A congressional internship is considered among the more prestigious and professionally beneficial. But the days of doing those without pay seem to be waning—if one viral, ratioed tweet is any indication.
In recent years, people have begun to push back against the unpaid internship model. Critics say that it limits opportunities for less affluent people who can’t afford to work for free.
Yet, unpaid internships persist. In a tweet over the weekend, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) invited students to apply for one at his office. In the tweet, the lawmaker said his offices in New Jersey and in Washington, D.C. needed interns, and posted a link to his website for people to apply.
In an explanation of the internship on his government website, Gottheimer’s office noted that the internships are unpaid, but offer “invaluable work experience.”
Now he’s getting roasted online.
Some of the commentary has shades of antisemitism. Gottheimer is Jewish. Primarily, though, people are arguing that unpaid internships help preserve the status quo.
“Not paying interns just guarantees the positions will go to the children of rich people, who can afford to [work] for free because their parents will bankroll their lives, and that’s the point. Keep poor people away from government, and gain more connections with wealthy people,” one Twitter user replied to Gottheimer’s tweet.
Some believe the internship program helps Gottheimer pursue his own self-interest. “My mans out here finding donors and kingmakers by padding their kids’ college admissions portfolio,” tweeted @Yung_Dolma. (The application states that the internship is available for college students.)
Several suggested that Gottheimer’s net worth—nearly $9 million, according to Open Secrets—means he can personally compensate interns. He doesn’t have to, however. According to the Committee on House Administration, representatives are budgeted $25,000 annually to pay interns.
The Congressional Management Foundation also notes that members are personally responsible for expenditures beyond that budgeted for their office.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Gottheimer’s office, but did not immediately receive a reply. We’ll update this story if we hear back.
Update 3:05pm CT: In an email to the Daily Dot, a spokesperson for the congressman said the office uses the House Paid Internship Program to compensate interns. However, they declined to answer questions about the link to the application Gottheimer shared in his tweet that noted “all internships in all offices are unpaid.”