Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) continues to use her social media channels to expose the dirty underbelly of DC.
In a Wednesday tweet, Ocasio-Cortez posted a photo of a group of homeless people sitting outside a committee hearing on homelessness, and asked her staff if the members of the DC homeless community were there to demonstrate. Her staff informed her that no, it’s simply a common practice for DC lobbyists to pay the homeless to stand in line outside of committee hearings for them, as those who are first in line are guaranteed a seat.
“Shock doesn’t begin to cover it,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Shock doesn’t begin to cover it.
Today I left a hearing on homelessness & saw tons of people camped outside committee.
I turned to my staff and asked if it was a demonstration.
“No,” they said. “Lobbyists pay the homeless + others to hold their place so they can get in 1st.” pic.twitter.com/mXbgqkKp4P
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 13, 2019
Some of her followers commenting on the post confirmed that they had been unable to get inside of committee hearings due to the practice.
“As a former tech reporter I was blocked from getting into an FCC hearing because Comcast paid homeless people to take up seats,” tweeted Raw Story reporter Brad Reed.
“Corporate lobbyists and Beltway insiders are just fine stepping over the homeless — until they need to keep the press out of key hearings,” tweeted Fox News contributor Max Burns. “Out lobbyist-guided policymaking process encourages exactly this kind of disgusting game-playing.”
At least one DC institution has put a stop to lobbyists paying the homeless to wait in line for them. In 2015, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. Supreme Court put a stop to what they called “line-standing,” as the only way to be able to view oral arguments in the court’s chamber is to be first in line.
According to the Post, Supreme Court line-standers were paid up to $50/hour to make sure the person paying them would be able to have a seat to observe oral arguments. And oftentimes the person being paid was a member of the DC homeless community.
The homeless are often employed to wait in line. One asked [Stanford Law School’s Pamela] Karlan to look after his spot “so that he could go to the shelter and get something to eat,” she said.
Karlan had come prepared: camping chair, “space blankets,” heavy coat, poncho — it rained during the night. In the morning, she turned over the blankets and gear to her less-fortunate line-mates as they were replaced by her well-dressed colleagues from the Supreme Court Bar.
As of this writing, there has not yet been any legislation to bar the practice of “line-standing” outside of House committee hearings.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.