PEOPLE

Skydiving Enthusiast Helps Transportation Committee Plunge Deeper Into Digital

National Journal
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 »
STAFF PICKS
These (Supposed) Iowa and NH Escorts Tell All
30 minutes ago
NATIONAL JOURNAL AFTER DARK

Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:

  • Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
  • Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
  • They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
  • One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
Source:
STATE VS. FEDERAL
Restoring Some Sanity to Encryption
30 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
30 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Hillary Is Running Against the Bill of 1992
30 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Trevor Noah Needs to Find His Voice. And Fast.
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”

Source:
×