The Senate’s Press Secretaries Group Keeps It Bipartisan

For more than 40 years, the U.S. Senate Press Secretaries Association has helped communication pros do their jobs—in part by helping its members get outside of the Beltway every once in a while.

With the changing of the political guard comes a whole lot of people in new roles.

That’s especially the case in the Senate, where communication officials are getting their feet wet in the halls of power along with their bosses.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate Press Secretaries Association, a group that has existed for more than 40 years, is ready to help out the newbies—along with the rest of the PR pros in the upper chamber.

While SPSA members have leaned somewhat to the right in recent years (as has the Senate as a whole), the group, by design, tends to be more bipartisan in nature, focusing on the shared needs of communication professionals. Ryan Taylor, the communication director for Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), is the group’s departing president, and just like every president before him, he’ll be replaced by someone from the other party.

In a recent interview with Roll Call, Taylor noted that the group’s continued existence in a difficult political environment was impressive, something he credited to the wide resources the group offers.

“SPSA gives our members opportunities to further develop their craft, learn best practices from each other, as well as from their counterparts in the media and off the Hill,” Taylor said. “You can find our alumni from coast to coast, doing a wide variety of influential and cutting-edge jobs.”

The sentiment was shared by Christopher Gindlesperger, a former Senate Judiciary Committee employee who remained active with the group even after he became a vice president with the National Confectioners Association.

“As a former Senate committee communications director, I have maintained my membership as I transitioned off the Hill because I believe there is value in participating in SPSA meetings, panel discussions and events, both as active Senate staff and alumni,” he noted to the publication.

(Gindlesperger’s current group is one of many that has collaborated on events with SPSA in the past.)

And the lessons for members don’t just happen on the Hill. Often, SPSA pushes its members outside of the Beltway bubble. Sometimes, it’s with a wink and a nod: In 2010, as the legislative momentum around the Affordable Care Act’s passage had reached a crescendo, the group held a literal tug of war—Republicans on one side, Democrats on the other—with the help of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Next month, for example, the group’s members will head to New York City to meet with TV producers and other figures whose influence could prove essential—an annual trip that often defines the start of the group’s year. (In recent years, the event has put SPSA members in front of Daily Show host Trevor Noah and the editorial boards of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among other notable media.)

It isn’t easy to keep a bipartisan group running in a partisan body, but SPSA pulls it off.

SPSA members shown on the set of The Daily Show. (Handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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