat
3 hours ago

A new Investor’s Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence poll shows Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each earning 41% support. On the one hand, the poll has been skewing in Trump's favor this year, relative to other polls. But on the other, data guru Nate Silver called the IBD/TIPP poll the most accurate in 2012.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.