What It Takes To Be A Congressman’s Driver

Politico has published an eight-page memorandum reportedly given to Congressional office and campaign workers who drive Indiana Republican Congressman Todd Rikta to and from appointments:

Empty his trash. Always have hand sanitizer and gum at the ready. And don’t bother with “unnecessary conversation” — the congressman doesn’t have time for your chitchat.

Demanding, high-maintenance bosses are notorious on Capitol Hill. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s staff had to walk his dog, poop pick-up and all. Former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison made her male aides carry her purse.

The latest addition to the list: Rep. Todd Rokita, an Indiana Republican running in one of next year’s most competitive Senate races.

Who knew it could take eight pages of instructions on how to properly escort a member of Congress around his district? Yet there it is, laid out in mind-blowing detail, in a memo obtained by POLITICO that’s sure to make any young, eager-beaver political aide shudder.

Tasks listed in the document, entitled “Instructions on Staffing and Driving — District Version,” include handing Rokita a cup of black coffee upon picking him up at his home, acting as a physical barrier between him and trackers looking to capture embarrassing footage of the congressman, and “avoid[ing] sudden acceleration or braking” while driving.

“The goal is to provide as smooth a ride as possible,” reads the instruction manual, co-authored by a former chief of staff to the congressman and Tim Edson, Rokita’s ex-communications director-turned-campaign spokesman.

Drivers are expected to transport not only Rokita’s toothbrush and toothpaste but also stock and tote around the district a nearly 20-item supply box that Rokita’s staffers call “the football.” The contents include gum, hand sanitizer, business cards, bottled water, napkins and Kleenex, lozenges, a stapler and stapler remover, Post-it notes and Shout wipes, among other items.

Rokita needs a hanger in the car for his jacket. Never allow him to be photographed with a drink in his hand. And never forget, the memo states multiple times in boldface, underlined letters, to remind the 47-year-old to bring the essentials.

“When TER enters the car, check to ensure he has his phone and wallet,” the instructions say, referring to Rokita by his initials.

(…)

The missive opens by listing basic details any driver would need to know before a day of district events: locations, times, directions and points of contact on the ground. But it quickly morphs into a full-stage production, tasking drivers with doing in-depth research on each event, including knowing each event’s “greeter” and how Rokita will recognize him or her. Also make sure Rokita has “at least 10 percent more handouts than we anticipate attendees.”

Drivers are expected to know when each event was approved in Rokita’s scheduling office, whether reporters will be there and the best locations for interviews, as well as the layout of each event and where Rokita will be standing.

“A successful day begins in advance,” the memo reads. “If you cannot answer ALL of these questions, you are not prepared for the day.”

Because, of course, the Congressman, who recently declared his candidacy for the GOP nomination to challenge Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly in 2018, is incapable of driving himself or making sure he has enough gum.

Here’s the memorandum:

Todd Rokita Memorandum by Doug Mataconis on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Butch Bracknell says:

    This controversy is f****** ridiculous. Anyone who has every been a military aide de camp or a Fortune 500 executive’s special assistant knows this list of instructions is relatively tame. How about instructions for an aide to knowingly break the law scheduling military airlift or picking up Mrs. General’s dry cleaning? GMAFB.

    * Note: I was an aide and this was not my personal experience. My general was down to earth but there were certain expectations to endure his time and focus were used wisely. But I got to see some prima dona pampering up close and personal with aides to other FO/GOs and ambassadors, and it would make you blanch.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    I have to admit I didn’t read it through but from your description it sounds like small potatoes. It sounds like a job description for a congressional aid who also happens to be a driver. Some Reps travel with an aid and all the driver does is drive, but if he doesn’t have a separate person, then the aid/driver does double duty. If his chief of staff made it clear that was what they were signing up for, then so be it. Someone has got to make sure there are enough flyers, and no, I wouldn’t expect the Rep to be that person. The Rep goes from event to event and is probably on the phone in between, so it’s smart having someone tell him at each event that “So and so is the person who will be showing you around, they are active in the local Elks club and have been pushing to have a new bridge put in”. The coffee and gum thing is a bit dickish, unless you are in full campaign mode and are in the car on the phone half the time, and then with constituents the other half. At that point, his chief of staff saying “keep black coffee and gum in the car for him” is not a big deal. Hangar in the car? Of course. If you throw your jacket on the seat or wear it for an extended period of time then it wrinkles. Then when you take a picture with a constituent or the press gets you, the first thing everyone notices is that you are an unkempt slob.

  3. Gustopher says:

    It mostly just shows how much of a successful congress-critter’s work is a team effort. None of this is outrageous — hand sanitizer to clean up after shaking the hands of how many ill people? Gum to keep the breath fresh after speaking so much? Knowing the schedule, and the people the congress-critter will be greeting?

    This role is for a handler who is also a driver.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    I reread this and saw that it was a Republican. I can’t help but think this backlash is partially based on the stereotype of Republicans sh*tting on the little people. Now Ritka may truly be a d*ck but this memo doesn’t provide the evidence.

    It reminded me when McCain was running against Obama and got grief for wearing $500 loafers. They were Allen Edmonds and had some important qualities for a politician on their feet all day: one of the very, very few shoes made in the US. They are absolutely top quality. They are not the delicate leather of an Italian dress shoe, meaning that if you go from say, a campaign lunch at a fancy hotel to an event in the middle of a farmyard you can quickly wipe them down and keep going. And, for $100, they can be rebuilt from the soles up and look and wear like brand new.

    There is a famous picture of Obama with his feet up on the desk and the soles of his shoes are nearly worn through. He commented that he had already had them rebuilt twice. Ironically, these shoes were Allen Edmonds Oxfords and depending on the specific model cost somewhere between $300 and $600.

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    Here’s eggzactly what I would demand if elected to represent the turkeys in my town!

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    I still don’t know why Trump didn’t hire Madonna to choreograph his inaugural parade!

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    Gotta agree with above. This doesn’t seem that insane for one of the 500 most powerful people in the country. I’ve seen way worse. And I suspect there are other Congressmen with way worse lists.

  8. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I’m just amused at the number of times they felt it necessary to remind drivers to ensure that he still has his wallet with him.

    The guy is 47 years old. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

  9. Franklin says:

    I think it’s interesting reading, but nothing controversial. To me, the real controversy would be how many of these events are basically fundraising, as opposed to doing actual legislative work.