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
3:04 am
Mon November 3, 2014

Sen. Mitch McConnell Has More Than Most Riding On Midterm Elections

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky waves while riding with his wife Elaine Chao in the Hopkins County Veterans Day Parade on Sunday in Madisonville. McConnell remains locked in a close race with Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 11:49 am

If Republicans take over the Senate, the man expected to become the next majority leader is Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The title would be the culmination of a political career spanning more than three decades.

But first, McConnell has to win a sixth Senate term in a state where his popularity's been sagging.

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Politics
2:36 am
Mon October 27, 2014

After Sunday Service, Georgia Churches Get Souls To The Polls

Martha Frazier rides a bus to vote in Miami in 2012. This year, Georgia churches are running similar "Souls to the Polls" programs, busing worshipers to early voting locations after Sunday service.
J Pat Carter AP

Originally published on Mon October 27, 2014 12:06 pm

At The Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in Atlanta, about 700 congregants jam the pews every Sunday morning at 10:30. The church is near the edge of DeKalb County, and it's helping lead a "Souls to the Polls" drive.

Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn is running an extremely tight race for Senate against Republican David Perdue, and the difference between victory and defeat could ride on the African-American vote. The push is on to get voters to turn out early — especially at black churches.

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Politics
2:33 am
Wed October 22, 2014

The 2014 Campaign Ads That You Just Can't Stop Replaying

In this campaign ad, GOP candidate Terri Lynn Land sips coffee after asking the viewer to "think about" accusations that she's waging a war on women.
Terry Land YouTube

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 1:05 pm

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Politics
2:26 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Health Officials Face Ebola Questions On Capitol Hill

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 4:35 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Politics
3:01 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Female Vets Say They'll Put Country First, Even On Capitol Hill

Wendy Rogers was one of the Air Force's first 100 female pilots. Now she's part of the biggest class of female veterans running for Congress.
Courtesy Wendy Rogers Campaign

Originally published on Wed October 15, 2014 12:18 pm

As the war against the so-called Islamic State continues in the Middle East, political ads have for weeks been raising the specter of terrorism. And several congressional candidates with military experience say they're the ones who can best keep America safe. Many of them are women. Only five female veterans have ever served in Congress, but 11 are running for seats this year – the most ever.

Just a few are running in competitive races, and Republican Wendy Rogers is one of them. Even if she never told you she spent 20 years in the military, you'd have a feeling.

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Politics
2:07 am
Mon September 29, 2014

In N.H. Race, A Rematch Of A Rematch

Then-incumbent Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., and then-Democratic challenger Carol Shea-Porter debate during a Sept. 2012 forum at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Guinta, who lost to Shea-Porter in 2012, is running for his old seat in 2014.
David Lane AP

Originally published on Tue September 30, 2014 8:46 pm

Think of it as a rematch of a rematch.

In New Hampshire, Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter is battling Republican Frank Guinta for the third time in a row. Each has beaten the other before – Guinta defeated Shea-Porter during the 2010 Tea Party wave, and Shea-Porter won her seat back in 2012.

You wonder if it starts to get boring when you're hitting the same rival over and over again.

"Well, I know what he's going to say, that's for sure," says Shea-Porter.
Guinta admits the same: "I mean, it is kind of old hat."

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Politics
2:12 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

National Security May Not Resonate At The Polls This Fall

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 3:51 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Politics
2:15 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Congress Quietly Extends The Budget — Past Election Day, Anyway

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 5:57 am

This week on Capitol Hill, a proposal to aid Syrian rebels got all the drama, while the larger government funding bill it was attached to barely got mention. But that spending package is quite similar to the one that led to the government shutdown in October — most notably, it still funds the Affordable Care Act. Yet this year, talk of a government shutdown was virtually nonexistent.

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Politics
3:30 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Senate To Vote On Bill To Authorize Arming Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 5:50 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Politics
1:34 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Expanding ISIS Fight Scrambles GOP Plan To Extend Budget And Get Out

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves after a news conference Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner responded positively to the proposals from President Obama about confronting Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 11:03 am

House Republicans were hoping for September to be a blissfully uneventful month, with election season just around the corner. But President Obama dashed those hopes this week, when he asked Congress for authorization to train and arm Syrian rebels against the group calling itself the Islamic State.

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Politics
3:17 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Pryor Sticks To The Middle In Close Arkansas Senate Race

Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor is fighting for his seat in a state that's grown more Republican. He's campaigning hard at events like this University of Arkansas Razorbacks game.
Ailsa Chang NPR

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 5:04 pm

Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor is running one of the closest Senate races in the country. The fight, which could determine which party will control the Senate next year, may be on its way to becoming the most expensive race in the state's history.

Since President Obama won in 2008, Arkansas has grown more Republican, but Pryor is still hoping to win a third term on his reputation as a down-the-middle guy.

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Politics
2:10 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Senate Control May Swing On North Carolina's Unpopularity Contest

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., takes questions from the media in April during an appearance in Durham. Hagan has tried for her first 5 1/2 years in the U.S. Senate to convince North Carolina voters that being in the middle of the road is a good thing.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 10:06 am

North Carolina is one of the half-dozen states that could cost the Democrats their majority in the Senate this November, and both contenders in the race are hoping to capitalize on a backlash.

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Politics
2:08 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

To Cope With Child Immigrants, Competing Plans Emerge From Congress

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, with incoming Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., talks with reporters on Wednesday about House Republican plans to deal with the border crisis.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 8:36 pm

Divergent plans are now emerging from the House and Senate on how best to deal with the influx of unaccompanied children from Central America across the border.

Though both would offer the president less money than he asked for to deal with the crisis, a major battle has developed over whether to amend a 2008 law that makes it harder to speedily deport the children.

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Politics
3:12 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

VA Nominee Steps Before Senate Committee

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 6:17 pm

Robert McDonald, President Obama's nominee to run the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, is appearing before the Senate for his confirmation hearing. He faces the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which will vote on whether to send his nomination to the Senate floor.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Politics
2:21 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

House GOP Counters Obama's Request By Promising Own Proposal

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 5:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. It's a familiar dance in Washington - President Obama makes a request to Congress and the House says no. This time, the no is in response to the $3.7 billion dollars the president requested to respond to an influx of unaccompanied immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Politics
3:00 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Administration Officials Defend Funding Request To Stem Border Crisis

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 6:01 am

President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to deal with the southern border crisis. There are predictions the number of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. could reach 90,000 by October.

Politics
1:23 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Could A Socialist Senator Become A National Brand?

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks during a committee hearing on veterans' health care. Sanders, an Independent, is a possible 2016 presidential candidate.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 9:30 am

As members of Congress continue hammering out a bill to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs' beleaguered health care system, attention has focused on one man leading the charge: Bernie Sanders, Independent senator from Vermont and a self-described socialist.

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Politics
3:11 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Supreme Court Invalidates 3 Obama Recess Appointments

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 5:59 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Washington yesterday, the Supreme Court limited the president's authority to make appointments when the Senate is gone. The justices unanimously ruled that the temporary appointment's President Obama made to the National Labors Relations Board in 2012 were unconstitutional because the Senate was technically still there, not in recessed. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the decision was a victory for Republicans but it won't have much impact so long as Democrats remain in the Senate majority.

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Politics
3:25 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Addressing Border Crisis, Politicians Find Invitation In Misperception

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 5:14 pm

The House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing Tuesday to address the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke at the proceedings, saying the situation at the border was "urgent."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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Politics
4:22 am
Fri June 20, 2014

GOP: McCarthy Voted Majority Leader; Scalise Chosen As Whip

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 5:29 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
3:12 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Hagel Defends Bergdahl Exchange Before House Panel

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 7:40 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
3:16 am
Fri June 6, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 9:09 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Politics
2:16 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Outraged Senators Reach Across Aisle For Deal On VA Wait Times

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 5:58 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
2:27 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 8:56 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
5:10 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
3:05 am
Thu May 22, 2014

House Panel Wants More Done To Undermine Boko Haram

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 7:39 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
2:05 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Obama Judicial Nominee Gets A Hostile Reception From Democrats

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 5:26 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
12:38 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 10:23 am

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
3:15 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 2:51 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
3:24 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 10:54 am

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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