Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is calling out a bipartisan orientation for freshman members of Congress for being little more than pro-corporate messaging.
In a pair of tweets Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez stated that while she had heard from four corporate CEOs during the orientation session for new U.S. House members-elect, she hadn’t heard from any labor unions, community stakeholders, or social justice activists, suggesting that the forum was overwhelmingly lacking in speakers that weren’t from a predominantly corporate background.
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
According to The Hill, the forum Ocasio-Cortez attended is dubbed the “Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress,” hosted by the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University. Other hosting organizations include the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Congressional Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
The event’s sponsoring organizations have a history of funding pro-corporate messaging. AEI is a right-wing think tank funded by the multi-billionaire Koch Brothers. According to Greenpeace, foundations tied to the Kochs — a pair of Republican oligarchs who are the chief funders of a bevy of conservative politicians and causes — contributed nearly $2 million to AEI between 1997 and 2015. CSIS, in the meantime, has been the recipient of numerous grants from the Peter G. Peterson foundation — named after a billionaire whose chief cause was cutting Social Security and Medicare.
Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), another outspoken freshman member-elect of Congress, was also at the event. She tweeted a revealing quote from Gary Cohn — the former president of Goldman Sachs who also served as President Trump’s National Economic Council director — in which he condescendingly told attendees that they “don’t know how the game is played.”
“No Gary, YOU don’t know what’s coming – a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits,” Tlaib tweeted.
Gary Cohen, former CEO Goldman Sachs addressing new members of Congress today: "You guys are way over your head, you don't know how the game is played."
No Gary, YOU don't know what's coming – a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits. https://t.co/ZLML2qzAW6
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) December 6, 2018
The Hill reported that other attendees on the orientation panel included CVS Health’s vice president of federal affairs (a typical job title for a lobbyist), in addition to tech company Oracle’s vice president for government affairs — who also did a stint as an aide to Vice President Mike Pence. A former aide to President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) was also reportedly on the panel.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.