2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Max Markon
Internship Location: U.S. House of Representatives
Journal Entry #1:
Hi, my name is Max Markon and I’m a rising third-year interning at the House Oversight Committee this summer. The Oversight committee is the main investigative arm of the U.S. House of Representatives and has almost government-wide jurisdiction, so it’s been at the epicenter of many high-profile, controversial disputes between the executive and legislative branches. The Committee spends most of its time investigating executive branch misconduct by holding hearings, issuing staff reports, and writing letters to various government agencies requesting documents and other information related to ongoing investigations. In my first few weeks with the Committee, I have spent a good deal of time getting up to speed on the Committee’s operations and history. One recent high-profile investigation the Committee led that I’ve familiarized myself with is the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. Fast and Furious was a vast law enforcement operation coordinated by the Obama Administration that allowed thousands of illegal gun sales in order to track the buyers and sellers, some of whom were believed to have ties to Mexican drug cartels. Two weapons linked to the operation later turned up near the scene of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The Oversight Committee’s investigation lasted years and faced numerous obstacles, most notably a battle over access to Department of Justice documents related to Fast and Furious with then-Attorney General Eric Holder. These days, the Committee is immersed in investigating the Trump Administration. This week, for example, the Committee is holding a hearing to address reports that White House advisor Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, a law barring most executive branch employees from engaging in certain forms of political activity. The White House recently announced, however, that it will prohibit Conway from testifying at the hearing, and now the Oversight Committee will decide whether to subpoena Conway to testify.
The Committee’s herculean workload means that all staff – including interns – must constantly prepare for the next barrage of hearings, investigations, and written reports and letters. As an intern for the Committee, my work is both administrative and substantive. On the administrative end, I sometimes answer phones, scan and process the thousands of documents we receive daily, deliver mail, and get Members’ signatures on legislation. On the substantive end, I conduct research for staff, draft questions and other materials for hearings and investigations, and occasionally help manage our social media accounts. Though it’s only been a few weeks, being an intern for the Committee has been a fulfilling experience. It is difficult to overstate just how impactful it is to play a part – albeit a very small one – in the congressional oversight process, not to mention seeing how a storied House committee operates. I hope to only build on these experiences in my time left on Capitol Hill.
Journal Entry #2:
I am now at the midway point in my internship, and I must say that the workload has not slowed—it’s only increased. As I enter the third month of my internship, I have been afforded more and more independence and flexibility with regards to my written work. I have my superiors at the Committee to thank for this: as I have grown into my role, I have earned a place among the staff, even despite my status as a mere intern. I am exceedingly grateful to work at an institution that places such a premium on hard work and ingenuity. Ingenuity, as a matter of fact, is one of the core attributes I have seen on display in the staff during my time on the Hill. Hill staffers—especially those working in the House of Representatives—operate in a chaotic environment and must answer, above all else, to the members. This means that conditions change rapidly, and staffers must adapt accordingly, often with little or no prior notice. I have been present on multiple occasions in which a member was displeased with this or that report produced by staff and demanded something different within minutes. Time and time again, the staffers did their level best to serve the wishes of their bosses, even when they thought they were in the wrong—a valuable lesson that I will try to incorporate into my own thinking in the remaining month I have here on Capitol Hill.
Journal Entry #3:
Now that my internship has ended, I have some time to reflect on my experiences these last couple of months. It is difficult to put into words how transformative the experience has been, from seeing famous people in the hallways to sitting in on briefings and hearings with members of Congress. I could go on for hours about those sorts of experiences, which I had almost every day on the job. Those flashy moments, however, are not what I will take away from my internship; rather, it was through the more mundane parts of the job that I learned the most and developed the most lasting relationships. Countless days spent collaborating with my fellow interns, getting advice on projects from staffers, and, most importantly, chatting with staff and interns alike at the Committee’s daily lunch gathering taught me not only how to succeed in a public service working environment, but also how to be a more engaged and sensitive individual. These experiences instilled in me an enduring love of public service and demonstrated to me the power of commitment and relentless hard work in support of a goal bigger than any one person. I walked away from my internship with the House Oversight Committee feeling accomplished, but also unfulfilled, for I then realized just how much work there is to be done.