Upset over the news that the Obama administration’s Labor Department may decide to crack down on the proliferation of illegal unpaid internships, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has sent a letter to the White House asking how many unpaid interns it keeps on:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is questioning the logic behind the White House’s unpaid internships and volunteer positions. As the Obama administration gears up to fight private companies on those jobs, some of which the Department of Labor could soon declare illegal, Issa expressed concern over the weekend that the White House offers those positions without pay too. [...]
“If the government can’t do it, certainly it’s not fair to ask the private sector to do it in this case,” the congressman told Fox News in the article to which his tweet links. His remarks arrive days after he sent a letter to the White House, asking federal officials to list how many unpaid positions they staff each year.
While Issa is complaining about the White House’s unpaid internships, he doesn’t mention that his own office doesn’t pay its own interns. (Unpaid internships are customary for most offices on the Hill). A Spring 2010 listing clearly states that an internship with Issa’s D.C. office is “unpaid”:
Spring Internship – The office of Congressman Darrell Issa is looking for motivated, hard-working interns to begin the week of March 15th in the Washington, DC office. The internship is unpaid and both full and part-time applicants are encouraged to apply. Interns are responsible for assisting the legislative staff with research, attending hearings and briefings, leading visitors on tours of the Capitol and answering phones. Interested applicants should e-mail cover letter, resume and a short writing sample to CA49DCinternship@mail.house.gov.
ThinkProgress attempted to contact Issa’s office for additional confirmation, but we did not receive a response. A Capitol Hill source told us that Issa does, however, have some paid interns on the House Oversight Committee’s Minority Staff.
As Matt Yglesias writes, unpaid internships often lead to the “potential exclusion of students who don’t have rich parents.” Making sure that students receive compensation for their work is admirable, but perhaps Issa should start by looking after all the interns in his own office. (For the record, ThinkProgress and the Center for American Progress do provide compensation to our interns.)