Posts tagged ‘William LaForge’

Understanding Advanced Statements for Congressional Witnesses

Preparing to testify before Congress can require a significant amount of preparation on the part of the witness. When you are invited to testify before Congress, it is important to understand the advance preparations that must be made and the rules and requirements related to those preparations.

Recorte
Creative Commons License photo credit: Daquella manera

Committee rules and guidelines often require witnesses to submit a certain number of advance copies of the witness’s written statement along with their biographical information. In some cases other written materials regarding the witness’s organization or the topic of the hearing may also be requested in advance. Generally, this information must be submitted by a certain deadline, ranging from one to three days before the hearing. The actual deadline can vary based on the committee as well as the nature of the hearing. Guidelines are often established by committees regarding the number of copies that must be submitted and in some instances an executive summary may also be requested.

Such requests will usually be outlined by the committee in Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgethe letter of invitation issued to the witness. Written witness materials will then be included in the briefing folders or books that are prepared by committee staff specifically for the use of committee members before and during the actual hearing. Materials are often excerpted or summarized. Copies of witness materials are usually made available on the committee’s web site and provided to the media, congressional staff and the public during the hearing.

Prospective witnesses should consult with committee staff well in advance of the commencement of the hearing to be certain they are in compliance wit all committee rules, practices, policies and requirements. This is particularly important regarding the “Truth-In-Testimony” rules that apply, requiring specific information from witnesses. This can include not only advanced copies of testimony and biographical information, but also financial information regarding government contracts and grants as well.

To learn more about rules and practices regarding testifying before Congress, consider TheCapitol.Net’s course, Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, which is also available as custom, on-site training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 2.7 Advanced Copies of Witness Statement

More

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , ,

Senate Confirmation Hearings

Some of the most highly publicized Senate hearings are those held for the purpose of considering presidential nominations. These nominations may include cabinet positions and nominations for other executive branch political offices, federal judges and U.S. diplomatic posts.

Kagan-37
Creative Commons License photo credit: Harvard Law Record

Witnesses at nomination and confirmation hearings typically include the individual nominated as well as other individuals who may be in a position to provide relevant information regarding the credentials, experience, character, qualification and overall fitness for service of the individual nominated.

Confirmation hearings are conducted by committees of the Senate that come within the purview of their respective jurisdictions. For instance, Senate Armed Services Committee hearings would consider the nominations of individuals such as the Secretary of Defense while the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would hold hearings to consider the nomination of individuals such as the Secretary of Energy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is responsible for conducting hearings for the purpose of reviewing nominations of federal district and appellate court judges, Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgeand Supreme Court justices. Usually there is a large number of confirmation hearings held during the weeks and months immediately after a new president is inaugurated. Confirmation hearings may also be scheduled anytime a presidential nomination occurs. Senate confirmation hearings often result in a report to the full Senate to prepare for a floor vote.

While confirmation hearings may be conducted in a fairly routine manner that is not always the case. One of the highest-profile and most significant congressional hearings took place following the nomination of Judge Robert Bork by President Reagan to the United States Supreme Court in 1987. A huge battle between liberals and conservatives ensued, leading to millions of dollars being sent by both liberal and conservative activist groups. The Senate Judiciary Committee conducted twelve full days of hearings, with Judge Bork testifying during an unprecedented five days. Over the course of the hearing, one hundred witnesses appeared before the committee, either in support or opposition of the nomination. Ultimately, the Judiciary Committee voted against confirming Bork, however, it did not end there. Bork announced that he wished to proceed with a Senate floor vote; a vote that concluded 58-42 against the nomination.

To learn more about preparing to testify before Congress, consider attending TheCapitol.Net’s Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training. To learn more about congressional hearings, see TheCapitol.Net’s 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 1.58 Senate advice and Consent, Section 1.87 Example of the Influence of Hearings on Committee Action, and Section 7.5 Committee Follow-up Activities and Responsibilities.

More

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Congressional Oversight and Investigative Hearings

Although there are many different types of congressional hearings, some of the most well known and often discussed in the media are oversight and investigative hearings. Such hearings may be conducted whenever a committee chooses to do so, although they are often conducted in association with a public policy question or an accountability matter. Oversight hearings can also be combined with authorization or legislative hearings, particularly whenever there is a routine review of a federal program.

Looking For Clues (188 / 365)
Creative Commons License photo credit: somegeekintn

In many ways, the oversight function of Congress is like a quality control study. Oversight and investigative hearings can include periodic and selective reviews of federal agencies and departments as well as their policies, activities and programs. This especially relates to the way in which federal laws, programs and regulations are administered. Oversight hearings can focus on federal program quality.

The goal of an oversight hearing is typically to ensure that the agencies of the executive branch are administering federal programs in the way that Congress intended. Such hearings can also be used for the purpose of correcting behavior of the executive branch. Congress may utilize oversight hearings to enhance the effectiveness, responsiveness and efficiency of government operations and programs while also working to identify and eliminate fraud and abuse. Overall, oversight hearings form an effective tool for congressional committees to scrutinize the implementation of programs and laws by the executive branch.

The focus of investigative hearings usually involves the Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgesuspicion or the suggestion of wrongdoing within governmental ranks. In some cases, it can even involve possible allegations of a criminal nature. Investigative hearings are similar in many ways to other types of congressional hearings; however, a major difference involves the focus on wrongdoing or a breach of responsibility. Congress, as well as congressional committees, have quite a broad authority related to investigatory hearings. Problems that are uncovered during an investigative hearing can often lead to new legislation that may relate to federal funding or result in referral to a federal or state court.

Some of the most famous examples of congressional investigations include the Titanic investigation of 1912, the Teapot Dome scandal investigation, the Army-McCarthy Hearings in 1954, the Watergate investigation in the early 70s and the Iran-Contra investigation in 1987.

To learn more about preparing to testify before Congress, consider attending our workshop Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 1.56 Oversight and Investigative Hearings.

More

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Truth-in-Testimony Rules Apply to Prospective Congressional Witnesses

As a prospective public witness testifying before Congress, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the Truth-In-Testimony rules that witnesses are required to comply with and the consequences that can result for failing to comply.

Truth or Consequences
Creative Commons License photo credit: einalem

To the greatest extent possible, witnesses who appear before each committee are required to submit written statements of their proposed testimony in advance. In addition, they are also required to limit their oral presentations to brief summaries. In the event a witness will appear before a committee in a nongovernmental capacity, a written statement of proposed testimony should include a curriculum vitae for the witness as well as a disclosure regarding the amount and the source of any Federal grants or contracts that have been received during that current fiscal year or either of the two prior fiscal years. This applies not only to the witness, but also to any organization represented by the witness.

The purpose of this rule is to provide committee members as well as the public and the media a more detailed context in which the testimony of the witness can be considered regarding their experience, education and the extent to which they or their organization have benefited from Federal contracts and grants.

Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgeThe intention of this rule is not to require witnesses to disclose the amounts of Federal entitlements they might have received from sources such as Social Security, Medicare or income support payments. Farmers are also not required to disclose amounts they might have received regarding commodity or crop price support payments. Failure to fully comply with this requirement would not result in a point of order against the witness testifying. With that said, such failure to comply could result in an objection that could potentially include the testimony of the witness in the record of the hearing. This objection would take the place of a traditional disclosure.

The information provided by the witness to the committee prior to the hearing can be helpful to the committee during the preparation stage. A wealth of information is often included in a briefing book prepared by the committee staff. This information can include not only Truth-in-Testimony disclosures, but also other information such as witness background biographical information.

To learn more about preparing to testify before Congress, you might consider attending our workshop Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 2.7 Special Rules Regarding Truth in Testimony

More

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , ,

How Witnesses Are Selected to Testify Before Congress

In many instances, witnesses who testify before Congress were invited to do so. In other cases, witnesses have offered to testify. The other ways in which witnesses are selected to testify before Congress are by recommendation and under subpoena.

Misty Morning
Creative Commons License photo credit: bhanu.t

On occasion, congressional committees consider or request recommendations made by individuals and organizations in the public and private sectors. Committees are primarily interested in selecting witnesses that are able to provide unique or special knowledge, background, expertise or perspectives. Prior to actually inviting a witness to testify, the committee will occasionally cast a wide net to be certain they are selecting the most effective witnesses regarding the subject matter of the hearing.

Generally, the majority of witnesses who appear before a congressionalTestifying Before Congress, by William LaForge hearing have been invited by the committee chair or sometimes by the ranking minority chair. Many witnesses who appear before a committee hearing have requested to testify and their appearance is considered to be both an opportunity and a privilege.

In some cases, a committee may believe a prospective witness is able to provide needed perspective on an issue but who might not agree to appear before the committee voluntarily. Committees may compel the appearance of witnesses through the issuance of a subpoena. The authority for the subpoena power in the House of Representatives is Rule XI, clause 2(m) and in the Senate, Rule XXVI, paragraph 1. Committees also have the power to subpoena records and documents that may be associated with any compelled testimony of a witness who has been subpoenaed.

The issuance of a subpoena requires either a majority approval by members of the committee or a decision of the chair, based on committee rules. For the most part, subpoenas are issued rarely and when they are issued they are typically associated with investigative hearings.

To learn more about testifying before Congress, see TheCapitol.Net’s course Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony and its Capitol Learning Audio Course, Tips, Tactics & Techniques for Writing Congressional Testimony.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Sections 2.26-2.27 Selection of Witnesses

More

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Adhering to Time Limits for Congressional Testimony

When preparing to give oral testimony before Congress , there are several rules and protocols you should be prepared to follow. One of these is the time limits for oral testimony.

Bell Pepper Stoplight
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Time restrictions for witness testimony are often found in committee rules. The usual rule is five minutes, but in some cases committees allow for additional time, depending on the witness, the nature of the hearing and the issue. In most cases, the committee will allow up to ten minutes for additional testimony, but committee chairs do have some discretion regarding the allowance of more time based on the circumstances.

Generally, the committee staff will advise witnesses prior to the Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgehearing of their time limit. However, it is the responsibility of witnesses to consult the committee rules and check with committee staff before the hearing to be certain they understand the time restraints. It is better to ask ahead of time and be sure you know how much time will be available than to prepare testimony that will be too lengthy and time consuming.

There is usually a clock on the witness to assist witnesses in keeping track of time. There may also be a light system that is used for signaling time: the green light indicates the witness should proceed, a yellow light announces that time is about to expire, and a red light means the specified amount of time has ended. A committee staff member operates the time keeping device from the dais.

In the event that additional time is needed, the witness can request an additional minute or two, but no more. Committee chairs can enforce time limits strictly or be lenient. In order to be fair to all witnesses most committee chairs try to strike a balance between strict enforcement and leniency.

For more information on giving testimony before Congress, consider TheCapitol.Net’s workshop Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony. We also offer custom on-site testifying training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 2.96 Time Limits for Oral Testimony

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , ,

The Role of the Briefing Book in Congressional Testimony

Researching and preparing to deliver testimony before Congress is a process that takes quite a bit of time and groundwork. There are many elements that can assist you in the process, including preparing a briefing book. A briefing book commonly is comprised of research materials, documents and other materials that assist you during the hearing. It can be particularly helpful when used as a quick reference tool when you are questioned by the committee.

not closed yet..
Creative Commons License photo credit: Vali…

Along with basic documents and research, the briefing book should contain prepared answers to potential questions that may be asked of you during the hearing. You might include other resources that you might need to quickly access during the hearing, such as relevant statistics and lists.

Other items in the briefing book can include a copy of your testimony, an executive summary, background materials and research and committee information. Some people also choose to include a copy of the invitation to testify from the committee and handouts such as charts and graphs, biographies of committee members, and travel itinerary and scheduling information for the witness. To make the briefing book more accessible and helpful, you can use tabs for easy reference.

If you opt to use a briefing book during the hearing, place it on the table in front of you or slightly to the side. Include the use of the Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgematerials in your witness rehearsal to ensure you are completely familiar with the briefing book ahead of time. As a prospective witness, practice locating and referring to the contents of your briefing book during your rehearsal. This allows you to develop the ability to use your briefing book naturally, with speed and ease during the actual hearing.

Your rehearsals should include the use of the briefing book while delivering oral testimony and while answering questions that might be posed by the committee.

For more information on preparing effective Congressional testimony, consider our 1-day course Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony. We also offer custom, on-site testifying training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 3.19 Important Documents: Drafting the Statement and Making the Record-The Briefing Book; Section 4.23 Witness Rehearsal of Oral Testimony and Answers to Questions-Operating with the Use of a Briefing Book

For detailed information about testifying before Congress, see these resources form TheCapitol.Net:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Essential Elements of Effective Congressional Testimony

There are several essential features common to effective congressional testimony. These elements include a well-prepared witness, a well-written statement and oral testimony that is delivered in a manner that is clear, concise and articulate.

Louisville District gives testimony on navigation
Creative Commons License photo credit: LouisvilleUSACE

When preparing to testify before Congress, what the committee expects from the witness should be kept in mind. Once you understand what the committee expects from you as a witness, you will be able to prepare your testimony in a more effective manner.

Generally, the committee expects the witness to provide a statement for the record that is comprehensive and well-written. The witness is expected to be both professionally and personally prepared, forthright in their testimony and courteous at all times. In addition, the witness is expected to enlighten and educate the committee by providing information that was not previously known by the committee. The witness should be responsive to all questions and provide materials that may be requested during follow-up by the committee.

It is also important for the witness to be prepared to adhere to the rules and regulations of the committee regarding deadlines for the submission of documents and statements, both before as well as after the actual hearing. Time limits may also apply to the oral testimony – check with committee staff if you are uncertain of the limit.

The ultimate goal of the witness is to assist the committee in understanding the the topic of the hearing. Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge The entire purpose of the Congressional hearing is for the committee to elicit more information than was previously known on a particular issue. Effective witness testimony helps provide this.

Not only must the witness be prepared to educate the committee regarding the subject of the hearing, but she must also advocate for their position or the position of their organization in a clear and articulate manner. All of these elements combined can help the well prepared witness to deliver testimony that is effective and compelling.

To learn more about providing effective testimony before Congress, consider our 1-day course Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Sections 2.18-2.20, The Essential Elements of Effective Congressional Testimony

Also see Section 8.40 “Committee Hearings” in Congressional Deskbook, by Micheal Koempel and Judy Schneider, and our Tips for Visual Layout of Oral Statement when Testifying Before Congress.

For detailed information about testifying before Congress, see

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Witnesses at Congressional Hearings Need to Watch Out For

What to Watch Out For During the Hearing

Members of Congress often have strong partisan viewpoints or positions on issues, programs, and legislative initiatives, and they frequently announce, discuss, and stake out those positions at a committee hearing. It is important for a witness to be as politically savvy as possible when going before a committee. This means seeing political and issue partisanship for what it is, and understanding how it affects members of the committee and their perspectives, as well as the dynamics of a hearing.

10di1426-33
Creative Commons License photo credit: USDAgov

Based on party politics or personal ideology, committee members often have solidly established positions and viewpoints on issues to the extent that they are unable or unwilling to hear or consider new or additional information or differing perspectives. If you happen to confront that type of situation at your hearing, do not let it deter you from the goal, purpose, and flow of your testimony and answers.
Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge
During the preparation for a hearing, witnesses are encouraged to conduct a political analysis of the issue that will be the subject of a hearing, as well as to glean a complete understanding of the interests and issues near and dear to the committee and its members. If a witness has included those activities in preparation for a hearing, she or he can rely on that information in dealing with committee members who may have a different viewpoint or tend to speak or ask questions in an adversarial or even hostile manner.

During a hearing, particularly in introductory remarks by the chair and committee members, as well as during the question-and-answer period, individual viewpoints of committee members quite often emerge, and witnesses must often engage and interact with committee members on those topics. Understanding the partisan features and issues of a committee and its makeup will allow a witness to engage more productively, without either being overly concerned about trying to convert a member on his or her thinking about an entrenched policy or issue position, or marginalizing or disregarding a committee member’s perspective. From the moment a hearing begins, a witness should be prepared for, and take notice of, any partisanship that may surface in the hearing’s deliberations. This is particularly true because Congress has evolved into a more partisan, and sometimes even contentious, institution, and much of the attendant drama plays out in the context of committee hearings.

If a witness has concerns or questions about a political or partisan matter, that matter should be discussed with committee staff prior to the hearing. A witness should not address partisan issues during a hearing, nor engage in taking sides on political or partisan issues beyond the subject of the hearing and the purpose of the testimony.

“Preparing A Witness For A Congressional Committee Hearing, Part II” from Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge

Part I of this article is here.

More

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Preparing A Witness Before A Congressional Hearing

What to Do Before the Hearing

As soon as practicable in the witness preparation stage, a witness should become familiar with the issue of the hearing and the subject matter of the testimony. This is a critical step in preparing to be an effective witness. Usually the witness is a principal or officer in the organization being asked to testify, so it is natural for that individual to be somewhat or very familiar with the hearing topic already. However, even in the best of circumstances in which the witness is the head of, or a top official for, an organization, he or she should be deliberative and diligent in preparing for a hearing.

Training by Chad-1
Creative Commons License photo credit: johntrainor

To ensure adequate preparation as a knowledgeable or expert witness before a committee, a witness should spend time reading and reviewing pertinent organizational and outside information about the issues to be covered in the hearing. The witness should understand the committee and legislative process, and the type, purpose, and goal of the hearing. The witness should also have a firm grasp of the nature and context of the testimony he or she will present to the committee.

It is often a valuable exercise for a witness to conduct targeted reviews of materials and information from a variety of sources from both inside and outside the organization, including:

Previous Hearings — Consulting the hearing records or transcripts of previous hearings on the same or related issues, especially before the same committee, can provide excellent sources of information about the issue at hand, the perspectives of the committee and its members, likely questions to be asked, and previously considered strategies and remedies. In its training materials, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), whose members testify frequently before Congress, lists a number of key questions that can be answered through a review of previous congressional testimony and hearing records:

– What testimony has been given where presenters were in identical or somewhat similar situations?

– How did they deal with particular situations that might be causing you concern?

– What kinds of questions did committee members ask them?

– What kinds of responses did the witnesses make?

– How might those answers be improved?

– What were the major concerns of the chair, the ranking minority member, or other opinion leaders on the committee?

– What positions have members taken?

– What hints do those concerns and positions provide for your preparation, testimony, and answers?

[Source: Delivering Testimony, Participant Manual, United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), January 2007.]

Media Coverage and News Clips — Reviewing broadcast and print journalism coverage of Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgean issue that is the subject of a hearing can provide valuable information and perspectives in preparing for a hearing on that same subject. It can be especially helpful to review media reports and news clips form the home states and congressional districts of the members of a committee to discern press coverage and perspectives on a local level.

Congressional Inquiries, Correspondence and Questions — A review of congressional contacts with the witness’s organization can often provide a unique glimpse into the thinking, interests, and perspectives of Capitol Hill offices and committees. For government agencies, an analysis of congressional inquiries and correspondence may be helpful in preparation for a hearing. For organizations outside government, previous questions or inquiries made of the organization by Congress may provide helpful information during hearing preparation.

Issue Analysis — A thorough analysis of the issue that is the topic of the hearing is a highly recommended tool in the preparation of a witness for a hearing. This consideration especially applies if there have been recent public activities, incidents, or events that relate to the issue of the hearing and that have drawn public attention and scrutiny.

Stakeholder Analysis — A thorough analysis of the various interests — players and people — involved in a particular issue that is the subject of a hearing can be helpful to a witness in preparing for hearing testimony. This approach is especially helpful in determining the “drivers” for an issue, those who benefit from or are harmed by it, and the universe of those who care about the issue for any reason. Conducting a stakeholder analysis can also be help identify differing positions and perspectives on a given issue that can be helpful to a witness in formulating a more strategic approach to his or her role as a witness.

Opposition Research — Knowing the various and differing positions on a particular policy issue under consideration by a committee can be valuable and helpful information for a witness preparing to testify before a committee.

“Preparing A Witness For A Congressional Committee Hearing, Part I” from Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge

Part II of this article will be published on November 8, 2010.

More

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,