Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tweets 'Shock' at Learning Lobbyists Pay People to Save Their Seats in Congressional Hearings

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her shock Wednesday upon learning that lobbyists pay people to stand in line on their behalf before congressional hearings in order to secure the best seats.

"Shock doesn't begin to cover it. Today I left a hearing on homelessness & saw tons of people camped outside committee," the freshman Democrat tweeted, alongside an image of people waiting in line outside the 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.'"

In a second tweet, Ocasio-Cortez explained that "apparently this is a normal practice and people don't bat an eye."

"The first few people in line are guaranteed a seat in a given hearing," she added. "This was the hearing for marijuana banking laws. Lobbyists and those who can afford it pay people to hold their spot so they get in 1st."

Hiring people to stand in line is a common occurrence in Washington D.C. that can be solicited from platforms such as TaskRabbit, an online marketplace that pairs freelance labor with local demand.

Established in 1985, Linestanding.com is another business dedicated to offering "Congressional line standing" services. "We provide persons to stand in line anywhere in the greater Washington DC area, and specialize in United States Congressional hearings and their respective committees as well as the US Supreme Court," their website reads. "We rank high in volume and produce high-quality line-standing services for Congressional hearings or other events."

The practice of outsourcing wait time in queues extends beyond congressional hearings, with lawyers often paying people up to $50 an hour to secure one of several hundred spots in a major Supreme Court hearing, according to The Washington Post. Some wealthy individuals also reportedly hire people to stand in line on their behalf outside popular restaurants that do not offer reservations.

In 2015, Slate found that some law firms were paying $6,000 to ensure admittance to a multiday oral debate on same-sex marriage. They noted that some of the line-standers employed appeared to be either "very poor or homeless."

The House of Representatives declined to comment on Ocasio-Cortez's remarks.

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U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends a rally in front of the White House, on February 12. On Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez accused lobbyists of paying homeless people to stand in line for them so they could get a seat in congressional hearings. Getty/Alex Wong
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tweets 'Shock' at Learning Lobbyists Pay People to Save Their Seats in Congressional Hearings | U.S.