The influence diaries: Dispatches from the Democratic National Convention

Jul 28, 2016 by

Editor’s note: The Center for Public Integrity’s money-in-politics reporting team is bringing you news from the Democratic National Convention — focusing on special-interest influence, big-money politicking and corporate schmoozing. Reporters Michael Beckel and Carrie Levine are on the ground in Philadelphia. Please check back regularly as this article will be updated throughout the week. Click here to read our coverage of the Republican National Convention

11:58 a.m., Thursday, July 28: They may not look like lobbyists, but a gaggle of Catholic nuns have a distinct message to share in Philadelphia.

The Nuns on the Bus, a project of NETWORK, is calling on Congress to “mend the gaps in wealth, income and access.”

Amid the Democratic National Convention, Nuns on the Bus is conducting three, two-hour workshops to educate people about gaps in seven key areas — tax justice, living wages, family-friendly workplaces, healthcare, housing, citizenship and democracy — and inspire people to take action.

On Wednesday afternoon, about three-dozen people gathered in a room in the Philadelphia Convention Center as nine of the Nuns on the Bus described how the immense gains seen by the wealthiest Americans since 1980, the modest gains seen by middle class and the decline seen by the country’s poorest citizens.

Its cause, they said: President Ronald Reagan’s implementation of trickle-down economics, reduction of the top tax brackets and clashes with labor unions.

“Policies made the mess,” said Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK. “Policies can fix the mess.”

It’s not that people in the top 1 percent are bad or evil, Campbell continued, but rather it’s that they are “so far away from the lived reality” of their less wealthy brethren.

The Catholic social justice group is making at least a few friends on Capitol Hill. At one point Wednesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., made a brief appearance at the event, praising the Nuns on the Bus and saying that “we are with you 100 percent.”

Lobbying records show that NETWORK spent $380,000 lobbying Congress and the federal government last year, and has spent $190,000 so far this year.

Since early July, the Nuns on the Bus bus tour has visited cities in 13 states and also made an appearance at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Along the way, they have been collecting pledge cards that will eventually be delivered to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Speaking to attendees Wednesday, Campbell stressed the importance of being engaged in 2016.

“We need you this election cycle probably more than ever,” she said. “It’s going to depend on we the people to form a more perfect union.”

— Michael Beckel

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