Inside the Office of...Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.): Janine Benner

Title: Legislative director

Age: 33

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Hometown: Portland, Ore.

Education: Degree in history from Princeton University

Last job: Consumer advocate, California Public Interest Research Group

Legislative specialty: Environment, energy, livable communities

Favorite bill or law: Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, because it included my boss’s bill to designate 127,000 acres of new wilderness on Mount Hood. We worked for five years on that bill, including a four-day bipartisan backpacking trip around the mountain.

If you could create a new committee or subcommittee, what would it be? Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Livable Communities

Most embarrassing moment on Capitol Hill: At a press conference last summer to introduce a bill that I’d been working on for a year and had been a huge undertaking, my boss announced to the assembled crowd that I’d just gotten married and that this bill was like my first child.

Interests outside of work: Being outside, especially hiking; running; good food — both cooking for friends and also searching for good restaurants in D.C. (they pale in comparison to Portland); learning how to knit; all things Portland.

Janine Benner belongs to a very small class of individuals: those who have been on four-day bipartisan backpacking trips with members of Congress.

In 2003, Benner, Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-Ore.) legislative director, joined her boss and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) on a hiking trip around Oregon’s Mount Hood. The congressmen wanted to push for a bill protecting the mountains and to learn about them and their stakeholders. The legislators camped out for four days and met on the mountains with people likely to be affected by any new laws.

They spoke with wilderness advocates, forest health officials, local government officials and Native Americans, Benner said.

“It was a great way to learn about the mountains and their stakeholders,” Benner said. “And it really helped bring the two offices together.”

Such experiences are part of what drew Benner to Washington.

After spending years at a Los Angeles-based consumer advocacy group, she began to see Washington as the best place to go to effect change. Every time she traveled to the capital to lobby members of Congress, she grew more interested in the area.

“It seemed like the place to be,” Benner said.

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In 2001, when she heard about an opening in Blumenauer’s office, the Portland native jumped at it, and a few weeks later she was on a plane to start her new job.
Benner remembered clearly the appeal she saw in working among those on Capitol Hill.

“It seemed like they were central to what was happening with government,” Benner said. “That was very inspiring to me.”

To have your office featured on Inside the Office of..., contact Kris Kitto at 202-628-8539 or kkitto@thehill.com.