Administrative staff, Earmarks, Environment and Public Works Committee, Governmental Affairs Committee, Majority Leader, Veterans' Affairs Committee
Walter Stephen Hart was born January 17, 1955, in Washington, DC, to Peter William Hart and Mary Jane Strauss Hart; his parents were librarians. He attended Arizona State University, where he earned a degree in mass communications. He worked at a radio station in New Hampshire and covered the 1980 presidential primaries. He returned to school at Ball State, graduating with a degree in journalism and a minor in public relations, after which he moved to Maine, where his wife was working. He worked for Maine congressional candidate Phil Merrill in the 1982 primary, and after Merrill lost to John Kerry, Hart worked as Kerry’s press secretary. Hart was hired as a legislative assistant to Senator Mitchell in March of 1983. He was primarily responsible for Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, Governmental Affairs and Energy and Natural Resources issues. He remained on Mitchell’s staff until the senator’s retirement in January, 1995. At the time of this interview Hart was deputy director of legislative affairs for the USDA Forest Service.
Interview includes discussions of: 1982 congressional election in Maine; his role in Mitchell’s office; how Senate members and staff cooperate to get the best information; how Mitchell’s role changed when he became majority leader and how that impacted the staff; parochial interests; earmarks and the purpose they serve; Maine Blueberry Commission earmark; the Bicentennial Lighthouse Fund; the Coast Guard facility at Cape Elizabeth; maple syrup regulation on the Nurses Training Bill; the appropriations process; Mitchell staff salaries and his idea of “psychic remuneration”; the importance Mitchell placed on meeting with and responding to constituents; lobbyists’ role in providing information; the appropriations bill after hurricane Hugo; the senator’s division of time between the work of the Senate and being the public face of the Democratic Party; comparing Robert Byrd and Senator Mitchell as majority leaders; the reasoning behind retiring from the Senate when he did; anecdote about Hart and the chief of staff of Agriculture; Togus hearing on PTSD; the White Mountain National Forest nuclear waste disposal hearing; and the Northern Forest Study proposal hearings in Bangor.
This recording and transcription are © 2011 Bowdoin College and are presented for private study, scholarship, or research only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction, and quotation beyond “fair use” (Title 17, United States Code) permission must be obtained in writing from the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421, USA.