Lautenberg’s new counsel is Bada-Bing!-lite

It’s a serious disappointment that Scott Mulhauser, the new senior adviser and counsel to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), is not from New Jersey.

Even before you meet him, over the phone he talks fast and has the Jersey accent mixed with the impatient personality. In person, it only gets worse — or better, depending on how you look at the tragedy of his roots.

Mulhauser, 31, speaks even faster in person than he does by phone. His personality is Bada Bing! to the core — he can’t sit when he talks and paces around the senator’s office in search of the right words to make his points. He calls his coworkers by last name only — there’s Flicker, Pagan, Bender and Gill. His eyes crinkle up into slits when he laughs.

The tragic news is that Mulhauser was born and raised in Washington. Yes, that’s right, up Connecticut Avenue in the Van Ness area of town. Thankfully, as they say, you can take the kid out of New Jersey but you can’t take the Jersey out of his parents — both of whom were born and raised in the Garden State. (Thank God someone from his immediate family has any direct relation to the place.)

Mulhauser’s parents have the state covered. His mother is from South Jersey; his father is from North Jersey.

His jobs have been Jersey-related. Early in his career, from 1997 to 1999, he worked for former Sen. Bob Toricelli (D-N.J.). From 1998 to 2000, he worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, followed by a stint in then-Sen. John Breaux’s (D-La.) press shop while attending Georgetown Law School at night.

After graduating from law school, Mulhauser spent a year and half in Philadelphia working for Ballard and Spahr, Ed
Rendell’s law firm. “It was a nice mix between lawyering and politics,” he says.

When the Democrats won both the House and Senate in last year’s midterm elections, Mulhauser said he had to be here. “When the good guys returned, it was too appealing not to come back,” he says.

Mulhauser says he doesn’t have a favorite Jersey joke, although he has heard many, particularly the one about Jersey having so many exits. “Growing up here I think I’ve missed something,” he says, adding, “We’re a hundred percent positive about New Jersey.”

Mulhauser’s educational history strays further from New Jersey. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in political science and Spanish. He can speak Spanish conversationally, he says. During college he spent a semester living in Madrid.

I ask him to contrast Madrid and — what else? — New Jersey. “Both have their wonderful food, culture and music,” he says.

What drew him to politics? “You grow up where the president and Congress are your neighbors. It’s hard not to become immersed in it,” he says, explaining that his new job for Lautenberg is sort of “communications director-plus.”

Lautenberg’s new press secretary, Michael Pagan, 30, is also not from Jersey, but thankfully has spent more time there.
“He lives and breathes Trenton,” says Mulhauser.

Born in Harlem and raised in Washington Heights, Pagan moved to Teaneck, N.J., when he was 10. “I am a Jersey boy through and through,” says Pagan, who admits he’s a huge fan of  “The Sopranos.” To save money, he attended Bergen Community College and then transferred to Temple University, where he majored in journalism. After college, he went to work for the North Jersey Herald & News, writing obituaries and then covering cops and fires and general human-interest stories. “Oh, I loved it,” he says. “I loved being a reporter.”

But soon came another love: politics. Pagan covered an event for Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) in Paterson, N.J. Then he went to work for New Jersey Assembly Leader Joseph Doria in Trenton.  

After a while, he grew disheartened by the indictments and the scandal of former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey (D).
“There’s too many people that care more about their ego than about the community,” he says. “That’s why I’ve always been attracted to politics, because I want to change it.”

In 2002, Pagan went to work in then-senator and current New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine’s (D) Newark office as the deputy press secretary.

A year and a half later, he decided out of the blue to spend his entire life savings backpacking through Europe and Central America. He came back a year later “completely refreshed” and went to work for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center as a grant writer.

Soon he was lured back to politics as the spokesman to Assembly Speaker Albio Sires (D), now a congressman.

Pagan recently moved to Washington to work for Lautenberg. He thinks New Jersey gets a bad rap: “I don’t like any Jersey jokes because Jersey is a beautiful state with great people who get a bad rap. I take offense to Jersey jokes.”

The remaining aides in Lautenberg’s press shop are MichaelAaron Flicker (and yes, that’s how he spells it); Christopher Bender, a speechwriter who also handles press; and Brendan Gill, the Newark press aide.