Harvard's orientation for freshman legislators, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib confronting lobbyists and CEOs


Rowers rowing along the Charles River beyond the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2017. (Charles Krupa / AP)

The speech was not publicized on politics. "A discussion with corporate leaders", hosted on the Harvard campus at the start of this week for new matriculae elected in 2018, saw CEOs of General Motors, Johnson & Johnson and Boeing.

But elected MP Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), One of the coming lawmakers, said she was surprised when, in a meeting after the conference, GM's managing director Mary Barra suggested firing workers GM's living in the Detroit area could still look for work at a facility in Flint, Michigan, more than an hour away.

"I was really trying to actively listen and understand why the decision was made, but I rejected it when the discussion was:" Well, they will have options to work in Flint ", said Tlaib in a & # 39; interview. "I pushed back and said," Sound like it's that easy, "and she said," It's better than not having any jobs. "

Tlaib's disagreement with Barra came among the most widespread criticisms of many Harvard Democratic MPs at the Harvard School Institute of Politics Bipartisan Orientation Program, a traditionally incontrovertible affair that has welcomed more than 700 members of Congress since 1972. (Tlaib's report was confirmed by Rep. – Andy Levin, another Michigan Democrat, was present at the meeting. A GM spokesperson confirmed Barra told incoming lawmakers that the dismissed employees could apply to the Flint facility. )

Harvard's orientation for new members of Congress is being launched as a way for lawmakers to come to know life on Capitol Hill, but some new Democrats have broken with a precedent and have criticized it. The protests of these freshman Democrats, including the elected deputy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Reflect the party's leftist attraction, as well as their rejection of some practices that were once considered part of the bipartisan consensus.

After dinner Tuesday, legislators attended a session in which they presented themselves. The event included remarks by former Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Which was described in an itinerary provided to The Washington Post by Harvard as Vice President of the Institute of Politics and a former member. of the Congress. Delahunt also founded a lobbying company, the Delahunt group, which in 2018 exerted pressure on Fuels America, a biofuel lobbying group, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

On Wednesday, the new legislators also participated in "White House Congressional Reports: how to defend your priorities". The panel listed speakers Dan Meyer and Anne Wall, respectively president and vice president of the Duberstein group. The Duberstein group, a multimillion-dollar lobbying company, has lobbied for the Bank of Mellon in New York, Comcast, S & P Global and pharmaceutical research and manufacturers in America, and other major business interests, says the Center for Responsive Politics.

On Thursday, former Congressman Joseph J. Heck (R-Nev.) Spoke at an event called "Navigating Washington and Capitol Hill". After losing the seat, Heck joined the RedRock company, according to Roll Call. He exerted pressure on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association; TRAX International, a governmental technology company; and people for the ethical treatment of animals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The links of previous legislators with the lobbying companies were not disclosed on the calendar of events provided to The Post by the Harvard Institute of Politics. In a text message, a spokesman for the Harvard Institute of Politics said that freshman lawmakers "receive a link to an arrival that includes a long bios of all participants, including their businesses".

On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez criticized the event by including four corporate CEOs but no union leaders or activists to talk to new members. Barra, the CEO of GM, participated in a "discussion with business leaders" to which was joined by Alex Gorsky, president and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical manufacturer, and Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing.

Mark Gearan, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, confirmed in an interview that no union leader was represented in the round tables.

"The lobbyists are here." Goldman Sachs is here, "Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter, a reference to former Gary Cohn speaker, Goldman Sachs executive and economic adviser to President Trump. "What's the job, the activists? Community leaders in the front line?

Elected MP Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), A former Obama administration official, said she used her time with event leaders to emphasize the importance of having the work represented.

"I am grateful to the Kennedy school for facilitating this orientation week, and our class would certainly have benefited from having the program's job leader," Stevens said in a text message.

Other incoming Democrats, including a Congressional Progressive Caucus member, applauded the proceedings, while Harvard officials also said they welcomed critics' feedback.

"I thought this forum was exceptional and represented a broad spectrum of views," Levin, Michigan, told reporters. "I think, we know, we really felt from a wide range of opinions and people who think we need to move very aggressively to transform the structures of power in this country, and the people who, to someone like me, would seem their main function in life is to maintain the power structure in this society just as they are, so it was a great breadth of points of view that were represented for me ".

Harvard's Gearan told reporters that the focus was not on "pushing any agenda," adding that the program responded to incoming legislators' feedback. The orientation program was implemented with the contribution of the Democracy and Republican Chamber leaders, said Gearan. The new legislators were encouraged but not required to participate.

"Our interest is to create a space for Republicans and Democrats, as I think you heard from elected members, to really have that convocation so that they can build bonds of friendship in this talk," said Gearan. "This is a university." Any good university reviews its curriculum, revises its courses, and thinks of ways we might want to move forward. "

The event listed as collaborators the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank; the Center for strategic and international studies, another think tank; and the Congress Institute, which often sponsors withdrawals for legislators.

The Harvard event has met with controversy almost since the beginning. On Tuesday, several young Democrats joined the elected-representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) For a health care gathering instead of attending a conference of President Trump's transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, according to HuffPost.

"I was not sent to Washington to play well," Pressley told militants from the healthcare industry attending the rally.

Some of the prominent Democrats have also criticized the remarks of Gary Cohn, former Goldman executive and Trump's adviser. On Twitter, Tlaib cited Cohn as saying to freshman journalists: "You guys are somehow over your head, you do not know how to play". Tlaib added in his tweet: "No Gary, YOU do not know what's coming – a revolutionary Congress that puts people above profits".

A meeting participant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an off-record event, said the observation came amid a discussion about the pressure that incoming members would likely face if said by the top of the Congress to support a bipartisan infrastructure package. The participant said he interpreted Cohn's observation as a joke rather than an insult of the new legislators. Cohn did not return a request for comment.

Former Congressman Paul W. Hodes (DN.H.), who now campaigns against money in politics, said he did not remember the orientation on which Harvard had taken part afterwards. he was elected in 2006. But Hodes said that political and economic threats have changed since that year, as well as the nature of elected Democrats to address it.

"The rise of Trump has given the urgency and the impetus to a new and diverse generation of citizen activists," Hodes said in an interview. "So I'm not sure that" acrimony "is the operative term." It's something deeper going on. "

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