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Project on Government Oversight

Congressional Oversight Training Series—Past Topics and Resources

ABOUT THE TRAINING SEMINARS: The briefing seminars are designed to provide a way for Congressional staff to learn how to conduct effective oversight and investigations. 

The recorded comments of seminar presenters are soley their own opinions and do not reflect those official positions of their congressional office.

2013 Series Review

2012 Series Review

2011 Series Review

2009-2010 Series Review

2007-2008 Series Review

2006-2007 Series Review

 

2013 Series Review
 

July 26, 2013 | How to Hold an Oversight Hearing

Presenters:


June 21, 2013 | The Nuts and Bolts of Conducting Oversight

Presenters: 

  • Keith Ashdown, Staff Director, Minority, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
  • Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Ph.D., Policy Director for the Office of Representative Edward J. Markey
No audio available for this seminar

May 31, 2013 | Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers

Presenters: 

  • Jason Foster, Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Adam Miles, Director of Policy and Congressional Affairs at the Office of Special Counsel; formerly a professional staff member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

No audio available for this seminar

April 26, 2013 | Congressional Oversight: What It Means and How to Make It Work

Presenters: 

  2012 Series Review
 

February 24, 2012 | How To Work With The Media

Presenters: 

 

  2011 Series Review
 

June 24, 2011 | You’ve Got the Power: Congressional Rights to Access Classified, Proprietary, and Other Types of Information

 

April 29, 2011 | Making the Most of Your Resources: CRS, GAO, and IGs

 

February 7, 2011 | Congressional Oversight: What It Means and How to Make It Work

Presenters: 

Copies of The Art of Congressional Oversight: A User's Guide to Doing It Right, published by POGO, and When Congress Comes Calling: A Primer on the Principles, Practices, and Pragmatics of Legislative Inquiry, published by The Constitution Project, were both available at the seminar.
 
Co-hosted by The Constitution Project and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). 

2009-2010 Series Review 

 

June 25, 2010  Advanced Seminar: Oversight of the Financial Sector A Year Later

Presenters:

  • Justin Rood, Senior Investigator, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (Minority)
  • Damon Silvers, Member, Congressional Oversight Panel; Director of Policy and Special Council, AFL-CIO

Handouts:


 

March 26, 2010  Advanced Seminar: What Congress Needs to Know About Inherently Governmental Functions

Presenters:

  • Cathy Garman, Professional Staff, House Armed Services Committee (Majority)
  • Scott Amey, Project On Government Oversight. Click here to listen to Mr. Amey's remarks.
  • Janine R. Wedel, Professor, School of Public Policy, George Mason University; Senior Research Fellow, New America Foundation, and author of the new book, SHADOW ELITE: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market

Handout:


  

February 19, 2010  Key Ingredients for Effective Oversight of Disaster Relief

Presenters Include:


January 22, 2010  Appropriations - Using the Power of the Purse to Do Oversight

Presenters Include:

  • Scott Burnison, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Homeland Security, IT, and Civic Agencies for Lockheed Martin, and former Staff for the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. Click here to listen to Mr. Burnison's remarks. 
  • Scott Lilly, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress,and former Clerk and Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee, Minority Staff Director of that Committee, Executive Director of the House Democratic Study Group, Executive Director of the Joint Economic Committee and Chief of Staff in the Office of Congressman David Obey. Click here to listen to Mr. Lilly's remarks. 
  • Jerry Kammer,  Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, former journalist at The Arizona Republic and Copley News Service, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. Click here to listen to Mr. Kammer's remarks.

 
November 20, 2009 - The Nuts n' Bolts of a Good Investigation

Seminar Objectives: To learn how to conduct meaningful oversight from a personal office; To identify the dangers of partisan investigations; To be sure your investigation is asking the right questions; How to work with nontraditional oversight partners

Presenters Include:

 


 

October 16, 2009 - Beginning Seminar: How to Prepare For An Oversight Hearing

Presenters include:


 

September 18, 2009 - Conducting Oversight in a Partisan Environment

Presenters:

  • Lawrence J. Halloran, former Staff Director (Republican) of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (110th Congress) and Staff Director/Counsel of the Subcommittee on National Security (1999-2006).
  • John F. Sopko, Partner at Akin Gump, and former Chief Counsel for Oversight and Investigations for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for the 110th Congress

 

July 16, 2009 -  Congress vs. the President: The Scope and Limits of Congressional Oversight Powers  (held at the National Press Club, Washington DC) Click here to listen to the panels remarks.

[The proper role of the legislature is] to watch and control the government; to throw the light of publicity on its acts; to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which any one considers questionable; to censure them if found condemnable.
– John Stuart Mill

Presenters:

  • Mickey Edwards; former Member of Congress (R-OK), 1977-1993
  • Morton Rosenberg; author/contributor to the handbooks; former Specialist in American Law at the Congressional Research Service staffer, and Constitution Project Fellow
  • Chris Shays; former Member of Congress (R-CT), 1987-2009
  • Ronald Weich; Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs for President Barack Obama

 

July 10, 2009 - Asserting and Defending the Powers of Oversight: The Relative Powers of Congress and the Executive Branch
Panelists will discuss the relative powers of Congress and the Executive Branch in congressional oversight and how to new handbooks provide helpful resources for conducting such oversight.
 
Presenters:

  • Zulima Espinel, Democratic Senior Counsel for National Security, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
  • Beth Nolan, former White House Counsel for President Clinton
  • Mark Paoletta, former Republican Chief Counsel for Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy & Commerce
  • Mort Rosenberg, author/contributor to the handbooks, former Specialist in American Law at the Congressional Research Service staffer, and Constitution Project Fellow
  • Conrad Martin, executive director of the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust, will serve as moderator 

Copies of The Art of Congressional Oversight: A User's Guide to Doing It Right, published by POGO this month, and When Congress Comes Calling: A Primer on the Principles, Practices, and Pragmatics of Legislative Inquiry, published by the Constitution Project this month, will both be available at the seminar.
  
Co-hosted by the Constitution Project and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). 


 

May 2009
Beginning Seminar: You Are Not Alone: Making the Most of Your Resources (CRS, GAO, IG)
Presenters Include: 

  • David Williams, Inspector General, United States Postal Service
  • Jonathan M. Gill, Assistant Director, U.S. GAO
  • Todd Tatelman, Legislative Attorney in the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service

Advanced Seminar: Tapping into Non-governmental Resources
Presenters Include: 

  • Ryan Alexander, President of Taxpayers for Common Sense
  • David Burnham, co-director of TRAC, an investigative writer and former New York Times reporter
  • Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director for the Center for Responsive Politics
    Paul Thacker, Senate Finance Committee staffer for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and expert at working with the press

 

April 2009
Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers

Presenters: 
  • Adam Miles, professional staff member for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and formerly with the non-profit Government Accountability Project (GAP)
  • Michael German, former FBI agent and whistleblower, and current Policy Counsel on National Security, Immigration and Privacy for the ACLU
  • Jason Foster, Investigative Counsel, Senate Finance Committee
    (Foster shared, as a sample, a letter to an agency warning that efforts to obstruct federal employee’s communication with Congress are against the law, which includes public law citations for the latest appropriations bill and the actual statutory language.)

Handouts at the Seminar Included:
POGO's Working With Insiders and Whistleblowers Notes

 


 

March 20, 2009
Contracting Know-How
Presenters: 

Handouts at the Seminar Included:
Federal Contrating: Investigative Tips
Contracting Resources and Publicly Available Information


 

 

February 20, 2009 (11:30 AM - 1:00 PM)
Investigations for beginners
Presenters:

Handouts at the seminar included:
Investigation Checklist
 
Feb. 20, 2009 (1:00- 2:30 PM)
Advanced Seminar -- Oversight of the Financial Sector  
Presenters:

Handouts at the seminar included:
Consumer Group Contacts; CRS, Regulators and Financial TermsGlossary and Financial Terms; Bailout and Transparency Websites


 

 


January 2009
Three Topic Blitz

10 - 11:30 AM - How the Nomination/Confirmation Process can be an Oversight Opportunity Presenters:

  • Kris Kolesnik, Associate Inspector General for the Department of Interior and former investigative staff for Senator Charles Grassley (IA-R) 
  • Lisa Graves, Deputy Director of the Center for National Security Studies, former Chief Nominations Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee for the Chairman/Ranking Member, Senator Patrick Leahy
    Handouts at the seminar included: "Congressional Access to Classified National Security Information," Congressional Staff Resources.  
  • Chris Mihm, Strategic Issues Managing Director at the Government Accountability Office 

11:30 - 1:00 PM - The Right Balance of Power: The Responsibility of Congressional Oversight.
Presenters:

 

1:00 - 2:30 PM - Conducting Oversight from a Personal Office 
Presenters: 

 

  • Stephen C. Hedger with the office of Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO); Republican staff presenter, TBA;
  • Kris Kolesnik, Associate Inspector General for the Department of Interior and former investigative staff for Senator Charles Grassley (IA-R) 
  • Chris Strohm, national security reporter for Congress Daily
    Click here to listen to Mr. Strohm's comments

 

2007-2008 Series Review 


July 2008
Grand Finale with a Return of the POGO Players


Presenters:  

June 2008
Appropriations - Using the Power of the Purse to Do Oversight

Presenters:
  • Scott Burnison, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Homeland Security, IT, and Civic Agencies for Lockheed Martin, and former Staff for the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee
  • Scott Lilly, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress,and former Clerk and Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee, Minority Staff Director of that Committee, Executive Director of the House Democratic Study Group, Executive Director of the Joint Economic Committee and Chief of Staff in the Office of Congressman David Obey
  • David Rogers, congressional reporter, Politico


May 2008
Overcoming Obstacles

Presenters:
  • Jason Foster, with Investigative Counsel for Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley
  • Julian Epstein, former chief minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and the majority staff director of the House Government Operations Committee, and current attorney in private practice. Click here to listen to Julian Epstein
  • Jason Ryan, Producer with ABC News on the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security; Click here to listen to Jason Ryan


April 2008
Are your witnesses better prepared than you are?

Presenters
:
  • Mark Paoletta, partner with Dickstein Shapiro LLP, and head of its Congressional & Corporate Investigations Practice; Click here to listen to Mark Paoletta
  • Michael Barrett, currently a consultant. Mr. Barrett was staff director and chief counsel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) for 10 years; Click here to listen to Michael Barrett
  • Laura Strickler, Producer, CBS News Investigative Unit

 


March 2008
How to Prepare For An Oversight Hearing

Resource Handout: Dos and Don'ts of and Oversight Hearing

Presenters:

 

February 2008
You Are Not Alone: Making the Best of Your Resources - GAO, CRS, IG, NGO, & the Media


Resource Handout: Checklist of Places to Turn to During an Investigation

Presenters:
  • Louis Fisher, Specialist in Constitutional Law, Law Library of the Library of Congress
  • Jonathan M. Gill, Senior Analyst, Natural Resources and Environment Team, GAO
  • Kris Kolesnik, Associate Inspector General for the Department of Interior

 


January 2008
Piercing the Corporate Veil: Investigating Public and Private Corporations


Resource Handout: Piercing the Corporate Veil: Investigating Public and Private Corporations

Presenters:
  • Emilia DiSanto, Chief Investigative Counsel and Special Counsel to Senator Grassley
  • Laura Stuber, Counsel with the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
  • Adam Zagorin, journalist with Time Magazine

 


December 2007
Working With Insiders/Whistleblowers

Resource Handouts
: Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers and National Whistleblower Center's Whistleblowers and Congressional Oversight: Best Practices

Presenters:
  • Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Ph.D. - Freedhoff spent her 1996 MRS/OSA Congressional Science and Engineering fellowship year working for Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and started a Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation. In July 2001, Freedhoff returned to work for Rep. Markey (D-MA) and is now his Policy Director.
    Click here to listen to Michal Freedhoff
  • Doug Pasternak - Prior to joining the Investigations and Oversight staff of the House Science Committee in September 2006, his reporting resulted in investigations by the Government Accountability Office, both the Department of Justice and Department of Defense's Inspector General's Office and congressional oversight hearings. 
    Click here to listen to Doug Pasternak 

 


November 2007
Don't Let the Fine Print Bore/Scare You Out of Investigating the Contract

Resource Handouts
: Dos and Don'ts of an Oversight Hearing and Federal Contracting: POGO's Investigative Tips

Presenters:
  • Sean Davis, Legislative Assistant for Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), overview of using Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) and other databases resources for contract oversight
    Click here to listen to Sean Davis
  • Robert O'Harrow, Washington Post reporter and author of Nowhere to Hide
  • Margaret E. Daum, Counsel, House Oversight Committee

 


October 2007
You've Got The Power: Congressional Rights to Access Classified, Proprietary and Other Types of Information
  • Exercising Congress's power to access classified information
  • Role of subpoena power
  • New terms for non-classified material
  • Power of the purse

 

 

 

2006-2007 Series Review 


June 2007
Finding answers using open source databases

  • What databases of government and corporate information are available?
  • Where to turn to for government statistics
  • Navigating complicated government filings


Resource Handout
: Finding Answers Using Open Source Databases

Presenters:

  • Beth Daley, POGO's Director of Investigations
  • Caleb Rowe, POGO Investigator 

 


April 2007
Framing Questions: Get the most out of your hearings and investigations by learning what to ask, how to ask it, and how to follow up

  • How to ensure the most effective hearing possible
  • Telling a story – how to keep the public interested
  • How to organize your hearings


Resource Handout
: Framing Questions: What to Ask, How to Ask It, and How to Follow Up

Presenters:

  • Ruth F. Fleischer, Esq., Adjunct Professor in the Legislative Practicum/Congressional Internship Program University of Maryland School of Law.

 


March 2007
Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers

  • How whistleblowers can help you do your job better
  • Signs of trouble—conducting early due diligence
  • Inside the fishbowl—the first week in the life of a whistleblower
  • Steps to protect them when they contact your office


Resource Handout
: Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers

Presenters:

  • Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Ph.D., Senior Policy Associate  for Representative Edward J. Markey, former staffer for the House Science and Technology Committee.
  • Dean Zerbe, Tax Counsel and Senior Counsel to Ranking Member of Senate Finance Committee, former Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee

 


February 2007
Access and Classified and Other Restricted Information: Congressional Rights

  • What each security clearance term allows individuals to access
  • Exercising Congress's Power to access classified information
  • Understanding State Secrets Privilege


Resource Handouts
: Session Summary; Access to Classified and Other Restricted Information - Congressional Tip Sheet; Presidential Studies Quarterly, Volume 37, Number 1, March 2007

Presenters:

  • Charles Tiefer, Professor of Law, University of Baltimore. Prof. Tiefer is a former solicitor and deputy general counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives. Professor Tiefer served in 1996 as deputy minority counsel on the US House "Bosniagate" investigating sub-committee.
  • Mickey Edwards, Executive Director, Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership. Mickey Edwards, is a lecturer at Princeton University 's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and was a Republican member of Congress from Oklahoma from 1977 to 1992.

 


January 2007
Part 2: Piercing the Corporate Veil: Investigating Public and Private Companies

  • How to stand up to corporate attorneys and lobbyists
  • Getting a company to cooperate
  • Understanding corporate jargon and procedures


Resource Handout
: Piercing the Corporate Veil - Lessons Learned

Presenters:

  • Bob Roach, senior investigator, Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • Eric Thorson, former Chief Investigator for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and Special Assistant to Senate Republican Leader on corporate fraud investigations

 


November 2006
Part 1: Hidden Gems: How to Root Out Documents from Uncooperative Agencies and Companies


  • Where to turn beyond the agency's congressional liaison
  • Attracting whistleblowers and insiders 
  • Working with the Inspector General's office


Resource Handout: Checklist of Places to Turn To During an Investigation

Presenters:

  • Pablo Carrillo, Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
  • Doug Pasternak, Professional Staff for the House Science Committee and former Investigative Producer for NBC 

 


October 2006
How to Prepare for an Oversight Hearing


The seminar convered a mock hearing; pre-interviewing witnesses; making the best use of the Government Accountability Office, Inspectors General and CRS; and how to work with the media before/during/after the hearing.

Resource Handout: The Do's and Don'ts of Preparing for a Hearing

Presenters:

  • James Grimaldi, Pulitizer Prize winning investigative journalist for the Washington Post
  • Peter Stockton, Senior Investigator for the Project on Government Oversight and former Investigator for the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
  • Alan Slobodin, Deputy Chief of the House Energy and Commerce Committee 

 


September 2006
Anatomy of Government Contracts: Examining Hurricane Katrina


This inaugural seminar provided information about how to overcome roadblocks to overseeing government contracts and turn government contracting into an issue that motivates your boss and the public.  Topics included:
  • Why no one can see the forest or the trees.  How to get around the roadblocks
  • What Congress needs to know about contracting to do its job well
  • Turning a boring government contract into an issue that motivates your boss and the public


Resource Handout: Federal Contracting Resources

Presenters:

  • Michael McCarthy, Counsel, House Government Reform Committee
  • Kris Kolesnik, former investigator, Senate Judiciary Committee and Senator Grassley
  • Scott Amey, General Counsel, Project On Government Oversight

 

 

 


 

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