‘We are family’ is attitude in Rep. Capps’s office

Working for Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) is a far cry from trudging into some austere factory day after day. Heading into the office is more like entering a crime family’s den. The Mafia joke is one Capps staffers make often — it’s an accurate comparison, considering what a close-knit bunch they are. 

“Once you’re a Capps staffer, you’re a Capps staffer for life,” said her press secretary, Emily Cryder, a Capps aide for the past year. As a high school senior, Cryder volunteered for the campaign of the late Walter Capps, then took an internship in Lois Capps’s Santa Barbara office.

Former staffers are still considered members of the clan. Capps’s first chief of staff, Jeremy Rabinovitz, who had been with the congresswoman since 1998, only recently left for ML Strategies (to become vice president of government relations). Capps’s new chief of staff is Randolph Harrison.

Most Capps staffers show their loyalty by working for her for long stretches of time. Jonathan Levenshus, 29, has been on board for seven years. The California State University at Long Beach graduate is Capps’s senior legislative assistant. He is also captain of the office softball team, the Kicking Asses.

Aides in Capps’s office stick together even once the day is done. On weekends, they often go to movies, happy hours, barbecues and concerts. They play indoor soccer, softball and football. They call their front office “the law firm,” because it is comprised of staffers Aaron Shapiro, Emily Ghan, Ramesh Nagarajan and the congresswoman’s latest hire, Danielle LeTendre.

Ghan, 23, who graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, studied abroad at Cambridge University and the Political Science Institute in Bordeaux, France. While a student, she interned in Capps’s Santa Barbara office. She joined Capps’s Washington office in 2006 and was promoted from staff assistant to legislative correspondent.

Another “law firm” partner is Shapiro, 22, a Santa Barbara native who interned in Capps’s Washington office during college and came to work for her full time as a legislative correspondent in September. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2006. He was recently promoted from legislative correspondent to legislative aide.

Nagarajan, 26, is among the few non-California natives in the office. He grew up in Spring Hill, Fla., and graduated from Princeton University in 2003. He, too, studied in England, earning his master’s in Modern European History at Oxford. Nagarajan, who started working for Capps as a legislative correspondent in February of last year, was promoted to legislative assistant over the summer and recently began handling telecom issues.

One additional member of the “law firm” is LeTendre, 24, who grew up in Joplin, Mo., and graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif. From December 2004 to September 2006 she traveled around the world, visiting countries such as East Timor, Mongolia and Australia. She worked as the southwest Missouri regional volunteer coordinator for Claire McCaskill’s (D) Senate campaign. LeTendre began working as a staff assistant for Capps yesterday.

Cryder explained that the office’s familial air was cultivated by the late Rep. Walter Capps (D-Calif.), who died 10 months into his first term in Congress, and continued by Lois Capps, who long has had the reputation of being one of the nicest members of Congress. “She’s someone you want to work really hard for,” Cryder said.