What your Congressman's office space says about them
- Photos (20)
WASHINGTON — Outside each congressman's Washington, D.C., office are the same American flag and welcome sign.
But inside, the personalities of the men and women who suburban voters elected to represent them are on display. From the silk flowers Evanston Democrat Jan Schakowsky has in her office to remember a trip to the Congo, to Wheaton Republican Peter Roskam's champagne bucket filled with mints, to McHenry tea partyer Joe Walsh's large bottle of Tabasco sauce, their office decor is as varied as they are.
Some offices are perfectly ordered and arranged, with not a paper out of place. Others are messy and in flux. Some are in-between.
Here's a look inside West and Northwest suburban Congress members' Washington, D.C., offices:
Rep. Randy Hultgren, 14th District
Formality seems to hang in the air in U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren's office space, and you're quickly made aware of the serious approach that the longtime state lawmaker has taken in the first months of his tenure in Congress.
Atop his clean mahogany desk sits a daybook, where the congressman reviews appointments and upcoming votes first thing every morning. A constituent has prepared a collection of Bible verses in a packet meant for Hultgren, a member of the Wheaton Bible Church, to reflect upon as he faces various decisions. Along with several of the day's newspapers, Hultgren has a copy of the Constitution and the Bible for easy reference.
A side table features several photos of his young family during a victory night celebration in November and from last February's primary. And a photo of Hultgren and his wife, Christy, dressed up for her sister's wedding three years ago.
On another small table to the left of his desk is a Gunnerson wooden carving of Abraham Lincoln. Hultgren's father brought it back for him from a recent trip to Sweden. Sitting next to it is a bust of Lincoln, bought at Mount Rushmore 40 years ago by his grandfather, a Baptist pastor.
Hultgren also has framed quotes by William Wilberforce, a British politician and leader of the anti-slavery movement.
"It's a reminder to me, of the value of all human life, his commitment and his perseverance," Hultgren said.
Rep. Peter Roskam, 6th District
Peter Roskam doesn't want people to think his new Republican leadership post has changed him from the suburban family man first elected to Congress in 2006.
And while his job as chief deputy whip comes with a prestigious office just off the House floor, designed by Benjamin Latrobe, the early architect of the Capitol, Roskam says he prefers to receive constituents in the more informal Cannon Office Building space across Independence Avenue.
In Roskam's Cannon office waiting area is a champagne bucket filled to the brim with Lifesaver mints and a coffee station with several choices of creamers.
Hanging on one wall is a framed article from the Roll Call newspaper about GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy's selection of Roskam to be his chief deputy, entitled "Tag Team." On the other is a framed photo of Roskam, a Bears jersey over his button-down shirt and tie, crouching before a group of captivated suburban students as he tells them a story.
Inside his personal office, the walls include framed Bible verses from Exodus and Psalms. And there's a large oil painting of his family and supporters marching in a suburban parade with red, white and blue 'Roskam for Congress' signs. The painting was done by Roskam's wife, Elizabeth, who will occasionally touch it up on visits to Washington, he says.
Roskam's also devoted wall space to framed maps of places he's visited, signed by the dignitaries and government officials he's met during his travels.
Roskam's desk is spotless, uncluttered, just as his was when he was in the state legislature. Former state Senate colleague Steve Rauschenberger says Roskam went through his mail "in about 12 minutes" daily.
The same is true today, staffers say, and Roskam's desk remains bare except for a pad of paper on which he writes.
On a table behind his desk, Roskam has several photos of his family of six, as well as several pictures of his early political days. There is a 1988 shot — of Roskam with a slight mullet — receiving a volunteer award from President Ronald Reagan for his family's educational assistance foundation, where he worked before his days in the General Assembly.
Rep. Judy Biggert, 13th District
The soft yellow walls and bright, warm lighting of Rep. Judy Biggert's office give off a comfortable, happy vibe.
In a back corner of the Hinsdale Republican's office sits a large wooden cabinet with glass doors. Among the items inside is a bobblehead doll of Naperville Mayor George Pradel.
Also inside the cabinet is a box of Wheaties with her smiling face blazoned across the front. The box is an award from The Science Coalition for her work on the House Science and Technology Committee to advance U.S. competitiveness on research and development.
Sitting on her desk next to her computer is a paperweight bearing a quote that Biggert treasures from former President Ronald Reagan. "There's no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit," she read proudly, as she lifted the weight from her desk.
Biggert's office coffee table is home to a trophy she received as a Bipartisan Champion for the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, hailed by Edward Kennedy as the first major civil rights legislation of the 21st century. The law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to a healthy person because they are genetically predisposed to develop a costly medical condition in the future.
Rep. Joe Walsh, 8th District
Walsh, a McHenry tea partyer who defeated a three-term Democratic incumbent with the help of a strong grass-roots effort, has vowed never to forget the people who elected him.
Reminding Walsh daily is a burgundy quilt on his office wall that a campaign volunteer from McHenry gave him on election night. It's hand-stitched with excerpts of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. There's also a simple sheet of paper propped up with "291" printed on it — his victory margin over incumbent Melissa Bean of Barrington.
Also hanging from a wall is a flag, still creased from its military folding, given to him by a Vietnam veteran in the district. A congratulatory poster board addressed to him and wife, Helene, signed with hundreds of names hangs, as does a plaque bearing a key to the village of Fox Lake, where his district office is located. As an ode to his pledges for fiscal responsibility, Walsh has a piggy bank resembling Uncle Sam on a side table.
The office has an organized chaos feel to it, with staffers milling in and out freely.
On Walsh's desk are several sets of stacked papers. There are more in a box beside the desk on the floor, as well as on a coffee table that sits across from the black leather couch that doubles as his bed while he's in Washington. His storage closet holds his spare clothes, a pair of running shoes, cereal, hot and spicy peanuts, and his bedsheets.
"Every time I go back to the district, I try to bring something else back with me," Walsh said of the knickknacks.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, 9th District
The first thing you see upon entering the Evanston Democrat's office is a giant quilt draped over the wall. The quilt was made specifically for Schakowsky by a group of quilters from her district. It took two years to complete, Schakowsky said, and honors women who have served in the House, with a special row dedicated to Schakowsky on top.
On her wall also hangs a rainbow flag bearing the word "pace," Italian for "peace." She bought it in Italy after the Iraq War started.
"You could get them for like a dollar and they were hanging from all these balconies all over Rome," Schakowsky reminisced.
Next to her quilt are a couple shelves bearing awards, gifts and photos. A couple of those photos are of Schakowsky with President Barack Obama, whom she calls an old friend. The two served together in the Illinois Legislature in the 1990s.
She also prizes pictures of herself and her husband with their two golden retrievers, Lucky and Buddy, as well as a picture of herself with her grandkids on a recent trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Fla. She was a big fan of the butterbeer they served there.
"Oh it's so good, it's so sweet," she raved. "It tastes like cream soda."
On a window sill behind her desk sits a bouquet of brightly colored, silk flowers. They were given to her by a group of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Schakowsky recently ventured to learn about sexual and gender-based violence.
"If you think about what's the worst kind of sexual and gender-based violence, you end up with Congo," she said. "I wanted to see it there. I wanted to go. It was a fascinating trip."
Rep. Robert Dold, 10th District
The freshman Kenilworth Republican's office is slightly sparse, painted in a cool blue-grey color and home to some hefty, black leather furniture. The House has a large supply of furniture new members can pick from when they move in at no charge, spokesman Eric Burgeson, said.
Still, Dold has found a way to add some homey touches.
In his office cabinet, he's got a toy truck bearing the logo of Kraft, which is headquartered in his district. Next to the truck sits a blue box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese bearing Dold's face above a bowl of cheesy yellow noodles, a gift from the company.
Things take on a more serious tone in the stack of books that Dold keeps next to the Kraft items. There's a traditional looking copy of "A Modest Proposal to Amend the U.S. Constitution" next to a bright red copy of "REVOLT! How to Defeat Obama and Repeal His Socialist Programs."
The cabinet also holds a certificate given to Dold by the Boy Scouts. The Eagle Scout is very proud of his participation in this program, Burgeson said.
Next to Dold's computer is a tin of Icebreaker mints. The congressman also keeps a standing desk on his window sill, not liking to do all his work sitting down. On a table near his desk rests a picture of this year's freshman class.
Rep. Don Manzullo, 16th District
Don Manzullo, the Egan Republican now in his 19th year as a congressman, likes to call Capitol Hill "a pit." His cluttered office is full of stacks of papers, framed certificates and photographs waiting to be hung, and packets of information from the various visitors he's received.
Manzullo's many lined shelves feature photos with Stevie Wonder, President Barack Obama and Richard Nixon. A side table boasts a globe, a bust of Abraham Lincoln, and a statue of an eagle in flight. Above the eagle is a caricature that depicts Manzullo as a sort of manufacturing superhero for his district.
Staff writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.
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