By: Roberto De La Rosa-Finch – Online Editor
How does one go from writing articles about potatoes to the House republican’s internal war on repealing and replacing Obamacare?
Dayton native, former Flyer and now POLITICO reporter Rachael Bade can tell you how.
Bade sat down with Flyer News Aug. 21 to discuss her journey from ballet dancer to Capitol Hill prober and discloser.
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What year did you graduate from UD?
“I finished school in May of 2010.”
Where did you live freshman and senior year?
“Freshman year I was a Stuart girl. I was up on the hill. This was before we had air conditioning. You haven’t suffered,” she laughed.
“Senior year I was on the ‘Dark side’. I lived on Chambers both senior and junior year.”
Did you participate in any clubs, intramurals, or groups?
“My freshman year I was still dancing a little bit. I was doing that part-time as I was studying. I think it was junior year when I tried—and failed—to start a peace group.”
She ended up organizing events where they would have speakers come in and talk about the conflict. The word ‘they’ might be a strong word to use. For the first meeting, Bade sent out a bunch of emails, prepared the room with her then-boyfriend and now husband, and even baked cookies.
Unfortunately, nobody showed up.
Nevertheless, Bade continued and prepared discussions with students regarding international affairs and interfaith. She would also present at Stander Symposium on the topic of her senior thesis paper: misconceptions about the Muslim faith.
Prior to her involvement in international issues or other religions, Bade’s focus was strictly on ballet.
Bade told Tippecanoe Gazette that in high school, “it was ballet, ballet, ballet—all day, every day. I suppose I got good grades and enjoyed studying and writing even back then, but I spent all my free time —about 30 hours a week —training to be a professional dancer.”
But soon a gen-ed political science class at UD sparked her attention.
“I’d never really questioned what I believed and why, and college for me was this amazing mind-exploding experience, learning about other people, other cultures, other religions, other worldviews.”
Further into the interview, Bade would recall her favorite moments as a Flyer and favorite professor.
She reminisced about a party at her house and weekends with her best friends.
“We would take our heels off and run up the grass,” to stroll into Stuart’s Landing for some pretzels before watching “Grey’s Anatomy.”
A mediator in her own right, she explained the first time meeting her husband. “He wasn’t eating, and people were picking on him.”
Recently a Muslim-convert, he was fasting for the ninth month of Muslim year, Ramadan. Intrigued about the difference in religion, Bade asked, “What? You’re a Muslim?” Which he responded, “Yea, I think at least.”
Bade mentioned Dr. Jason Pierce, dean of College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Natalie F. Hudson, director of Human Rights Studies Program, who did a good job “exposing you to why people might have a different perspective.”
Hudson also helped her with the thesis that Bade would base one of her most memorable moments in college. “I worked really hard on that paper and the research behind it. Pretty proud moment of mine at UD.”
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After all the unforgettable times on campus Bade had a tough decision to make.
She would apply to several journalism jobs, non-profits and think-tanks her senior year but only received one call back. CQ Roll Call, a D.C. newspaper, offered her an internship to start after graduation.
Not long after, Bade received a full-time job offer to work in her hometown at Dayton Daily News.
There was a big risk in going to Washington, where she knew no one and had nowhere to stay, but she had acquired a new passion to cover the Hill.
Assessing the window of opportunity, pushing the student loans and the potential failure aside, Bade elected to go to Roll Call.
Still, everything was not lost. At an event where Bade was receiving an award from the communications department she spoke about what she planned to do after college and touched on taking a big chance and “probably liv(ing) in a box.”
Maureen Pater, a UD alumna, was present and grabbed her arm after Bade’s presentation and told Bade to see her after.
Pater lived in Washington with her family and offered Bade a place to stay.
Now reporting in the District, she was one step closer to inside scoops and big news stories.
While Roll Call was near the action, Bade’s internship assignments weren’t.
Writing a story on a potato exhibit at the Botanical Gardens right in the shadow of the Capitol Building, wasn’t her idea of a big new story.
How did you persevere and stay dedicated at Roll Call and then again at POLITICO before the IRS scandal?
“I had to tell myself that it wasn’t going to happen right away. You have your dream job, but you have to realize you’re not going to get it right away.”
Even after moving onto POLITICO as a tax reporter in 2012, she still wasn’t living out her dream.
“In the meantime you just got to really work hard at what you’re doing, and for me it was taxes,” Bade said.
She would push through and find unique angles on less interesting tax stories, which from time to time ended up on the front page.
Articles such as, states’ marijuana legalization and the allocation of its tax revenue, and potential tax raises to limit the purchasing of firearms in the wake of several shootings.
Bade would get a break soon when she began covering the IRS tea party targeting scandal in 2013.
The scandal allowed her to build relationships with members on the committee and learned that “people leak on Capitol Hill all the time.”
“Even though it wasn’t the topic I set out to cover, I just had a lot of fun with it because I was getting stuff that other reporters were not getting,” Bade said.
So, now you finally had pressure on you? How did you feel? Were scared, excited?
“I guess I was nervous at first. When I started at POLITICO I remember being really nervous, but I had good editors. If you have good mentors, and people who know you and like to work with you it’s really exciting.”
On that topic, did you have any key mentors, or people who deeply influenced who you are?
While still at Roll Call, Bade looked for an apartment on Craigslist, and unknowingly responded to an ad that belonged to John Allen, a former Roll Call reporter who also moved to POLITICO. After exchanging emails, she would ask for advice on getting a job at POLITICO without the credentials.
He responded with, “Pick the thing that no one is covering and nobody’s interested in and own it,” and that propelled her into tax reporting and into her dream job.
She also referenced Senior Congressional Editor Mike Zeppler, who taught her the most about writing, and Congressional Bureau Chief John Bresnahan, taught her the art of reporting, building relationships, and making sure you don’t burn anyone.
The Ohio native has come a long way from ballet practice in a mirror-rimmed studio across from the Dayton Dragons’ stadium, Pontecorvo Ballet Studios.
Although she does much less center floor allegro variations, Bade still breaks news fast and often.
The interview was actually pushed back an hour because she was writing up a story on republicans scheduling to hold hearings on the rise of white supremacy groups and domestic terrorism.
A much different atmosphere than potato or firefighter exhibits.
Photos Courtesy of John Shinkle/POLITICO and Tom Williams/Roll Call