The Washington Post found Georgia Senate Democrat candidate Jon Ossoff embellished his national security credentials during his 2017 bid to represent Georgia’s sixth congressional district.
Ossoff gained the Democrat nomination to replace outgoing Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who was tapped to lead the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department under President Donald Trump. The race for Georgia’s sixth congressional district was one of the most expensive congressional race at the time.
Ossoff, who was then-30-years-old, touted his alleged national security credentials as part of his qualifications for Congress.
Ossoff said in 2017, “I’ve got five years of experience as a national security staffer in the U.S. Congress. I held top-secret security clearance.”
However, the Post‘s fact-checker found that two of his five years as a national security staffer occurred while he was a college student, and he held a security clearance for only five months. The Post‘s fact-checker said his claims about his experience were “misleading enough” to merit one “Pinocchio” and that he had engaged in a “bit too much résumé puffery.”
Ossoff spent the first two of his five years as a legislative correspondent working for Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). PolitiFact’s fact check on Ossoff’s claim that a legislative correspondent is a relatively entry-level position on the Hill.
However, it’s important to keep in mind some important context about Ossoff’s first two years on Johnson’s staff. During those two years, Ossoff was working with the office only on a part-time basis and hadn’t received his undergraduate degree yet.
Moreover, his title — legislative correspondent — is not exactly a lofty one. Here’s how the Congressional Management Foundation describes it: “Researches and writes legislative correspondence; conducts legislative research; assists legislative assistants as needed.”
The PolitiFact piece then outlined, “In other words, the primary job of a legislative correspondent is to answer mail from the lawmaker’s constituents and to backfill for more senior office staffers when necessary.”
It continued by pointing out, “In 2009, one of the years Ossoff held the position, the median salary for a legislative correspondent was $38,875, more than the $37,504 for a staff assistant and well below the next rung up on the ladder — legislative assistant at $50,500, according to the Congressional Research Service.”
Norman Ornstein, a staffer at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said Ossoff engaged in “resume inflation” with his national security experience. However, he added this was a “rather benign” instance.
He explained, “Legislative correspondent is a junior staff position, but it at least requires that the staffer know enough about his boss’s policy positions that he can write letters, both to constituents and executive agencies, that are accurate and in some cases nuanced.”
PolitiFact rated Ossoff’s claim to be a senior national security staffer for five years as “half true.”