Tag Archives: Public Citizen

Putting Common Good Over Billionaires and War Profiteers, House Progressives Introduce “People’s Budget”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ plan “invests in our neglected infrastructure, ends the systematic inequality in our tax system by making corporations pay their fair share, and stops the rising cost of drugs.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-24-2018

“The People’s Budget embodies that new vision by investing in the interests of the people over the interests of the arms industry and the billionaire class,” Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at Peace Action, noted in a statement on Tuesday. (Photo: Congressional Progressive Caucus)

Offering an ambitious alternative to the House GOP’s “morally bankrupt” 2019 budget proposal—which demands over $5 trillion in cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and other life-saving programs—the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) on Tuesday unveiled a budget that calls for massive investments in infrastructure, healthcare, and education while proposing significant cuts to the completely “out-of-control” Pentagon budget.

Titled The People‘s Budget: A Progressive Path Forward (pdf), the CPC’s plan also calls for a ban on “any expansion of U.S. combat troops in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many other countries,” demanding an immediate end to “the policy of funding endless wars.” Continue reading

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Recognizing Powerful Interests Running the Joint, More Than 75% of Americans Back Campaign Finance Reform

“Let’s turn opinion into action by overturning #CitizensUnited and enacting public financing of elections nationwide,” says Public Citizen in response to new Pew survey.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-27-2018

New findings from the Pew Research Center reveal widespread support for campaign finance reform. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Amidst a widely-shared recognition that the country is effectively being run by powerful special interests, a new poll out Friday shows that more than 3 out of 4 Americans now support serious campaign finance reform as a way to mitigate the corrupting influence of money in the nation’s democracy.

The results of the extensive Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, reveal Americans “see the country falling well short in living up to” democratic ideals and values, and believe core changes are needed in the political system. Continue reading

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‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Watchdog Files Ethics Complaints Targeting 30 Lobbyists in Trump Administration

One expert estimates that “the real number of potential violations is fourfold.”

By  for CommonDreams. Published 3-26-2018

One ethics expert at Public Citizen said Monday, “These 30 apparent violations of Trump’s own ethics rules are only the tip of the iceberg.” (Photo: jackandfred/imgur)

Underscoring allegations that “ethics do not matter in the Trump administration,” a watchdog group on Monday filed complaints against 30 lobbyists whom President Donald Trump has appointed to his administration without ethics rule waivers—and experts warn this is only the “tip of the iceberg,” positing that the actual number of violations is likely much higher.

The advocacy group Public Citizen has identified at least 36 former lobbyists in the administration who are working on issues for which they recently lobbied, and only six of them have waivers from the ethics rule that Trump issued just days after taking office. Continue reading

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17 Democrats Decried for Sending This Clear Message: “I Work for My Bank Donors, Not My Constituents’

“Voters have seen this movie before. It didn’t work out in 2008 and it’s no wiser today. There is simply no excuse for a Democrat to add their name to Wall Street deregulation.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-6-2018

Senators Tim Kaine and Angus King. Both senators were among the seventeen Democratic caucus members who voted in favor of a financial dergulation bill on Tuesday. “This bill wouldn’t be on the path to becoming law without the support of these Democrats,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) following the vote. Photo: flickr

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are not impressed.

And they were not alone Tuesday as outrage and disgust erupted among consumer watchdogs and progressives after Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and sixteen Democrats joined with 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate to advance a bill that critics say is just another handout for Wall Street banks—one that also sets the stage for the next major financial meltdown. Continue reading

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‘No One Should Be Fooled’: Warren Rips Trump’s HHS Pick Over Desire to Gut Medicaid

“You want to smile and pretend otherwise until you get the job,” Warren said.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-9-2018

Alex Azar. Screenshot: YouTube

While President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee Alex Azar—a former pharma executive—spent most of his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday ducking and dodging pointed questions about his long history of “price gouging,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) decided to call Azar out on his support for gutting Medicaid and turning the program into a block grant.

After Azar suggested he supports block granting Medicaid as a “concept to look at” but refused to say whether he would move in that direction if confirmed, Warren said, “Mr. Azar, you can own up to the fact that you want to cut Medicaid and gut the Affordable Care Act, like every other member of the Trump administration.”

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Corporate Media ‘Failed’ to Connect 2017’s Extreme Weather to Climate Crisis: Study

“We can’t fix the climate crisis if we aren’t talking about it. It’s critical that the media start reporting on the crisis with the quality and quantity it merits. We’re talking about the greatest challenge of our time.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-5-2018

“Given the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis, as well as a surfeit of relevant, newsworthy developments, one would expect U.S. media to report on climate and clean energy issues daily,” Public Citizen’s David Arkush writes. (Photo: Public Citizen)

Despite the fact that 2017 saw a flurry of devastating and “record-shattering” hurricanes, enormously destructive wildfires, and extreme droughts, a new report by Public Citizen published on Friday concludes that major American media outlets “largely failed” to connect these weather events to the broader global climate crisis.

Titled “Carbon Omission: How the U.S. Media Underreported Climate Change in 2017” (pdf) and written by Public Citizen’s climate program director David Arkush, the analysis takes an in-depth look at the 2017 weather coverage of more than a dozen prominent newspapers and television networks, from the New York Times to the Denver Post to the Fox News Network. Continue reading

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‘Most Brazen Corporate Wrongdoer Maneuvers in Memory’: Equifax Forces Potential Victims to Give Up Legal Rights

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) calls data breach “Exhibit A for why we must stop GOP from reversing the CFPB’s rule protecting your right to join class actions”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-8-2017

“It is despicable that Equifax would exploit consumers’ need for identity theft monitoring to avoid accountability for this devastating breach,” said Amanda Werner, arbitration campaign manager at Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform. (Photo: GotCredit/flickr/cc)

Not only did Equifax suffer a massive data breach that potentially compromised the personal data of up to 143 million in the U.S. and then wait 6 weeks to inform the public—the credit-reporting company is directing those who want to know if they were a victim of the breach to a service that forces them into a “rip-off clause” that makes them give up their right to file or join class-action lawsuit against the company.

Robert Weissman, president of advocacy group Public Citizen, called it “one of the most brazen corporate wrongdoer maneuvers in memory.” Continue reading

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Undermining Democracy, Corporations Pouring Millions into Local Ballot Fights

Public Citizen finds total corporate spending on just eight local measures has topped $139 million

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-29-2016

According to Public Citizen, the corporate-backed campaigns have an average of 10-to-1 financial advantage over their mostly grassroots opponents(Photo: Jason Hargrove/cc/flickr)

According to Public Citizen, the corporate-backed campaigns have an average of 10-to-1 financial advantage over their mostly grassroots opponents(Photo: Jason Hargrove/cc/flickr)

This election cycle, corporate donors are not just beefing up the war chests of their most-favored politicians. According to a new study, industry is flexing its Supreme Court- approved political power to dominate local democracy, as well.

In the study, Big Business Ballot Bullies (pdf), Public Citizen examined eight state-level ballot initiatives and referenda that have seen an outsized amount of political spending. According to the research, published Wednesday, the corporate-backed campaigns have an average of 10-to-1 financial advantage over their mostly grassroots opponents, with total corporate spending in those races topping $139 million. Continue reading

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Amid Flood of Dark Money, Groups Make Simple Request of FEC: ‘Do Your Job’

Existing regulations are “woefully inadequate to address today’s political environment”

Written by Deirdre Fulton for Common Dreams. Published 10-28-15.

"Today's flood of dark money in federal elections is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission," says the coalition, "and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem." (Photo: 401(k) 2012/flickr/cc)

“Today’s flood of dark money in federal elections is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission,” says the coalition, “and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem.” (Photo: 401(k) 2012/flickr/cc)

Decrying the unprecedented flow of so-called “dark money” into the U.S. political process, a coalition of civic and religious organizations, environmentalists, and academics on Tuesday submitted comments to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), calling on the agency to—put simply—do its job.

“Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, each election cycle has seen dramatic changes in the campaign finance environment,” the groups declared in comments (pdf) that press the FEC to address critical regulatory shortfalls. “Yet, the rules and regulations of the Federal Election Commission have not kept pace.”

In fact, they continued, “Today’s flood of dark money in federal elections via both electioneering communications and independent expenditures is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem.”

While Citizens United undoubtedly “opened a floodgate of outside spending,” the groups wrote, the FEC’s failure to update its rules accordingly—or, in the case of disclosure rules, to actually defy both the law and the Supreme Court decision itself—has only intensified the problem.

Noting that the cost for the 2016 election cycle is expected to exceed $10 billion, the coalition—which includes Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and the Center for Media and Democracy, among others—specifically calls for the FEC to update its rules in order to:

  • reestablish the excellent disclosure regime that had existed prior to recent erroneous rulemaking by the Commission;
  • strengthen its rule to require that foreign nationals receive written assurances from any organization that conducts electioneering activity that the foreign funds will not be used for campaign purposes;
  • update its coordination rule to ensure that unregulated super PACs and other outside electioneering groups are truly independent of candidate and party committees.

On that last point, the groups stated that the FEC’s existing regulation “is woefully inadequate to address today’s political environment.”

While super PACs—which can solicit unlimited donations and have thus far raised $211 million in this election cycle—are ostensibly independent from the candidates and campaigns they support, watchdogs say the reality tells a much different story.

“Frequently, the coordination between super PACs and their candidates is laughable and the subject of televised comedy acts,” the coalition wrote, making it “indisputably obvious” to both the public and election experts that “the lax coordination rules enable candidates to evade the contribution limits by setting up a closely coordinated super PAC.”

Furthermore, by essentially throwing up its hands—FEC chief Ann M. Ravel told the New York Times in May that the agency’s internal gridlock made it “worse than dysfunctional”—the agency is only inviting further wrongdoing.

To that end, separate comments also filed Tuesday by pro-democracy groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center call on (pdf) the FEC to reject a request from two Democratic PACs that are seeking guidance from the agency itself on how to follow the lead of a number of GOP super PACs “in breaking a variety of laws through coordinated activities with candidates.”

“These super PACs are seeking FEC permission to break the law, as other candidates and committees have done, knowing full well that the Commission will deadlock on the questions, and announcing that they will break the law if they do not get a yes or no answer from the FEC,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, in a press statement.

But, Ryan warned, super PACs “are mistaken…in implying that an FEC deadlock amounts to approval of their proposed lawbreaking. The laws passed by Congress are the laws of the land despite the complete breakdown of campaign finance law enforcement at the FEC and we will not hesitate to urge the Department of Justice to criminally investigate what would be knowing and willful violations of the law if these groups proceed with their plans.”

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