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The Not-So-Private Lives of Congressional Staffers

By Summer Mersinger, senior vice president, The Smith-Free Group 


A few weeks ago, buried in my pile of junk mail was the ominous letter from the Office of Personnel Management telling me that my personal data “may have been” breached. As federal employees’ unions cry foul and promise legal action, I haven’t yet heard outrage over what this means for former and current Hill employees.


Yes, Hill staffers had their personal data compromised just like so many other federal employees and contractors. This doesn’t seem that outrageous. However, what’s not being reported is how much additional personal information on Hill staff is already a matter of public record. 


Certainly all of their salaries are available to the public, but there are also those staffers who file annual financial disclosures and are subject to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act filings. Think about how much personal information is now available on congressional staff members to the bad actors who breached the OPM’s data.


The OPM now says the personal data for over 21 million current and former federal employees was compromised. In fact, the personal information of those employees’ family members may have been a bonus to those infiltrating the system. Combine that information with what is publicly available through a simple Internet search and you have a very thorough profile of any congressional staff member — and likely their spouses and children as well.


Pandora’s Box is already open, and it’s too late to fix what has been broken. While congressional staff are frequently portrayed as overpaid government employees with over-the-top benefits, that is not an accurate profile of a Hill staffer. They are dedicated public servants who often choose to do this work rather than pursuing more profitable careers. These hard-working individuals need protection too. 


From Summer Mersinger, senior vice president, The Smith-Free Group, Washington, D.C.


Origionally Published on The Hill, July 22, 2015