People Who've Worked In Politics Are Spilling Secrets From Their Jobs That More People Should Know, And Some Of These Are Unsettling

People Who've Worked In Politics Are Spilling Secrets From Their Jobs That More People Should Know, And Some Of These Are Unsettling

We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who've worked in politics to share behind-the-scenes secrets they think more people should know — They did NOT hold back.

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Here are their most fascinating responses:

1."I've worked on Capitol Hill for almost a decade, and it's remarkable how many people don't realize that our government is largely staffed by underpaid, overworked 25-year-olds."

The United States Capitol building under a clear sky

2."In my state, the State General Assembly does much of its voting on motions and whatnot using a simple push-button system at its desks in the chamber. One button is for Yeay, and another for Nay, and you push nothing for Abstain. It's an open secret inside the room that state members will reach over and push another person's buttons, especially if they are not present at the vote."

"If you get up to go to the bathroom, someone will reach over to your desk and vote for you, no matter how you were going to vote. Since there is so much legislation to get through, they don't go back if someone illegally pushes someone else's voting buttons because they don't have time to restart the vote." —Anonymous

3."I worked at the United Nations for a little bit, and the whole organization is crumbling over the weight of its own bureaucracy. In most agencies and the Secrétariat, senior staff tends to have amazing contracts with huge salaries and loads of benefits, and they tend to be much less academically and technically qualified than younger employees. Definitely not everyone, but a lot of people at the top are paid mostly to go to conferences or wine and dine diplomats but don't know how to use Excel or PowerPoint."

"Meanwhile, the organizations no longer have enough money to offer good contracts to junior employees, so they are stuck in unpaid internships and short-term contracts with no healthcare. The process of actually approving new hires can take half a year or longer. The result is that a lot of people with new perspectives and up-to-date degrees are getting burnt out and demoralized. At the same time, senior employees are more interested in protecting their own cushy careers than they are in upholding their mandates or serving the international community."—Anonymous

4."I interned on Capitol Hill in 2013. There's a rule for government workers and congressional members not to accept gifts over a certain amount because that could be considered a bribe. There are a few exceptions, and one of them is that members of Congress are allowed to accept massive amounts of free snacks/drinks from companies based in their home state."

"So representatives from Georgia get free Coca-Cola products, NJ reps get Nabisco products, etc. But since some states got WAY better snacks than others, the staff assistants would organize trades between offices, and interns would be sent out with crates of random products to trade on slow days. It was honestly a lot of fun and one of the main things I remember from my time on the Hill."—Alice Lahoda

5."Campaigns (even progressive ones) can be the most absolute blatant display of employee abuse. I've worked on campaigns where the higher-ups pushed their organizers to the point of hospitalization because they didn't have time/energy to eat, rest, and take care of themselves."

"Most of these organizers tend to be college kids or recent grads so they’re sometimes more hesitant to say 'no' out of fear of losing their job (a real possibility given how petty some folks are). The burnout rate on campaigns/the burnout rate of political staffers in general is insanely high." —Anonymous

6."I was a political advisor to gubernatorial and legislative campaigns in Florida. Two things made me leave the industry. First, money DOES change hands, especially for church endorsements. Paper money in paper lunch bags."

Person handing over U.S. dollar bills to another's outstretched hand indoors, suggesting transaction or payment

"Second, everyone counts favors and calls them in. Friends, rivals, whatever, they never let go of who owes what to whom, and they will collect." —Anonymous

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7."I worked in politics for a member of Congress on Capitol Hill. Your calls and complaints go into an online pile of similar calls and complaints, and a form letter gets sent back to you. They rarely reach an actual member of Congress."

"This made me pretty cynical about the prospect that people have a voice when they call in; it seems like they’re really not listened to. Also, a lot of the legislative assistants in the congressional offices (in my experience) were assholes and hated their jobs. My experience definitely confirmed that a career in politics was not for me, but the secret underground tunnel from the House to the Senate offices with a train car and its own operator was hella cool!"—Anonymous

8."I worked as a legislative fellow on Capitol Hill in 2020 & 2021. These are actually things I try to tell people all the time, but they don't believe me."

"If you aren't a constituent of the Congressperson/Senator you're calling, they are allowed to hang up on you or block you without listening to you. You'd be surprised how many Dems who have a public reputation of inclusivity and progressive values are some of the worst bosses. What you think of as 'going on vacation' when Congress is in recess is actually a time when the member is working directly with constituents in their district/state. If you call and threaten the member or their staff, you will receive a visit from your local police force, whom the Capitol police have called to investigate the threat."—The Bnzr

9."I'm a Senate employee in a state office. Most people, when they think of Congress, think of DC. I don't think enough people realize that Senators and Representatives have field offices in their home states and districts. We provide key services for people who are having trouble getting through to federal agencies (VA, Social Security, IRS, Passports, etc.). We've been involved in a variety of issues, including helping repatriate Americans who were stuck in foreign countries."

"The 'secret' that I would like people to know is that if you call the office to leave a message for the Senator and are horribly mean/rude and cursing at us, we most likely will not share your message or record it. It's a thankless job, and people whom I've never met have said the most disgusting and filthy things to me because they are angry with the Senator about certain topics."—Anonymous

10."I'm a finance director for a congressional race, and let me tell you. Look closer at the finance reports that come out with each politician. See who's paying for the campaign and most directly influencing the candidate. Make the FEC your new bestie."


11."People who you work with will take credit for your ideas. Not just other people at your level in a campaign but high-up people who aren't competing for low-level jobs. Also, people who are related to people with influence will get promotions over you all the time."


12."Political reporter here! Most politicians absolutely hate the politicians that they back. I've seen so many representatives and senators sing Trump's praises on TV but trash him as soon as cameras aren't rolling."

Person being interviewed by multiple reporters with microphones

"It also always surprises me which politicians I actually like. People whose policies I support can be complete jerks when you meet them; people who pass horrible laws can be sweethearts."—Anonymous

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13."Campaign manager here. I don’t know why they ask elected officials how they won because a good candidate leaves all those decisions to their campaign manager and focuses all their attention on talking to voters. Also, VEEP is absolutely the closest TV depiction of politics."


14."Leadership PACs are vanity projects for the next campaign of whoever is running them. Donate to candidates directly, and don’t fall for their scams."


15."Too much of governmental services are being privatized. This means the loss of cheaper governmental workers (who don't get bonuses for cutting corners) and the eventual much more expensive work by private contractors, who are often awarded the contracts because of political donations. Our state awarded a $66 million contract to a private contractor and laid off 1200 state workers."

Demon Copperhead

16."As a former federal employee, I was political-adjacent. Most people don't know that there are over 2000 non-Senate-approved presidential appointees, most of whom get their jobs as a favor for helping with the presidential election, with no qualifications required."

"We had one guy whose father was a big wig state party official, in a state the president lost, get an appointment. He had no college education, and his only direct connection to the presidential campaign was as a security guard at two local events."—Alchemist1342

17."The most vocal right-wing politicians don't believe an iota of what they're shilling to their constituents. They see their jobs as winning elections, and the easiest way to do that is to appeal to them about social justice issues and use small words and simple language that is easily memorable."


And finally...

18."Most legislators are not particularly informed on the issues they advocate for. The policy staff in their office does the real heavy lifting."

"So, if you have a technical issue you need fixed, just email the policy staff; if it fits, they will work it out. Lots of legislating is just tinkering with existing laws and trying to make them more functional."—Anonymous

People who've worked in politics — What else should the general public know? Tell us in the comments below or in this anonymous Google form.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.