The Newest Corporate Growth Industry: Public Place Holders!

Brian Cook

After a couple months off, Megan Tady was all set to make her first 2008 appearance on In These later this week with a reported piece on the ground at yesterday's Boston FCC hearings about Comcast's blocking of content. But then she got waylaid by the flu and it doesn't look like she's going to recover in time to write the piece. So in addition to wishing Megan a speedy recovery, I'm going to outsource our coverage to the good folks at the Save the Internet blog. There's some good analysis about the hearing itself, but I was particularly intrigued by this post that suggested: Comcast — or someone who really, really likes Comcast — evidently bused in its own crowd. These seat-warmers were paid to fill the room and keep the public out. They arrived en masse some 90 minutes before the hearing began and occupied almost every available seat, upon which many promptly fell asleep. One told us that he was “just getting paid to hold someone’s seat.” He added that he had no idea what the meeting was about. It's a gig with a long history in D.C., as this Seattle Pilot-Intelligencer piece explained back in 2005: Line standers earn from $11 to $16 an hour to hold places in lines for lobbyists, activists and others willing to pay to attend congressional hearings. Committee rooms have limited space, and the public seats are assigned on a first-come, first-filled basis. […] So line standers assemble hours -- or sometimes days -- before the hearings to claim places for those Gucci-shoed legions whose livelihoods depend upon being inside committee rooms where laws are written and other congressional business is conducted. In October, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced a bill to put an end to the practice. Predictably, it's gone nowhere.

Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.
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