Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California attends a House Financial Services Committee hearing in 2019.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Rep. Katie Porter has gained notoriety for skilled questioning of CEOs during committee hearings.
Porter said committee hearings are one of the few places where “nobody is trying to control me.”
“I’m not waiting 15 years to have impact,” Porter told a friend after she was first elected in 2018.
Rep. Katie Porter of California, famous for aggressive of questioning of CEOs with a white board in tow, told Vanity Fair that she likes committee hearings because it’s one of the few places in Congress where leadership isn’t trying to control members.
In a lengthy profile in Vanity Fair, Porter spoke about the challenges of being a newly-elected member of Congress and the barriers that exist to having an “impact” – a word Porter has reportedly banned her staff from using because it’s too vague. “Impact, impactful…it means nothing,” she told the magazine.
One disappointment Porter faced when she got to Congress – after flipping a long-held Republican seat while raising 3 kids as a single mother – was a lack of formal power. She had lunch with Ann O’Leary, a former senior Democratic adviser, shortly after coming to DC following her election, where O’Leory said Porter appeared “deflated.”
“She was feeling like, this isn’t what I signed up for,” O’Leary told the magazine. “She got to Congress and was being told, you have to be in your place, stand in line, it will be 15 years before you have any power. She was like, ‘I’m a single mom busting my bottom to be here and I’m not waiting 15 years to have impact.'”
O’Leary then said she saw “a switch [go] off” in Porter as they discussed using committee hearings as a kind of “bully pulpit.”
“There are always instructions from leadership,” Porter told Vanity Fair. “This is how you vote, this is what our priority is, this is how you should message, this is how much money you need to raise-and the questions in hearings, you can show up and do what you want. It’s like looking around and saying, where is it that nobody is trying to control me?”
Porter would go on to achieve notoriety during her first term among both the Democratic base and CEOs alike when she put her questioning skills to use.
Porter was later removed from the House Financial Services Committee for her second term, where most of her most noteworthy questioning took place.
Though her removal was formally due to the denial of a waiver to serve on more committees than otherwise usually allowed, Vanity Fair reported that the committee chair, fellow California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, came to see Porter as “performative” and wanted her off the committee.
“Imagine you’re Maxine, you’ve been running that committee for forever, and this freshman who asks questions in the first five minutes is all [that] gets reported-everybody runs the clip of the freshman and nothing about you,” another representative anonymously told Vanity Fair.
“Maxine wanted certain people off of her committee-certain people meaning Porter in particular. There was horse trading between her and [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi. It was bullshit,” the representative added.