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Democratic AI staffers to watch

Jun 22, 2023

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Congress is focusing on artificial intelligence, with the Democratic-controlled Senate taking the lead on putting together comprehensive, bipartisan legislation.

  • Here's a look at the key Democratic staffers working behind the scenes to get legislation in place. We'll be back soon with a look at key Republican staffers.


Michael Kuiken, national security adviser, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Kuiken and Jon Cardinal, Schumer's economic policy director, will be instrumental in the Senate's efforts get an AI law on the books.

  • Kuiken has served in this position for more than six years. He previously served in the Senate Armed Services Committee for more than 12 years.

Michelle Benecke, HSGAC senior counsel

Benecke has worked for the committee, which has a reputation for getting bipartisan legislation passed, for more than five years. She previously worked in the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Courtney Gibbons, a mathematician, is helping the committee research and draft legislation as an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow.
  • Evie Freeman is the committee's fairly new counsel, having started the job just six months ago. She was promoted from research assistant.

Rafi Martina, senior adviser, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner

Martina, who has been with Warner for more than eight years, leads the senator's work exploring the national security, economic competitiveness, and civil liberties impacts of artificial intelligence. He previously worked for Sprint as a regulatory counsel.

  • Sean Sweeney, Warner's legislative assistant, previously led Accenture's government engagement related to artificial intelligence and served as co-chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Artificial Intelligence Working Group.

Richard-Duane Chambers, professional staff member, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee

Chambers led the staff of the space and science subcommittee, focusing on NIST and the National Science Foundation. He helped negotiate and draft the CHIPS and Science Act.

  • Chambers is leaving to join NIST's CHIPS R&D office. A committee spokesperson said a replacement has not yet been picked.
  • He previously served in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which invests in breakthrough technologies for national security.


Alan McQuinn, professional staff member, Science, Space and Technology Committee research and technology subcommittee

Artificial intelligence is one of the many tech topics McQuinn has managed for committee Democrats since 2019.

  • McQuinn helped draft and negotiate the 2020 National AI Initiative Act and the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act.
  • The committee has been meeting with industry and academia for the last six months. In an interview Wednesday, McQuinn pointed to workforce issues and standard setting among others as areas of AI focus.

Stuart Styron, senior tech policy counsel, Rep. Anna Eshoo

Styron has worked in Congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus Co-Chair Eshoo's office for more than five years, working his way up from legislative assistant.

  • The caucus is playing a key role in educating Congress on AI, helping host Open AI CEO Sam Altman last month for a bipartisan briefing with about 60 lawmakers.

Melodie Ha, professional staff member, Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and China

Ha is a national security professional with expertise on Chinese emerging technology.

  • Although the panel does not have the power to take legislative action, it's preparing to elevate U.S.-China tech issues and influence other committees.
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