This morning the Grand Forks Herald published an interesting editorial about paid and unpaid internships in Congress. In it, they make the argument that internships should be paid because it costs these young adults about $6,000 in expenses to take the job. As a former Congressional intern, I completely agree. I was grateful to earn a stipend when I interned for Byron Dorgan. I know interns in other offices weren’t as fortunate.
Here is what gave me pause in the editorial, Congressman Kevin Cramer doesn’t pay his interns. He is the only member of the ND delegation who doesn’t compensate his interns in some form. Apparently, he expects them to take on the burden of $6,000 to work for him. You know who Cramer does pay? His wife. How much? $6,000 in the third quarter alone – the exact amount it costs an intern to work – according to his FEC report filed last week.
Congressional interns work long hours and have a lot of responsibility. They take constituent questions, concerns, and input. They contact federal agencies to try and resolve issues. They compile reports and charts used for briefings and meetings. Basically, they’re the face of constituent services. If you’ve ever contacted a member of your delegation, odds are an intern helped with your claim or request. They deserve to be paid.
Defenders of Cramer will say he pays his wife from his campaign money, not through tax dollars which is how interns are paid. Sure, that is why a lot of people believe he has found a way to enrich himself and his family simply by being a politician who runs for office. Beyond paying his wife, another large portion of campaign expenses went toward reimbursements to Kevin Cramer himself.
Make no mistake, the decision to not pay these interns was Cramer’s alone. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe the individuals – interns – doing the hard work of the people should be paid well before a political campaign staffer. It’s about principle. It’s about living up to North Dakota values of paying people for their work.