By Kipp Lanham - 11/08/05 12:00 AM EST
Mark Mussari, an intern for Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), knows California traffic. When traveling through Los Angeles from his Harbor City home to college at California State University-Dominguez Hills, Mussari avoids the busiest highways.
Although Mussari says he prefers the layout of D.C. to Los Angeles’s endless string of suburbs, D.C. driving with it’s one-way streets and lack of signs and exits hasn’t been easy for him either. He misses driving his Ford Focus at home and decided to rent a car to attend an internship seminar.
As he turned onto a one-way street, he didn’t realize that he was heading the wrong direction until he noticed a car coming toward him. Needless to say, he showed up late to the seminar. Now, for most of his trips to Capitol Hill, he uses the Metro.
Mussari interns for Becerra through the Panetta Institute, a nonpartisan center dedicated to the study of public policy. He lives in Alexandria, Va., with 24 other interns who are also participating in the program, which underwrites all living expenses, including room, board, food and transportation.
In Becerra’s office, Mussari supports the work of a legislative assistant on policy issues including education, appropriations, tax reform and technology. He also researches such topics as telecommunications legislation and its impact on Comcast.
When Mussari started the internship, he expected the rigidity of a corporate office, with everyone wearing starched shirts and striped ties. However, Mussari said, “It’s like a family small business.” The staff keeps Mussari busy, and the work is fast-paced, with a project due every day at 5 p.m.
On his second day, Mussari met Becerra and was impressed that the lawmaker took time out of his schedule to meet him. “I didn’t feel like just a face in the crowd,” he said.
On the weekends, Mussari hits the town with friends at lounges and restaurants in Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, but he says the fare hardly compares to the In-N-Out Burger in California.
Once Mussari finishes his internship, he will return to California to finish a major in political science. When Mussari started working in Becerra’s office, he was not sure whether he would be interested in policy, but he now says that after graduation he wants to get a policy job on Capitol Hill.