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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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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Politics
3:12 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Senate Republicans Block Bill To Raise Federal Minimum Wage

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 5:35 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
2:08 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 5:13 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
3:28 am
Mon April 14, 2014

As Election Nears, Congress Is Expected To Be Less Productive

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 5:33 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's look at the calendar now. We are seven months away from the midterm elections. Members of the House of Representatives and a good number of senators have turned much of their focus to campaigning. There are still votes happening in Congress, but often of a different kind. This year, we've seen a flurry of show votes: votes on bills with no realistic hope of passing, but are done to make political points. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, both parties have been in on it.

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Politics
2:02 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 5:34 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
4:10 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
1:30 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 1:21 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
2:16 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 4:22 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
3:03 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Senators Agree To Compromise Extending Jobless Benefits

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 9:27 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
2:55 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Gillibrand, McCaskill Square Off Over Military Assault Prosecutions

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 9:39 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
2:16 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Senate Blocks Military Sexual Assault Reforms

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 5:01 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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Politics
3:22 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Democrats Help Block Nominee For DOJ's Top Civil Rights Job

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 4:52 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

A handful of Senate Democrats joined Republicans yesterday to defeat President Obama's choice to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Debo Adegbile is a civil rights lawyer who once helped handle the appeal of a cop killer. He nomination forced a tough choice upon Democrats: Vote yes and infuriate law enforcement groups - or vote no and anger minority voters.

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Business
3:13 am
Wed March 5, 2014

House Approves Measure To Ease Flood Insurance Hikes

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 7:17 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation last night to undo flood insurance reform that Congress passed less than two years ago. When homeowners started calling lawmakers about sharp premium hikes, both chambers moved swiftly to ease the pain.

NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHNAG, BYLINE: In 2012, Democrat Maxine Waters of California put her name on a bill that was meant to help the National Flood Insurance Program dig itself out of huge debt. Last night, she said she made a big mistake.

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Politics
1:26 am
Thu February 27, 2014

FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums

Levees, like this one in New Orleans, must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before appearing on federal flood maps. This change has resulted in higher flood insurance premiums in some areas.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:38 am

The House is expected to vote as early as next week to partially repeal a 2012 law that overhauled the National Flood Insurance Program, which is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

The law was meant to make people living in flood-prone areas foot more of the insurance bill. But lawmakers didn't realize how many homeowners would be affected — or how hard they'd be hit.

You can find some of those homeowners in Bayou Gauche, about 30 miles west of New Orleans.

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Politics
1:37 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Democratic Sen. Landrieu Walks A Fine Line In Red Louisiana

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has won some conservative supporters in her state, but her support for Obamacare is putting her re-election at risk.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 6:06 am

If Democrats are going to keep their majority in the Senate, they'll need to hang on to a few critical seats they hold in conservative states.

Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has one of those, and like some of her colleagues up for re-election, her support of the Affordable Care Act could be the mountain to overcome this fall.

The question for Landrieu is: Will Louisiana voters define her by Obamacare, or judge her on the entire record she's built over nearly two decades as a senator?

For Some, Obamacare's A Dealbreaker

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Sports
4:12 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

From Team To League, Congress Members Shift Pressure On Skins

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 5:58 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For years, Native Americans and others have criticized the Washington Redskins football team for having a name, they say, is offensive. Well now, the National Football League is feeling the pressure too. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, two members of Congress are demanding that the NFL take a formal position in support of a name change.

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Politics
2:29 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Senate Follows House Lead In Passing Debt Limit Raise

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 6:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

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Politics
3:18 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Does Congress Have Enough Political Will To Reduce The Debt?

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 8:24 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal last December, there was much fanfare about the compromises made by both parties. And immediately afterwards, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began working to reverse one of the spending cuts - a small reduction in military pensions. One plan to restore those pensions is up for a vote today in the Senate. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, resistance against the small cut is calling into question whether Congress has the political will to reduce the long-term debt.

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Politics
4:14 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Lawmakers Hear President Say He's Ready To Go It Alone

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 10:49 am

Members of the House and Senate sit and listen and often applaud the presidential State of the Union, but when it's done many members crowd the microphones in Statuary Hall to oppose the chief executive's vision.

It's All Politics
4:06 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Tea Partiers Hope To Crash Sen. Graham's Re-Election Bid

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questions a witness during an April 23 hearing on the use of drones on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 3:32 pm

This year marks the first time Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has had to run for office since the emergence of the Tea Party. Graham has never faced much Republican opposition during his two decades in Congress, but this June, he's already heading into a primary with four Republican challengers who say he's not conservative enough for the Palmetto State. Voters say the race has become a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party in South Carolina.

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Politics
9:35 am
Sat January 18, 2014

Congress Divided On NSA Role

Transcript

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

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Politics
3:21 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Senate Moves Forward On Unemployment Benefits

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 5:12 am

In a tally that surprised even its sponsors, a half dozen Republican senators gave Democrats enough votes to move forward with a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits for another three months. The proposal likely faces an even tougher hurdle in the Republican-controlled House.

Politics
2:43 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Congress Works To Flesh Out Budget Deal Before Jan. 15 Deadline

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 6:43 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Congress returns to work next Monday and both chambers will have a little more than a week to pass an appropriations bill to keep the government open. A bipartisan budget agreement in December helped reduce the chance of a shutdown, but as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, there's still plenty left to bicker about.

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It's All Politics
1:17 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Gun Control Lobby Takes Note Of Opposition's Success

Supporters for gun rights gather outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters in Newtown, Conn., on March 28.
Jessica Hill AP

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:13 pm

For gun control advocates hoping to see federal gun laws tighten after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., 2013 was a disheartening year. A narrow provision to expand background checks failed in the Senate.

For gun rights activists, the death of that legislation proved once more their single-issue intensity and decades-long grass-roots organizing were enough to prevail. Those are also valuable lessons for their opponents.

A 'Voice' For Lost Children

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Politics
2:56 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Defense Bill Addresses Sexual Assaults In The Military

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 10:08 am

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Politics
2:43 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

After Key Vote, Senate Poised To Pass Congressional Budget Deal

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 10:31 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

On Capitol Hill today, a truce in the budget wars. A dozen Republican senators agreed to let a bipartisan budget deal proceed to a final vote. That was the bill's last obstacle. It's expected to easily garner the 51 votes it needs for passage.

But as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the deal still has many critics in the Senate on both sides of the aisle.

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Politics
2:46 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Sebelius Faced More Grilling From House, Despite HealthCare.gov Fixes

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 4:26 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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Politics
4:06 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Will Obamacare Play Big In 2014? Keep An Eye On N.H. Senate Race

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., on Capitol Hill earlier this year.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:54 am

With a new White House push to promote the Affordable Care Act well underway, the question is whether an improved HealthCare.gov site and onslaught of positive talking points will be enough to bolster Senate Democrats facing tough races in 2014.

One re-election fight to watch is Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's in New Hampshire, where she's been taking heat for supporting the new health care law.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Senate Rules Change Could Mean More Political Rancor

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 5:21 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Is Washington headed for smoother operation or more dysfunction than ever? Democrats made big changes to the rules of the U.S. Senate yesterday. The changes kill the ability of the minority, the Republicans, to filibuster most presidential nominations.

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Politics
5:30 am
Sat November 16, 2013

With Democrats' Help, House Votes Against Obamacare

Originally published on Sat November 16, 2013 9:22 am

Transcript

DON GONYEA, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Don Gonyea. The Affordable Care Act dominated political headlines again this week. Yesterday, the House passed a Republican bill that would allow insurance companies to renew individual health insurance policies even if the coverage does not provide all the benefits required by the new health care law.

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