LaVita was one of the four principle staffers in the first major legislative battle we shot, the Border Security Bill of 2002. She was a staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security. LaVita was working with her Republican counterpart from the Terrorism Subcommittee, Elizabeth Maier, and two staffers from the Immigration Subcommittee-- Esther Olavarria and David Neal.
Watching LaVita and her colleagues we learned a lot about the dynamics between cosponsors. LaVita‘s boss and Elizabeth‘s boss are from opposite sides of the aisle, but they are both from border states, they both are focused on terrorism, and they are good friends. Over the years we saw that when Senators have that kind of connection it‘s usually stronger than party ties, but it was LaVita and Elizabeth who first let us in on that Senate secret.
Sen. Feinstein is known in the Senate as someone who makes up her mind on a case by case basis, particularly with immigration bills, which sometimes complicated LaVita‘s negotiations. After the Border Security Bill we crossed paths with LaVita quite a bit, till she left the Hill in late 2003 to work for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
LaVita is now LaVita Strickland LeGrys, and is back in government service as Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affair at the Transportation Security Administration.