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   U.S. Capitol is too white, say critics

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6/26/2009 12:00 am

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Entered 6/26/2009, Updated 6/26/2009

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The staff on Capitol Hill is too white. That’s what a group of frustrated members, lobbyists and aides are claiming as they press congressional leaders to adopt a version of the so-called Rooney rule. The rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, has been credited with significantly increasing the number of African-American coaches in the National Football League. Even with the first black president and African-Americans and Hispanics wielding more power than ever in Congress, there are just two Senate chiefs of staff who are minorities. In the lower chamber, there are only five white lawmakers who have African-American chiefs of staff. And only four African-Americans are staff directors of either House or Senate committees, according to statistics prepared for this article. “Given such poor numbers, let’s acknowledge that there is something broken about the process,” said Citigroup lobbyist Paul Thornell, a former aide to then-Vice President Al Gore and Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.). He said there are “few intentional strategies in place to promote minorities.” Thornell and others say the Senate has done more on diversity at the staff level than the House, where there are four black committee chairmen and 17 black subcommittee chairmen. Hispanic Reps. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) chair the Intelligence Committee and the Small Business Committee, respectively.


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