American Politics DC Winter Seminar Day 6: Three’s Company

Here Lies Pen, May He Rest In Peace

I am back, back again. Abe here reporting from the 75°-Thermostat–Yet–Still–Somehow–Freezing Apartment I have called home the past week or so.

Let’s talk about today why don’t we? So It’s Tuesday, which is pretty neat. That only happens like, what? Once a week? So, on the rare occasion, we had two-and-a-half, maybe three speakers: Drew Spencer Penrose of FairVote and Ryan Alexander (and her colleague whose name might have been Wendy) from Tax Payers for Common Sense, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I arrived this morning just in time to see the arrival of still-not-fresh-baked-but-this-time-from-Krispy-Kreme donuts. I myself had just eaten a good pumpkin-chocolate chip scone and a chocolate croissant, but I indulged myself with a chocolate glazed donut, because, well, donuts. From there, I sat down and prepared myself for our first speaker.

Krispy Kreme down the gullet, we got started, our speaker began by telling us about his organization, FairVote. FairVote was working to ensure better representation in the House of Representatives specifically. They had actually introduced a bill to the House, HR 3057, which created a single-transferable vote system for the House. An STV system is one where voters rank their candidates and then whoever is in charge of voting tallies up the number of first choices, removing the lowest candidate and then reapportioning the votes to the second choices. Once someone gets enough votes, any extra votes get divided up among the other candidates based on the voter’s next choice. Under FairVotes’ law, each district would have three representatives, with districts divided up to keep the number of representatives per state the same.

Enthralling as Mr. Penrose and FairVote’s voter reform was, we ended up breaking up for lunch at the Brooking Institute next door for about an hour before hopping on the Metro to visit Tax Payers for Common Sense. At Tax Payer’s our main speaker, Mrs. Ryan Alexander brought along her colleague. The two discussed their organization’s role in spotting and reporting absurd appropriations of tax dollars. Mrs. Alexander talked for a bit about her role specifically.

Yielding to her colleague, Ryan Alexander let Wendy tell some fascinating, and humorous, stories:

One story was about the coal industry and how they were able to lobby the Pennsylvania delegation for years to get European military bases fueled exclusively with coal oil. They mentioned the coal lobbyist who, as far as they knew, had one client: the coal mines. They commented on his small, pod-like office and said that it was a good job if you could get it – the lobbyist was paid $250,000 a year. “Both before and after he went to prison for tax evasion,” Alexander quipped to much laughter. Wendy closed by saying that “I feel like when I die, my obituary will read ‘she was beaten to death by coal miners’,'” which garnered another laugh.

Using nuclear weapons as an example for Congress’ capacity to legislate has shrunk over the years, Wendy told an anecdote about how she was once told by someone trying to disavow nukes, “but, I mean, when it comes to nuclear weapons, what is the best band for your buck?” She commented that “when talking about nuclear weapons, never use that phrase. The best band for your buck is definitely a nuclear weapon.”

We wrapped up with Tax Payer’s after about two hours and went our separate ways.

Now, I have to go to ice skating, in the hopes that someone else will show up.

Here’s a history meme as a parting gift:

Vive la Meme,


Categories: Academics, Student Blogs, Study Away, W&M in Washington

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