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'Lobbyists Are Here. Goldman Sachs Is Here. Where's Labor? Activists?' Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez Pull Back Curtain on Corporate-Sponsored Freshman Orientation

"One of the best parts of Ocasio-Cortez's arrival in D.C. as a new leader is that she notices, and is revolted by, the corrupt, corporatist rituals that are so embedded in D.C. culture that most politicians and journalists barely notice them."

Jake Johnson

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks at a progressive fundraiser on August 2, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Pulling back the curtain on the ostensibly "bipartisan" orientation for newly elected members of Congress at Harvard's Kennedy School in Boston, Reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) informed the public through live social media updates on Thursday that—contrary to the ideologically neutral advertising—the private conference featured a heavy dose of speeches by corporate CEOs and completely shut out organized labor and members of the progressive community.

"Our 'bipartisan' congressional orientation is co-hosted by a corporate lobbyist group," Ocasio-Cortez noted, likely referring to the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute, which is co-sponsoring the event. "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?"

Tlaib, for her part, called attention to a speech by Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president who left his post as President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser earlier this year.

According to Tlaib, Cohn condescendingly told the freshman members, "You guys are way over your head, you don't know how the game is played."

"No, Gary," Tlaib responded, "you don't know what's coming—a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits."

Journalists and progressives were quick to praise both Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib for their commitment to transparency and their willingness to offer the public a behind-the-scenes look at the corporate-dominated event that typically goes entirely undiscussed by members of Congress and the press.

"One of the best parts of Ocasio-Cortez's arrival in D.C. as a new leader is that she notices, and is revolted by, the corrupt, corporatist rituals that are so embedded in D.C. culture that most politicians and journalists barely notice them, let alone find them objectionable or odd," noted The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald.

Others echoed Greenwald's praise of Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, both of whom rejected corporate PAC during their campaigns and ran on platforms demanding bold progressive change:

"Democratic leadership signs off on these events," observed Huffington Post reporter Zach Carter. "The new class isn't having it."

According to the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics (IOP), which is hosting the orientation, the event is designed to give newly elected members of Congress "insights on governing from former elected office holders, current and former senior White House and administration officials, diplomats, economists, business leaders, lobbyists, and academics."

Below is a list of speakers who are participating in the event. Conspicuously absent, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, are any representatives of organized labor, environmental groups, other public interest advocates, or anyone who could reasonably be considered a progressive:

  • Hon. Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, former Secretary of Labor and Director of the Peace Corps
  • Hon. Ash Carter, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Belfer Professor of Technology and Global Affairs
  • Hon. Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor of New Orleans, IOP Visiting Fellow
  • Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.
  • Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors
  • Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Gary Cohn, former Director of the National Economic Council
  • Douglas Elmendorf, former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School
  • David Gergen, former Presidential adviser, Public Service Professor of Public Leadership, Director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson

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Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

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