Hillary Clinton Lives the High Life While Unpaid Staffers Struggle to Survive

June 29, 2015

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to work for free."

—Hillary Clinton

The Hillary Clinton campaign likes to brag about its frugal ways, but this austere philosophy is not applied consistently. Campaign manager John Podesta may take the bus every now and then, but the Clinton campaign is more than happy to pick up the rent tab for Hillary's personal office in Manhattan and to shell out for a private jet to make sure Hillary doesn't have to interact with any commoners before giving a speech on social inequality.

Meanwhile, the campaign has developed a fondness for unpaid interns, and is increasingly hesitant to pay even experienced employees who have previously held paid positions on Democratic campaigns. Some have dared to speak out, demanding to be paid, to be saved from squalor. The campaign's refusal to value its employees is causing problems for the flock of young staffers who are trying to find living quarters near the campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, where rent prices are so high that even their wealthy parents are reluctant to foot the bill. The New York Times reports [emphasis added]:

For decades, idealistic twenty-somethings have shunned higher-paying and more permanent jobs for the altruism and adrenaline rush of working to get a candidate to the White House. But the staffers who have signed up for the Clinton campaign face a daunting obstacle: the New York City real estate market...

The wealthy donors who contribute to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign have proved more comfortable cutting a check than opening their TriBeCa lofts and Upper East Side townhouses to strangers. And Mrs. Clinton’s campaign prides itself on living on the cheap and keeping salaries low, which is good for its own bottom line, but difficult for those who need to pay New York City rents.

The lack of affordable housing has put an added burden on the Clinton campaign to play a Craigslist-like role in finding staffers a place to sleep, whether it’s pairing them with roommates or pleading with supporters for a spare room.

The tidbit about the donors stands out, because it's so unlike elite liberals to prefer "helping the cause" in ways that confer social status as Right Thinking People (e.g., writing a check) without the personal inconvenience (e.g., hosting an intern). Some of them apparently declined out of concern that letting campaign staffers stay in their luxury Manhattan residences would violate campaign finance laws. (It wouldn't.) Others have been more generous, sort of [emphasis added]:

Scott Murphy, a former congressman representing the area outside Albany, hosted Josh Schwerin, 29, a press aide on the campaign who previously worked for Mr. Murphy, in his Upper West Side co-op before the campaign started.

Mr. Schwerin got what used to serve as a maid’s room. "You could touch both walls if you were on the air mattress, and the bathroom was through the kitchen, so he didn’t have a lot of privacy," Mr. Murphy said. "But," he added, "it was in line with what he paid for it." (Which was, of course, nothing.) 

Per the Times, the unpaid staffers who are fortunate enough to find their own housing end up shelling out $1,700 a month for a room with no windows. The campaign has turned to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for guidance on housing opportunities, the most affordable of which happen to be in less fashionable neighborhoods. Alas, the chamber "has not made much progress in convincing staffers to consider these less gentrified neighborhoods."

Suffering such indignities might make sense for these youngsters if they were working (unpaid) for a principled liberal candidate such as Bernie Sanders, who actually agrees with President Obama's admonition that "at a certain point, you've made enough money." But they're not.