Two major political scandals will rock the nation's capital next week. No one knows what or who the scandals will involve.
But, in a hearing room in Washington, a bipartisan committee of congressional investigators will work to collect the facts, reassure the public, and hold those responsible for wrongdoing accountable, regardless of political affiliation.
Sound like a fantasy? That's because it is. But maybe it doesn't have to be.
The scandals will be invented by the organizers of the "oversight boot camp," an exclusive two-day workshop for Hill staffers designed to foster bipartisanship in congressional investigations. Powering the workshop is a simple mission, which its instructors preach like gospel: Bipartisan oversight is possible, effective and necessary.
At a time when Americans and their representatives in Congress are more polarized than they have been in decades, the notion can seem hopelessly idealistic. But the organizers behind the workshop are far from naive.
Instead, Elise Bean and Justin Rood are former congressional investigators from both sides of the aisle. Bean worked on the staff of Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin, and Rood worked for Oklahoma GOP Senator Tom Coburn. Bean recently published a book cataloging 15 years of bipartisan inquiry in the Senate. Before working for Coburn, Rood was an influential investigative reporter.
Bean and Rood launched the boot camp in 2015 after their bosses retired, inspired to pass on the institutional knowledge they worried Congress was losing. The boot camp is hosted by the Project on Government Oversight, where Rood works, the Levin Center, where Bean works, and the Lugar Center, a D.C. think tank named after Richard Lugar, a Republican former U.S. senator from Indiana.
Kurt Bardella, who served as a spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa while the California Republican ran the House Oversight Committee, said that he believed it was possible that Congress could pursue greater bipartisanship — but that it depended on the results of the November midterms.
"Is it possible? Of course," said Bardella, a lifelong Republican who left the party late last year after the Republican National Committee endorsed Roy Moore, who was accused of sexually abusing minors, during his race for the Alabama Senate.
Bardella said the success of bipartisan oversight will depend on whether Republicans "see that there is an appetite from the American people for checks and balances."