Heard on the Hill

‘White and Wealthy’ Colleagues Called Out in Letter to DCCC Demanding Intern Pay

13 interns sign note to Chairman Ben Ray Luján

DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., is receiving a letter from 13 intern Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of current interns at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a letter Thursday to Chairman Ben Ray Luján requesting pay.

But they didn’t stop there.

The letter, penned by Lydia Murray and signed by 12 others, also called out fellow interns who didn’t join the effort, characterizing them as “white and wealthy” with “no real understanding of the perspectives of everyday working Americans.”

Written in coordination with the group Pay Our Interns, the letter began by saying the interns feel a disconnect with the Democratic Party because they are not paid. It then pivoted to the financial situation and racial background of other interns at the DCCC.

“Most of our fellow interns, while undoubtedly bright, are white and wealthy and have no real understanding of the perspectives of everyday working Americans, nor do we have fellow interns with diverse backgrounds to discuss issues, ideas, or experiences with,” the letter stated. “This disconnect is then reflected [in] policy positions, now and in the future.”

Murray is of mixed race and Chinese-American, according to Pay Our Interns. The disconnect with her colleagues could be extrapolated to discord in the Democratic Party, she said. 

“There is a certain insulation from the actual impacts of many policies that comes with this sort of privilege, which at times can lead the Party astray from the actual needs of the voters (and to electoral defeat),” she wrote. “It is impossible for us to champion the working class when at the most basic levels, those who work in the party do not represent them on a socioeconomic or racial basis.”

Murray reached out to Pay Our Interns, which “counseled her on how to go about it, but she wrote the letter on her own,” the group’s communications director, Trevor Smith, said in a statement.

“The letter is by no means us vs. them. It’s her speaking the truth, and she was even able to get interns who are not low-income or [people of color] to sign on to it, which shows solidarity,” he said.

Pay Our Interns said it will continue to work with Murray until the DCCC offers paid internships.

“She believes keeping DCCC internships unpaid only allows people from well-off backgrounds to have these opportunities and does not accurately represent the values or voters of the Democratic Party,” Smith said. 

DCCC communications director Meredith Kelly responded to Murray’s letter by saying the group appreciates the recommendation from the interns and will continue the conversation on increasing diversity.

“Under Chairman Luján’s leadership, the DCCC has made incredible strides when it comes to diversity and building a pipeline of young, vibrant talent for the Democratic Party, which has resulted in a historically diverse group of DCCC staffers, candidates, and consultants,” Kelly said.

[New Push for Senators to Pay Their Interns]

The DCCC started its first training and diversity scholarship program this year to help individuals attain the skills to get paid, full-time jobs working on campaigns. 

Luján is the first Latino chairman of the DCCC. As of April 27, the committee reported racial diversity among staffers was at 38 percent — 52 percent among senior staff. Women make up 50 percent of all staff.

[Senate Appropriations Approves $5M to Pay Interns]

Additionally, under Luján, the DCCC created a Department of Diversity and recruited new minority-owned political firms and vendors.

Pay Our Interns keeps tabs on how many congressional offices pay their interns. The Democratic National Committee started offering stipends in Decembe, and the Senate just moved to include money for interns in its budget, the group reported.

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