Two veterans of both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns are being accused of setting a dangerous precedent by selling campaign strategy sessions capped off by a five-week unpaid stint on a “important Democratic campaign” all for the low, low price of $5,000.
For $3,500, Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird, who call themselves “architects of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns” and operate a consulting firm called 270 Strategies, will provide a five-day crash course in grassroots Democratic campaigning, Buzzfeed reports.
The program, called the “270/360 Training Intensive,” will be held at 270 Strategies’ Chicago headquarters beginning in September.
For an additional $1,500, fledgling operatives will be placed on the campaign staff of an unnamed Democratic political campaign or five weeks.
The program is designed to allow people from around the world to apply 270 Strategies’ winning trade secrets in their home countries.
“Our vision for the 270/360 Training Intensive is to share best practices we’ve learned across grassroots organizing, digital strategies, data analytics, and communications with would-be campaigners from around the world,” 270 Strategies communications strategist Lynda Tran told Buzzfeed.
“We’ve designed a program that will deliver value for campaign organizers whether they are able to join us for the five-day skills-building session in Chicago or as part of the full six-week program with its corresponding hands-on application and ongoing professional mentorship and development.”
While some Democratic operatives found no problem with 270 Strategies’ proposition — given their reputation as among the best political campaigners — others felt that the fee was excessive since the same campaigning tools could be developed while working on other campaigns, including some that pay a small stipend.
“It’s deeply concerning that leaders in our party are launching a ‘pay to play’ system for would-be campaign staff,” a Democratic campaign veteran told Buzzfeed. “As Democrats, we should be working together to eliminate workforce barriers — such as unpaid internships — rather starting programs that further discourage participation in electoral work.”
A former progressive campaign organizer who is now fighting to end unpaid internships agreed.
“It’s a basic principle that people should work for pay; they shouldn’t pay to work,” Mikey Franklin told Buzzfeed.
“It’s shameful that 270 Strategies are throwing their progressive values out of the window by charging $5,000 for a 5-day training and an unpaid internship. How will we win for the 99% if we only recruit from the 1%?”
Given the economic realities of working without pay for the duration of a political campaign, campaign staffs are often made up of people from the high end of the economic spectrum. Besides exposing class divisions, the pay structure often leads to low levels of racial and ethnic diversity.