- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

What magazine has glossy paper, spiffy graphics, bold color and lots of buzz? And enough clout to draw VIPs for an evening of fab food, photo flashing, live jazz and even livelier gossip?

People? Hello? Capitol File? Could be, but not this time, and now you’ve run out of guesses. Try Congressional Quarterly, the venerable weekly that’s been covering Congress, politics and public policy for the past 60 years.

The anniversary was reason enough to celebrate in style Tuesday night at Decatur House, where Sen. Ted Stevens, Reps. Bill Young and Ray LaHood, Patrick Buchanan, Bill Press, Sander Vanocur, Margaret Warner, Mark Shields, Steve Roberts, John Dickerson, John Cochran, Hal Bruno, David Broder and about 200 other very-inside-the-Beltway types gathered to pay homage.

The magazine’s recent update — unveiled in January — was the “big kahuna” of format changes in recent years, CQ President and Publisher Robert Merry said as the decibel level rose to a dull roar. “We were looking more like a scholarly journal than a magazine and wanted to cover Washington in a broader way.”

The legions of lobbyists, congressmen, bureaucrats and policy wonks who rely on CQ’s grist for their daily grind need not fear their cherished charts, graphs, maps and stats will be swept away for frothy “personality” coverage like the piece on former Texas Rep. Charles “Good Time Charlie” Wilson’s Hollywood movie deal that recently appeared in the new front-of-the book Vantage Point section. Mr. Merry has no intention of taking away the “reference component” they need to track legislation and the news, and for which they pay dearly. (Over 7,000 clients pay $2,500 per year for hard copy subscriptions — hand-delivered inside the Beltway — with another 3,000 taking the online version at the same price).

We know the partying press simply couldn’t do without it.

“When I’m parachuting into an issue, CQ brings me up to speed pretty fast,” said David Corn, Washington bureau chief of the Nation, as he sampled the lemongrass-infused chicken, parmesan artichoke bottoms and other delicacies on the buffet.

“It’s a vital resource for everything that’s happening on the Hill,” Copley News Service White House correspondent Finlay Lewis pronounced not so far from the brambleberry and brie quesadillas. “If you’re going to do a story about President Bush’s Hurricane Katrina recovery plan, you have to read CQ. It’s an absolutely indispensable base line for the detailed, in-depth reporting reporters do. We probably don’t acknowledge it as much as we should.”

Kevin Chaffee

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