‘Dirty game’ or business as usual: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes on DC lobbyists
For Ocasio-Cortez, self-professed ‘democratic socialist’ and New York Congresswoman-elect, one event at this year’s orientation for new Representatives stood out: a series of lectures organized by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Politics. The lectures were given by a whos-who of lobbyists, former administration officials, and corporate CEOs.
Ocasio-Cortez sounded the alarm, shocked at the number of corporate leaders present, and lack of union bosses, activists, and “frontline community leaders.”
Our “bipartisan” Congressional orientation is cohosted by a corporate lobbyist group. Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance.Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where‘s labor? Activists?Frontline community leaders?— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 6, 2018
Among the lobbyists were representatives of big telecom, big pharma, big oil, and big gambling. The event timetable didn’t disclose many of the speakers’ lobbying work. For example, former Congressman Bill Delahunt was introduced as just that, and not as the founder of a lobbying group that represented a biofuel company this year.
“This is not okay,” Cortez tweeted. “Lobbyists are not impartial – they are employed to influence legislation. 60+ incoming members were listening to panelists without knowing which were hired lobbyists.”
Whoah - looks like our Congressional orientation had a lot more lobbyists than we thought.This is not okay. Lobbyists are not impartial - they are employed to influence legislation.60+ incoming members were listening to panelists without knowing which were hired lobbyists. https://t.co/hDHagMNAJE— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 7, 2018
This Harvard session has been going on for new Congressmembers since the 70s.This year we heard things like “the $2T tax cut was great” and “$15 wage is a bad idea.”No labor reps were there.Was this a multi-decade, pro-corporate lobbyist project the entire time? https://t.co/TgGR0sR4u4— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 9, 2018
Cortez’ expose caused a firestorm on social media. Supporters cheered on as she blew the lid off a “multi-decade, pro-corporate lobbyist project” for predatory lobbyists to influence vulnerable new Representatives.
“My God we need 100 congresspeople just like you,” cheered one, using Cortez’ term “congresspeople” – so much more woke than the patriarchal “Congressmen”.
My God we need 100 congresspeople just like you....— Mitch Horowitz (@MitchHorowitz) December 7, 2018
“I hope you never stop pulling back the curtain on this dirty game,” tweeted another.
I hope you never stop pulling back the curtain on this dirty game. https://t.co/7qJWRUI41o— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) December 7, 2018
However, Ocasio-Cortez made some notable omissions. Far from being a mandatory re-education session, the Harvard orientation day was completely optional and was organized by a private (though tax exempt) institution, and funded by private money.
Really important to point out that this was a voluntary orientation put on by a private university that representatives chose to attend. It is not the orientation for new members put on by Congress. https://t.co/jRONU96TwU— Sarah D. Wire (@sarahdwire) December 8, 2018
Attendance was voluntary. Why did you go? https://t.co/HXbzyGjzQm— Kat 4 Obama (@Kat4Obama) December 8, 2018
In previous years, the session has attracted similar speakers, and some more left-leaning Democrats have chosen to skip it entirely, rather than listening to the business elite rail against increasing the minimum wage. After all, Harvard’s Kennedy School was unlikely to invite the disgruntled fast-food workers of the ‘Fight for 15’ living wage campaign to talk civil disobedience.
This is exactly why I chose not to attend this same orientation session when I came in as a new Member. I think I was in a tiny minority. It looked to me like it was alot of corporate brainwashing. Sorry, @Ocasio2018, I should have warned you. https://t.co/C5YnA3650J— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) December 8, 2018
Shooting to prominence after defeating ten-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s Democratic primary this summer, Ocasio-Cortez has live-blogged her road to the Capitol in minute detail, keeping herself in the spotlight at every step.
Telling the New York Times she couldn’t afford the rent in Washington DC only raised Cortez’ ‘girl from the Bronx’ street cred, and set her apart from establishment Democrats like presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, worth over $100 million.
Joining a climate change protest outside Pelosi’s office further cemented Ocasio-Cortez’s leftist credentials, as did her decision to abandon the Harvard orientation event and join fellow progressive Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib outside for a rally promoting universal healthcare, gun control, and climate action.
However, she has been criticized for playing fast and loose with the facts along the way.
Most recently, Ocasio-Cortez was chewed out by conservatives for suggesting that socialized healthcare could be paid for with $21 trillion in “accounting errors” uncovered in a recent audit at the Department of Defense. However, the errors in question refer to money improperly counted at the Pentagon, rather than money missing. Indeed, it took the Pentagon 230 years to spend a comparatively small $18 trillion.
Wow. You claim $21 Trillion in Pentagon Waste? The entire Pentagon budget from 1789-2018 has totaled $18 trillion, Come on, This is embarrassing. https://t.co/ezdhqWQFyc— Brian Riedl (@Brian_Riedl) December 2, 2018
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