Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Just Called Out This Shady But Common Lobbying Practice

“Shock doesn’t begin to cover it,” she tweeted.

Alex Edelman/AP

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On Wednesday morning, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted a picture of a line of people outside a House committee hearing on marijuana banking.* According to Ocasio-Cortez, the people in the photo are homeless and were paid by lobbyists to hold their places in line. 

The practice of lobbyists paying people to stand in line for committee meetings is, according to previous reporting, a longtime practice in Washington, DC. In 2009, CNN wrote about a homeless man who “rubs shoulders with Washington’s elite” by waiting in line for lobbyists—upwards of 20 hours for a hearing at a rate of “$11 to $35 an hour.” Brian Fung from the Washington Post added that paying line-holders “is even more widespread than just in the halls of Congress” and extends to judicial hearings, too. The practice got so bad that in 2015 the Supreme Court told lawyers that “‘line standers’ will not be permitted.” 

In her tweet, Oscasio-Cortez said she assumed what she saw was a demonstration:

Ocasio-Cortez snapped the photo on her way out of a hearing to discuss a draft piece of legislation called The Ending Homelessness Act of 2019. In 2017, a University of Chicago report said that 4 million people were homeless in the United States, an increase in the number of homeless for the first time in nearly a decade.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the hearing for which the line had formed. After publication, Ocasio-Cortez clarified via Twitter that her photo depicts a line outside a hearing on marijuana banking.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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