Ailsa Chang

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers Congress for NPR. She landed in public radio after spending six years as a lawyer.

Since joining NPR in 2012, Chang has covered battles over immigration, the healthcare law, gun control and White House appointments. She crisscrossed the country in the months before the Republican takeover of the Senate, bringing stories about Washington from the Deep South, Southwest and New England.

Chang started out as a radio reporter in 2009, and has since earned a string of national awards for her work. In 2012, she was honored with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her investigation on the New York City Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" policy and allegations of unlawful marijuana arrests by officers. The series also earned honors from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists.

She was also the recipient of the Daniel Schorr Journalism Award, a National Headliner Award, and an honor from Investigative Reporters and Editors for her investigation on how Detroit's broken public defender system leaves lawyers with insufficient resources to effectively represent their clients.

In 2011, the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association named Chang as the winner of the Art Athens Award for General Excellence in Individual Reporting for radio.

The former lawyer served as a law clerk to Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. on the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

Chang graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University where she received her bachelor's degree.

She earned her law degree with distinction from Stanford Law School, where she won the Irving Hellman, Jr. Special Award for the best piece written by a student in the Stanford Law Review in 2001.

Chang was also a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University, where she received a master's degree in media law. And she has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Prior to coming to NPR, Chang was an investigative reporter at NPR member station WNYC from 2009 to 2012 in New York City, focusing on criminal justice and legal affairs. She was a Kroc fellow at NPR from 2008 to 2009, as well as a reporter and producer for NPR member station KQED in San Francisco.

Chang grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Politics
6:22 am
Fri June 20, 2014

GOP: McCarthy Voted Majority Leader; Scalise Chosen As Whip

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:29 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

House Republicans have elected a new majority leader. As expected, Kevin McCarthy of California, currently the third-ranked Republican in the House, easily prevailed. And Steve Scalise of Louisiana won the fight to replace McCarthy as majority whip. The leadership shuffle followed last week's unexpected primary defeat of the previous majority leader, Eric Cantor. NPR's Ailsa Chang takes a look at the frenzied, 10-day contest to fill the newly vacated positions.

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Politics
5:12 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Hagel Defends Bergdahl Exchange Before House Panel

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 9:40 am

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel explained why the Obama administration agreed to swap five top Taliban leaders for the release of an Army enlisted man, who willingly left his post in Afghanistan.

Politics
5:16 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Senators Reach Deal To Pay For Veterans' Care Outside VA System

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 11:09 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Politics
4:32 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Outraged Senators Reach Across Aisle For Deal On VA Wait Times

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 7:58 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Some U.S. senators have crafted a bipartisan response to the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last week, amid controversy over treatment delays at veterans' hospitals. Now, a Senate plan calls for construction of new medical centers for veterans. It would also allow quicker dismissal of high-level employees at the VA.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Old Senate Tradition Lies Behind Controversial Judge's Nomination

There's an idea in the Senate that it's still a chamber operating on mutual respect and goodwill between colleagues. That's why venerable traditions like "blue slips" — slips of paper senators can use to block any White House choice for judgeships in their home state — carry over today.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 10:56 am

As President Obama continues to take heat for nominating to the federal bench a judge who once wanted to keep the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag, the White House says what's partly to blame for the choice is an old Senate tradition.

It turns out that tradition — which gives virtual veto power over judicial nominations to home state senators — helps explain why almost all the judicial vacancies without nominees are now in states with Republican senators.

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It's All Politics
7:10 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Sen. Isakson: Boggs Fight Won't Break White House Deal

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., speaks during a May 2013 Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Charles Dharapak AP

If the judicial nomination of Michael Boggs gets derailed, at least one of Georgia's senators says it won't unravel a deal the two senators entered with the White House to select seven nominees for the federal bench in Georgia.

"The deal was we agreed on seven nominees for seven judicial appointments and asked for all of them to get a hearing at the same time, and that was the deal," said Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia. "Everybody lived up to what they said."

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Politics
5:05 am
Thu May 22, 2014

House Panel Wants More Done To Undermine Boko Haram

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 9:39 am

The House Foreign Affairs Committee got a briefing on the threat from Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has kidnapped and is holding hundreds of Nigerian girls captive.

Politics
4:05 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Obama Judicial Nominee Gets A Hostile Reception From Democrats

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 7:26 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

One of President Obama's most controversial picks for the federal bench faced a barrage of hostile questions from Democrats, during his confirmation hearing today. Michael Boggs is a state judge in Georgia. He was nominated to the federal district court as the result of a deal between the White House and Georgia's two Republican senators.

As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent the morning hammering away at Boggs' conservative record.

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Politics
2:41 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Election-Year Politics Dooms Energy Bill, Averts Pipeline Vote

Pipefitters work on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline's southern portion outside Tulsa, Okla., in January.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 12:23 pm

As expected, an energy efficiency bill failed in the Senate on Monday, which makes a separate Senate vote on the Keystone XL oil pipeline unlikely before the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had made a Keystone vote contingent upon passage of the energy efficiency bill, and letting one doom the other may have temporarily gotten him out of a bind.

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Politics
5:15 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Women On Capitol Hill Reach Across Party Lines To Get Things Done

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., started what she calls power workshops for women in the Senate years ago.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 4:51 pm

There's a long-held assumption that women are more likely than men to collaborate. As the number of women in Congress has increased, however, so has the partisanship and gridlock. So does a woman's touch actually help on Capitol Hill?

There's a lot of academic research that supports the idea that women are better at building bipartisan coalitions. Studies have found that women in Congress not only sponsor more bills but also collect more co-sponsors for those bills.

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She Votes
5:24 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

From Humble Beginnings, A Powerhouse Fundraising Class Emerges

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., asks a question of a witness on Capitol Hill during a June 2013 committee hearing. Since her appointment in 2009, Gillibrand has become one of the Senate's top fundraisers.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 12:54 pm

Women are far less likely than men to run for Congress. But here's the curious thing: When it comes to the hardest, most miserable part of campaigning — fundraising — women do just as well as men.

Study after study shows this, but it wasn't always that way. Efforts over the past 30 years to teach women how to raise money and give money have helped them catch up to men as powerhouse fundraisers.

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Politics
5:05 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Senate Republicans Block Bill To Raise Federal Minimum Wage

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 7:35 am

One of the Democrats top election themes this year was stopped cold in the Senate on Wednesday. Republicans successfully blocked Democrats from even taking up a bill to raise the minimum wage.

Politics
4:08 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Hey, Superheroes On The National Mall: Any Advice For Congress?

People arrive on the National Mall Friday dressed as comic book characters during the kickoff of Awesome Con 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 7:13 pm

Hundreds of people gathered on the National Mall Friday to see if they could break the Guinness World Record for the largest group dressed as comic book characters ever assembled.

It was the kickoff to Awesome Con 2014, a comic book convention that will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. In the end, the group came up short by several hundred people to break the world record.

But with so much superhero power concentrated next to the U.S. Capitol, NPR had to ask: Did the caped figures have any advice for Congress?

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Politics
4:02 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Mega-Donor Opens Wallet On The Hill To Kill Online Gambling

Sheldon Adelson listens as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on March 29 in Las Vegas. Several possible GOP presidential candidates gathered in Las Vegas as Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate, looks for a new favorite to help on the 2016 race for the White House.
Julie Jacobson AP

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 7:34 pm

Now that the Supreme Court has eliminated the cap on the total amount one individual can give to candidates in each election, many are wondering how the very rich will respond.

If they spread their money across a wider swath of lawmakers, would that improve their chances of passing the legislation they want?

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson could be the first test case.

Expanding One's Reach Across Congress

Adelson is pushing a bill through Congress that would ban online gambling, and he has pledged he will spend "whatever it takes."

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It's All Politics
6:10 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

As Obamacare Deadline Nears, Louisiana Gets Special Attention

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., speaks at an Oct. 2013 news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Landrieu's support for the Affordable Care Act is center stage in her campaign for a fourth Senate term.
Evan Vucci AP

With only four days left before the March 31 enrollment deadline, the White House is kicking into high gear trying to round up more Affordable Care Act enrollees – and Louisiana got special attention Thursday.

Why? Enrollment in the federal healthcare exchange there has lagged behind other states and, perhaps as important, citizens are getting bombarded with anti-ACA ads as Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu gears up for a tight race in November.

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Politics
3:30 am
Wed March 26, 2014

How To Meet Your Congressman

The Capitol Dome is visible through the skylights of the new Capitol Visitor Center.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 3:21 pm

For all the campaigning and schmoozing members of Congress have to do, the truth is that the vast majority of Americans will never actually meet their lawmakers.

To be fair, not everyone wants to. But among those who do, there's serious competition for a lawmaker's time. So, how does an average citizen get access on Capitol Hill? The quick answer: It's not easy.

First, do the math. When it comes to face time with a member of Congress, there are 535 of them, and 314 million of you.

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Politics
4:32 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

With Clock Ticking Down, Obama Polishes Judicial Legacy

President Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in November 2013, shortly after the Senate voted 52-48 to weaken the power of the filibuster.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 6:22 pm

Republicans have a decent shot at taking control of the Senate in November, so President Obama could have as little as nine months left to shape the judiciary he will leave behind.

Senate Democrats positioned themselves to help with that endeavor when they eliminated the filibuster for most judicial nominees last November. But Republicans are still finding ways to slow things down.

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Economy
5:03 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Senators Agree To Compromise Extending Jobless Benefits

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 11:27 am

Negotiators in the Senate reached a bi-partisan deal to extend unemployment benefits for 5 months, retroactive to the end of last year. A full Senate vote isn't expected until later this month.

Politics
5:05 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Gillibrand, McCaskill Square Off Over Military Assault Prosecutions

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 11:39 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The Senate has rejected a proposal that would have allowed military prosecutors, rather than commanders, to decide which sexual assault cases to pursue. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the legislation pitted two women of the Senate, both Democrats, both lawyers, against each other - Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who pushed the bill, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who lead the charge against her.

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News
4:16 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Senate Blocks Military Sexual Assault Reforms

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 7:01 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

After months of anticipation, the Senate has rejected a proposal to fundamentally change the way the military prosecutes sexual assault. Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York needed 60 votes for a bill that would give military prosecutors, rather than commanders, final say over which sexual assault cases to prosecute. The legislation got 55 votes today.

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