Ripon Society Holds 6th Annual Senior Congressional Staff Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon


WASHINGTON, DC — The Ripon Society held its 6th Annual Senior Congressional Staff Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon this past Friday, a daylong event that drew over 150 top congressional aides to the historic estate of America’s first President for a series of speeches and panel discussions focused on this year’s political environment and the challenges facing the nation in 2016.

“This is the sixth year we’ve been holding this symposium,” stated Jim Conzelman, the President & CEO of The Ripon Society, in opening remarks to kick-off the day. “When we first held it in 2011, we invited Legislative Directors only. The next year, in response to requests and feedback we received, we opened the event to Communications Directors, as well.


“This year, we have expanded our audience even more to include Chiefs of Staff and all Senior Republican Staff Members on Capitol Hill. As you know, in each office, that may be different. Some offices have Deputy Chiefs, while other offices don’t. Some offices have Policy Directors and Press Secretaries, while other offices just have Communications Directors and LDs.

“Regardless of your title, if you’re here today, it’s because you play a key role in your office, and a critical role in helping to shape the course and direction of your boss’s career. Our goal today is to help you do your job a little better – not just by giving you a better idea of the challenges in today’s political environment, but by giving you the opportunity to get to know your colleagues who, like you, are working to meet these challenges in other offices on Capitol Hill.

“At the same time, by meeting here at Mount Vernon, we also hope to remind you of the historical significance of the task in which you are engaged. You are walking in the footsteps of Washington — which is not something you’re likely to read about on Twitter, but is something worth remembering.”

According to Conzelman, the agenda for The Ripon Society’s 6th Annual Senior Congressional Staff Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon included:

Presentation on the American Electorate – featuring remarks by Republican pollster Ed Goeas, the President & CEO of The Tarrance Group, and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, the President of Lake Research Partners.


Presentation on “Embracing the Digital Age” – featuring remarks by Ryan Coyne, the Chief Financial Officer for Independent Journal Review, a Top 50 website in the United States with more than 35 million unique visitors each month.


Q&A with the House & Senate Leadership Staff – featuring remarks by: Dave Hoppe, the Chief of Staff for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan; Hazen Marshall, the Policy Director for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Tim Berry, the Chief of Staff for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy; and, Monica Popp, the Chief of Staff for Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. The Q&A was moderated by Ralph Hellmann, a partner with the Lugar Hellmann Group and former senior policy advisor to the House Republican Leadership.


Panel Discussion on Covering Congress & the Media Landscape in 2016 – featuring three Capitol Hill beat reporters, including: Jake Sherman of Politico; Matt Fuller of the Huffington Post; and, Lindsey McPherson of Roll Call. The discussion was moderated by John Sampson, the Director of Federal Government Affairs at Microsoft and a former top aide to the House GOP Leadership.


Keynote Remarks on the Political Outlook in 2016 – featuring remarks by Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of the MSNBC morning news program, “Morning Joe.”


Conzelman noted that Curt Viebranz, the President & CEO of Mount Vernon, also delivered remarks at the Symposium, welcoming the crowd to the historic estate in the morning.


In addition to the remarks and discussions, Conzelman further noted that this year’s Symposium also featured the “Mount Vernon Primary,” which asked the Congressional Staff Members in attendance two basic questions geared around this year’s GOP presidential campaign. The questions – and results – are below:

“Who would you vote for today for the nomination?”

  1. Marco Rubio – 53%
  2. John Kasich – 29%
  3. Jeb Bush – 11%
  4. Ted Cruz – 3%
  5. Ben Carson – 3%
  6. Donald Trump – 1%

“Who do you THINK will win the nomination?”

  1. Marco Rubio – 45%
  2. None of the Above (brokered convention) – 22%
  3. Donald Trump – 17%
  4. Ted Cruz – 15%
  5. John Kasich – 1%
  6. Ben Carson – 0%
  7. Jeb Bush – 0%

A photo gallery from The Ripon Society’s 6th Annual Senior Congressional Staff Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon on February 19th can be viewed by clicking here.

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.