I am a lawyer, activist, and professional troublemaker that photobombed former Equifax CEO Richard Smith in his Senate Banking hearing (https://twitter.com/wamandajd). I "cause-played" as the Monopoly Man to call attention to S.J. Res. 47, Senate Republicans' get-out-of-jail-free card for companies like Equifax and Wells Fargo - and to brighten your day by trolling millionaire CEOs on live TV. Ask me anything!


To help defeat S.J. Res. 47, sign our petition at www.noripoffclause.com and call your Senators (tool & script here: http://p2a.co/m2ePGlS)!

ETA: Thank you for the great questions, everyone! After a full four hours, I have to tap out. But feel free to follow me on Twitter at @wamandajd if you'd like to remain involved and join a growing movement of creative activism.

Comments: 6052 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

beyondavatars14279 karma

How did you get a seat positioned directly behind the Equifax CEO in a way that you were also on camera without causing suspicion?

wamandajd21207 karma

Oh, I absolutely caused suspicion, but luckily my actions fell within protected free speech. I knew which seat to sit in because I have watched and attended many Senate Banking hearings as a (plain-clothes) advocate.

lolnudel7399 karma

How did you stay so serious? I would be laughing and giggling and get kicked out. Huge respect dude //edit after 17 hours: wow I learned a lot about different sexualities/genders today. reddit is great

wamandajd14775 karma

Believe me, I have been cracking up these last few days at every photo and video. But in the moment, I was on a mission. That's why they call me a professional troublemaker.

hrtl5726 karma

Did he see you?

wamandajd11300 karma

At the time, I wasn't sure former CEO Richard Smith saw me because he played it so cool. But in watching video footage later, there is a moment where he looks behind him right before the hearing starts. His face is pretty priceless!

good_pencil3227 karma

Can you give us screenshot?

wamandajd2200 karma

analyticgamer421 karma

and how did he respond if he did? (sorry to piggy back u/hrtl)

tempus_periit5225 karma

First, thank you for your activism. How long have you been doing this? Do you think this is effective or just entertaining?

wamandajd8416 karma

Thank you all for the support! I don't really remember a time when I wasn't an activist. When I was 13, I staged my first action outside of a Disney store to protest their labor practices. I use a variety of tactics - both traditional and non-traditional - but I think activism is most effective when it is both entertaining and informative.

GreatDecay372 karma

What were the non-traditional tactics you used?

wamandajd1218 karma

I printed out little slips of paper that said, "This item was made in a sweatshop. Learn more at [LINK]" and stuck them in the pockets of their clothing. Then I stood outside the store handing out fliers. No costumes on that one though!

palmfranz179 karma

Was there coverage of that? Any articles or photos?

wamandajd794 karma

Nope, it was just an intrepid 13-year-old kid that got kicked out of the mall within about ten minutes!

hbendavid4898 karma

So what did people say? How did they react to your getup? Did the Equifax CEO acknowledge you or at least give you an odd look?

wamandajd10636 karma

I didn't catch it in person, but watching videos after the fact, I saw Richard Smith look back at me and make a pretty priceless alarmed face. But I was seated in the row right behind his advisors, and one of his PR folks was seated immediately to my right.

I caught several of them giving me dirty looks throughout. One guy in particular tried to stare me down in the beginning. (But I don't scare easily)

Trying2bFriendly852 karma

Lol I'd love to be inside his head during that thought process.

"I'm going to intimidate this person who is clearly more of a maniac than I am."

I think if that was me, in the moment in which I was attempting to physically intimidate a person dressed as the monopoly guy, I would be struck with a sudden overwhelming need to reevaluate my life.

wamandajd1249 karma

And THAT is why satire works. Him intimidating me as a plain clothes protestor would feel meaningful and important to him, but intimidating me as the Monopoly Guy fiddling with my monocle might make him reassess.

1life2fishes4580 karma

Obvious question: how'd you do it? How did you make your way to that perfect seat without getting kicked out?

wamandajd9391 karma

Credit for the perfect seat goes to a very dedicated intern, who was first in line for the hearing at 7 AM! As for not getting kicked out, I had heard stories from other activists about what is and isn't allowed, and skirted that line as closely as I could. Fun fact: you are allowed to wear costumes, but you can't hold up signs or make a lot of noise.

monotoonz6377 karma

What kind of costumes? Because I'd go dressed as Shang Tsung and show them who the real stealer of souls is.

wamandajd4711 karma

The sky is the limit, my friend! Apparently, someone once dressed as Lincoln, complete with a two-foot high hat. (I think they may get touchy if you wear a mask though - fake mustaches only)

available_username2910 karma

What if you are dressed as a sign?

wamandajd1117 karma

Worth a shot.

beano52796 karma

you can't hold up signs or make a lot of noise

Interesting (╭ರ_•́)

So by "a lot" does that mean "some" is ok?

wamandajd1664 karma

I mean, I dropped my monocle at least ten times and crinkled those hundred dollar bills, so.

likingisaproblem86 karma

I am betting that they will close that loophole very quickly.

wamandajd127 karma

I have heard rumors they might...

RedLogicP4245 karma

Did anyone approach you about your outfit?

wamandajd7631 karma

I got a lot of questions from other folks in line, but I was fortunate enough to not get hassled by capitol police. One officer did ask me take my bag of dollar bills off my lap though!

BorinUltimatum3071 karma

There's footage of you chasing him all the way to the elevator before ( seemingly ) getting ushered away. If you had somehow made it into the elevator, what would you have asked/ how would you have reacted?

wamandajd3528 karma

Hahahaha I debated cramming myself into that elevator...

I would have made sure to give Richard Smith (and his apparent advisor, former Senator Saxby Chambliss) my bag of money and told them to enjoy their $7.25 million contract with the IRS! http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/03/equifax-irs-fraud-protection-contract-243419

psymonprime2263 karma

What law do you practice?

wamandajd4350 karma

I do policy and advocacy work, focused mostly on corporate accountability and financial reform at the moment - so I don't spend a lot of time in courtrooms. But I graduated from UCLA Law as part of their Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies programs, and I am admitted to practice law in California.

dilnn760779 karma

What's an average workday like in that field?

wamandajd3423 karma

Well, in August I broke a story with a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter that helped lead to renewed Wells Fargo hearings (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/business/wells-fargo-testimony.html).

Then, I worked all of last weekend writing policy reports and letters that Senators used to question the Wells Fargo CEO on Tuesday (https://www.brown.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/brown-opening-statement-at-banking-committee-hearing-on-wells-fargo).

Then on Wednesday I put on a costume, made silly faces, and broke the internet. Hard to say how that averages out! But it's a great gig.

shanakn1960 karma

Will you be using the Monopoly Man getup for future public appearances (including as a subversive protest, but also, say, in court)? Relatedly, how do you recommend others to become as badass as you?

:) <3

wamandajd4166 karma

I wore this costume to call attention to S.J. Res. 47, a bill some Senate Republicans are trying to push through as a get-out-of-jail-free card for Equifax and Wells Fargo. Hopefully all this attention has scared them off from taking that vote, but if Mitch McConnell does another push, Monopoly Man will absolutely rise again!

Given the great support, I am also open to using Monopoly Man for other causes. And I am not limiting myself to this one character - creative activism takes many forms, and you need to fit the character to the protest.

FoldYoClothes721 karma

I loved how human a moment it was when Monopoly Man lost his/her monocle during the post-hearing interview. Your wit, confidence, your savviness showed as bright then as when you winked your railroad rich eyebrows directly into the camera. Class act, you!

wamandajd591 karma

It takes a lot of eye muscle to hold that thing in!

JurassicMJ251951 karma

Did anyoneone at the time realize what you were doing?

wamandajd4568 karma

I think everyone realized what I was doing. Luckily, free speech is (mostly) still a thing.

cutelittleintern1405 karma

Public Citizen called arbitration clauses a “get out of jail free” card for companies. What advice do you have for people who don't want to fall victim to these hidden clauses?

wamandajd2625 karma

Sadly, these ripoff clauses seem to be just about everywhere now. We even found one in the Pokemon GO terms and conditions last year! A few clauses have opt-out provisions, where you can write to the company (usually within 30 days) to waive the clauses, but that is rare.

Honestly, the most effective way to protect your right to sue big companies when they break the law is to push for federal protections like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's arbitration rule. That is why I am fighting S.J. Res. 47, the effort to repeal it.

oskiwiiwii1284 karma

What is your favorite Monopoly game piece? Mine is the thimble!

wamandajd3165 karma

I have to go with the iron. Gotta keep this suit pressed.

thoawaydatrash959 karma

Any other direct actions planned? Also, the Monopoly man doesn't have a monocle and I'm interested as to whether you knew that but decided to go with the monocle anyway because so many people think he does or if it's just a good prop. I have to admit, you pulling out the monocle was quite possibly the funniest thing I've seen in months.

wamandajd1862 karma

Thanks for asking! I have been getting so many comments about the monocle. When planning the outfit, I used google images of Rich Uncle Pennybags as reference. Most of the images didn't have a monocle, but a few did, and I knew it would make a great prop.

Also, my sister gave me a monocle as a gag gift when I graduated from law school, so I HAD to use it.

kungfujohnjon11180 karma

In the spirit of social activism, I just wrote a petition for Hasbro to retcon the Monopoly Guy to add a monocle.

wamandajd823 karma

You, sir, are the true hero.

ItsBail887 karma

Anything happened after? Were you banned from ever attending again?

wamandajd1608 karma

I am fortunate to not have had any real interaction with the capitol police, before or after. One officer asked me to take my bag of money off my lap and put in on the ground, but that is it.

However, now that I am public, I would not be surprised if folks will watch me more closely. I am sure we will see soon!

Lessiarty884 karma

Is Cause-play an activist twist on cosplay?

wamandajd932 karma

Yes! Someone informed me of this term yesterday, and I think it is brilliant.

damnedtolive468 karma

Was it actual money in the bag? Also did you have any trouble with security?

wamandajd905 karma

It was not real money. Those were oversized hundred dollar bills my colleagues printed for their Forgo Wells activism around the Wells Fargo hearing, which took place on Tuesday. I did not have trouble going through security, though many Senate staffers gave me some odd looks!

gpd9353 karma

Is there any way to bold these companies liable in criminal court since forced arbitration keeps them out of civil court?

wamandajd815 karma

Unfortunately, private citizens cannot bring criminal claims. Only state and federal prosecutors can charge people with crimes.

I would love to see more prosecutions of corporate crime. But as it stands now, few charges are ever brought and they mostly result in small fines for the company rather than any prison time for the executives that broke the law. If corporations are people, the rest of us are second-class citizens in comparison.

biloo83331 karma

Are you friends with Lord Buckethead?

wamandajd295 karma

Someone send Lord Buckethead to a protest, and we can get acquainted.

bflo091986327 karma

Were you worried that this “stunt” would distract from the hearing and Equifax to be become a secondary thought?

wamandajd816 karma

That was definitely on my mind. I strategically tried to be most entertaining during the questions I thought were most important, in hopes that if I made it onto news shows, people would hear those questions and answers.

Fortunately, the coverage so far has been surprisingly focused on the issues! Especially my efforts around S.J. Res. 47 and the CFPB arbitration rule. So the activism was actually far more effective than I'd hoped at drawing attention to Equifax and Wells Fargo's misdeeds.

washingtonpost326 karma

Hello! Thanks for doing this AMA!

As many people have pointed out, the Monopoly man doesn’t actually wear a monocle. Are you going to modify your costume to stay true to the original or is this your take on the Monopoly man? Do you have any other costumes? Will you continue with Monopoly man for any other events? Why did you pick Monopoly man? How do stunts like this advance your activism? How much more attention did you get this week compared to playing it straight in the past?

wamandajd275 karma

Hasbro's Monopoly Man may not wear a monocle, but this one does. When doing physical comedy, you don't turn down a hilarious prop.

The only other costume I currently own is a Furby costume that I wore as a joke in high school. (We'll see if that one makes it into any hearings...) But I am open to buying/making other costumes as needed, to fit the activism.

Stunts like this bridge the gap between entertainment and activism. If done right, creative protest can be far more effective than traditional advocacy. The rise of Trump shows the power of entertainment. But while Trump's antics are nihilistic at best (and insidiously oppressive), there is no reason progressive messages cannot be delivered in a way that is both entertaining and effective. See Charlie Chaplin, for one.

Even though most entertainers have fairly progressive politics, there is a reluctance to embrace art - especially comedy - as activism. That is a major tactical error, in my opinion.

The attention my campaign to support the CFPB arbitration rule got this week is unlike anything I have ever seen. Traditional tactics are necessary to shape policy, but we need to be willing to take big risks if we want to see major reform.

I expect the Monopoly Man will rise again, when the people of Gotham need him most.

O_Apples296 karma


Please tell me this is a thing. Cosplaying for a cause. Is this a movement or are you the first?

wamandajd361 karma

Someone informed me of this term last night! I did not coin it, but I think it is brilliant. I would honored to help create a movement of cause-players.

THELIMIT1100291 karma

Do you think you will inspire more monopoly men to start making appearances?

wamandajd714 karma

I certainly hope so! I posted a how-to guide with links to all the accessories I used here: https://queeronclearance.tumblr.com/post/166109873133/monopoly-man-top-hat-nj-novelty-7-on-amazon

(Yes, I have a queer fashion blog)

kev4444278 karma

How long did it take you to grow that mustache?

wamandajd1584 karma

Not nearly as long as my personal information will be at risk because of the Equifax data breach.

I-am-Alpharius126 karma

Piggybacking a bit. When news of the breach broke, everything was saying 145 million (or whatever the number was) people, then they would parrot "Which is about half of the country". My immediate thought was, after factoring minors and people without a credit report (for reasons other than age), only about half the population has a credit report. I guess I am suggesting that everyone who has a credit report got their info stolen, the "half the population" mantra was the most reassuring way they could word "All records".

wamandajd117 karma

I have heard estimates that it was about 3/4 of the adult population, so very close. This is why we need serious Congressional action and agency oversight, not some mumbled apologies from Equifax executives.

About23Koalas244 karma

Have you had many news organizations or people reaching out to you after the fact? How widely were you recognized by people who knew you?

wamandajd472 karma

I have been doing non-stop press since Wednesday! The amount of attention has been overwhelming, but I am very happy that I seem to have made this very rough week easier for some folks. And of course I am excited that people are paying attention to S.J. Res. 47 and supporting the CFPB arbitration rule.

Strangely enough, many folks who know me personally did not recognize me in costume. Every day, I get several texts from people who just figured out it was me! I imagine some folks will only find out years from now.

Spants23216 karma

Is getting the utility companies really worth it?

wamandajd434 karma

Nah. If you're a capitalist, serving the public is for suckers.

cahaseler153 karma

What would you do if you had a get-out-of-jail-free card?

wamandajd407 karma

If I had one months ago, I would have crashed the inauguration in character.

NSFForceDistance133 karma

How much practicing did your mastery of the monocle take? Seems like it'd be kind of hard to keep in, but you handled it like a right old timey pro.

wamandajd171 karma

I definitely struggled with it a bit. But the prop I had was pretty lightweight, so it wasn't that hard to hold in. You just need to exercise those eye muscles!

Unipwn109 karma

Did you learn to tie a bow tie only for this appearance?

wamandajd176 karma

Yes, and I am terrible at it.

cr9ball79 karma

1) What kind of laws you wish more people knew about that can help them financially for the future?

2) What can be done by everyone to help the process to start scrapping the social security card and getting a identification similar to the UK?

3) This is a really huge deal and seems like everyone is brushing it aside and letting people get away with this huge leak; What is currently being done to help mitigate this damage in the long foreseeable future?

wamandajd51 karma

These are great questions, but a bit outside my wheelhouse. I focus more on corporate accountability and access to the court system than credit reporting reform - hence my focus on S.J. Res. 47.

But I would check out my colleagues' work at the National Consumer Law Center and the Consumer Federation of America. They have been very active on these issues!

From what I glean though, this is a seriously endemic problem, and we need Congressional action to actually remedy the catastrophic damage done in this breach. So, again, call your Senators!

missdanielleloves67 karma

I work for a progressive nonprofit in DC that also does work on Tax Reform so I'm thrilled to see S.J. Res. 47 getting the attention it needs!

My question is: Where did you get the idea/ovaries to pull this off?

wamandajd97 karma

Thank you! The Monopoly theme was tied to an action my organizations - Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform - organized the day before to hand out get-out-of-jail-free cards to all the Senate offices. (See: http://rulesatrisk.org/hilldrop/)

But it was my idea to try to photobomb the hearing in character. I have sat in hearings before (not in costume) and noticed myself in shots on C-SPAN, and I have always been a shameless agitator. So it seemed like a natural fit to combine my comedic talents and irreverence with our activism here. Luckily, my bosses gave it the green light!

snorlaxthelorax50 karma

Serious question: are you paid by non profits or is this on your free time? Do you have a full time career? I would like to get into activism but it's hard when you work a 9-5.

wamandajd118 karma

This particular stunt was for my day job, as a Campaign Manager working to support the CFPB arbitration rule. But I also do organizing in my free time on other issues. It is very hard to balance work and activism, and jobs in this area are scarce and low-paying.

But that is one reason why I push for entertaining and creative activism! I hope folks can turn this kind of fun protest into a hobby that energizes us rather than tires us out.

kirlandwater39 karma

Do you have any other Monopoly man appearances planned? And how can we follow your shenanigans

wamandajd72 karma

I have some things in the works. You have not seen the last of the Monopoly Man, and definitely not the last of me. Follow me on Twitter @wamandajd if you would like more shenanigans.

howmanyhashtags13 karma

Seeing that you're quite an active activist, what topics do you believe need the most attention? (Not trying to start a huge political debate thread, just curious)

wamandajd22 karma

The issues closest to my heart are racial and economic justice (must be both, not either/or), corporate accountability, and queer/trans rights.

In general, we must fight all forms of oppression and empower people with enough freedom and access to resources to have control over their own lives. I think that philosophy applies to most progressive issues.