Today, the National Partnership for Women and Families announced the formation of its Congressional Relations team composed of specialists with expertise in making legislative and policy change. The new team will support and advocate for legislation that protects the health and economic security of all women and is currently engaged in the fight for a fair and balanced Supreme Court. The Congressional Relations Team will work in coordination with the Economic Justice and Health Justice policy teams to further the organization’s mission to eliminate the barriers that women continue to face in their pursuit of whole, healthy, economically secure lives.
National Partnership President Debra Ness said, “The work of our Congressional Relations team is an extension of our commitment to ensuring that all women are able to adequately care for themselves and their families and are empowered by policies that support and uplift women of color, trans and queer women, women with disabilities and women with lower incomes.
As the nation reckons with systemic racism and institutionalized white supremacy, we believe it is our job to use our deep policy experience to be advocates for legislation that closes the gaps in our society that so often leave marginalized women and families behind.”
Erika Moritsugu will serve as the new Vice President of the Congressional Relations team. She has been serving as Vice President of the Economic Justice team since 2019 and will continue on in that role. Prior to joining the National Partnership, Moritsugu led the Government Relations, Advocacy and Community Engagement team at the Anti-Defamation League and has served in senior positions in the Obama Administration and in the Senate.
Moritsugu said of the team’s formation, “We’ve brought together a group of experts with a demonstrated passion and understanding of women’s issues and extensive and diverse experience in policy development and legislative affairs. In order to combat the deeply embedded systems of inequity that have held women back for so long we will need the kind of smart thinking and research expertise this team will bring.”
The Congressional Relations team, under the operational management of Lelaine Bigelow, managing director of external affairs, will work directly with Members of Congress and their staff on legislative and messaging guidance for women and families. The team will provide strategic direction on advancing legislative priorities, communicating and distilling research for easy consumption, bringing together diverse coalitions around legislative proposals and technical assistance to lawmakers.
Together, the specialists will work to create and promote policies that advance the equity and wellbeing of women and families of color — promoting economic justice and opportunity, fair treatment in the workplace and freedom from discrimination, and access to quality, equitable, and comprehensive health care that fully meets women’s needs and supports their reproductive autonomy. The team will include:
Michelle is the lead on economic justice issues on Capitol Hill for the National Partnership, managing the day-to-day federal policymaker relationships and developing and leveraging partner relationships to advance the National Partnership’s economic justice legislative agenda. Michelle joined the National Partnership in 2017 and is primarily focused on educating Congress about paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, workplace harassment and fighting harmful proposals that erode workers’ and women’s economic rights.
Prior to joining the National Partnership, Michelle spent almost five years on Capitol Hill serving on the policy teams for Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and Congresswoman Jackie Speier. While on Senator Mikulski’s team, she led the effort to bring the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument into the National Park System and led the Senate’s efforts around the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Jessi Leigh Swenson
Jessi Leigh is the lead on health justice issues on Capitol Hill for the National Partnership’s team of health care access and equity, maternal health, and reproductive health and rights experts. She joined the National Partnership in 2015.
Jessi Leigh has over a decade of experience building effective multi-stakeholder coalitions, working with key Congressional players and leadership, and leveraging advocacy know-how into policy impact. Prior to National Partnership, she was the Federal Policy Director at the National Abortion Federation, Director of Advocacy at Rights4Girls, a policy consultant, and was an If/When/How and Georgetown Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow.
Lelaine Bigelow is the managing director of external affairs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, where she is responsible for creating and executing strategy, issue campaigns and outreach plans for the Economic Justice team and manages operations for the Congressional Relations team. She coordinates with policy and communications staff across teams to maximize the impact of the National Partnership’s policy and advocacy work.
Prior to joining the National Partnership in 2017, Lelaine was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Relations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama Administration. Her Capitol Hill experience includes working for Rep. Judy Chu and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Rep. Corrine Brown; and Rep. Jerrold Nadler. In 2012, she was named a Champion for Children by First Focus and established a National Commission on Children and Disasters in 2008.
Erika Lizabeth Moritsugu
Erika is the Vice President of the newly-formed Congressional Relations team at the Partnership, and also serves as the Vice President of the Economic Justice team.
Prior to her work at the National Partnership, Erika led the Government Relations, Advocacy and Community Engagement team at the Anti-Defamation League. She has had a distinguished career in politics and the federal government, with service to three Senators — as General Counsel to Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Deputy Legislative Director to Senator Danny Akaka of Hawai’i, and in several different roles at the Democratic Policy Committee under the leadership of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, including Acting Staff Director and Policy Director.
In 2014, she was confirmed by the Senate to serve as an Assistant Secretary at Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration, and had previously directed Senate legislative affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.