Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

People are taking action across the country to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that corporate political spending is the same thing as real speech by real people.

Left unchecked, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling will have grave consequences for our democracy. In last fall’s elections, corporate spending soared, and sources of outside spending were kept secret. This outside money was a major factor in 80 percent of the races where power changed hands.

Now, any lawmaker who is interested in standing against corporate interests has to figure out how to say ‘no’ to corporate lobbyists wielding the resources to replace him or her with a more corporate-friendly lawmaker.

But We, the People are mobilizing to fight back.

From Massachusetts to Oregon, Florida to Alaska, more than 100 demonstrations are being held throughout the nation.
Even a group of socially conscious business corporations, led by Ben & Jerry’s, is standing up to assert that we need a constitutional amendment to stop the corporate takeover of our democracy.

Nearly a million concerned citizens have signed petitions calling on Congress to pass such a constitutional amendment — petitions that will be delivered to Congress at noon today (Public Citizen’s petition is at www.DontGetRolled.org).

If you’re participating in today’s actions, be sure to take pictures, make videos, blog and tweet about what you’re doing. You can share your photos, videos and other documentation with us by sending an email to action@citizen.org, sending a tweet to @Public_Citizen or posting it on our Facebook page.

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Karl Rove, former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, published a column today in the Wall Street Journal. The article, entitled “ObamaCare Isn’t Inevitable,” derides President Obama’s ideas of a public option for health insurance and blames the inability of Congress to put together health care reform on the American people.

Citing a Resurgent Republic (a group he calls a “nonprofit, right-of-center education organization” whose creation he assisted with) poll released Tuesday, Rove declares that “by a 60%-to-31% margin, Americans prefer getting their health coverage through private insurance rather than the federal government.”

Hold on, Mr. Rove. A New York Times/CBS News poll was released on Saturday, and its findings are a bit different:

The national telephone survey…found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers…The proposal received broad bipartisan backing, with half of those who call themselves Republicans saying they would support a public plan, along with nearly three-fourths of independents and almost nine in 10 Democrats.

So if it has such broad support, why hasn’t health care reform made much progress since it began a little less than a month ago? The answer: lobbyists. Remember how the American Medical Association (AMA) told Congress it “does not believe creating a public health insurance option… is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs”? Well since the 2000 election cycle, its political action committee has contributed $9.8 million to Congressional candidates.

This weekend, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus is taking a break from health care reform to hold a fundraiser, where lobbyists can pay thousands to hang out with the senator. Our own Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s Legislative Representative, recently told CQ Politics:

It’s unseemly to be doing this just before the markup [of Baucus’ draft health care bill]…This kind of schmoozing of lawmakers clearly buys influence.

When the AMA, insurers and pharmaceutical companies get involved, they are going to look out for the best interests of those they represent, and that isn’t the American people.

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The new principles for transportation legislation announced today by Rep. Jim Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will affect more than just cars and roads. They also have serious implications for public health and climate protection.

Highway safety is a major public health concern. With so much emphasis on health care, this transportation legislation provides an opportunity to modernize our laws to reduce the nearly 40,000 fatalities on our highways each year.

The principles released today identify safety as an important objective. In addition to the safety improvements included in the Chairman’s white paper, such as mandates for electronic on-board recorders that ensure truck drivers comply with hours-of-service driving restrictions, Public Citizen believes the following protections must be included in the legislation:

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This week hasn’t been only about celebrating Joan Claybrook’s incredible legacy. There’s been plenty of work calling out the pharmaceutical industry, advocating against forced arbitration and acting as a government watchdog. Check out these highlights of Public Citizen’s recent news coverage.

An AP story picked up by the New York Times advises consumers to look out for the snake oil salesmen looking to take advantage of your swine flu fears. Public Citizen’s acting director Dr. Sidney Wolfe, weighs in. Dr. Wolfe also had a thing or two to say in a Bloombern News story about Eli Lilli and Co. selling a drug (Zyprexa) for seniors with dementia even though it had no evidence it would help.

National Public Radio produced an excellent piece on forced arbitration. The piece highlights the harrowing story of Jamie Leigh Jones (video here) who was brutally raped while working as a Halliburton contractor in Iraq but remains unable to hold the company accountable. David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, discusses the issue.

Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, discusses the need for more rigorous government ethics reform in a Washington Independent piece about conflicts of interest in military funding, noting “that the difference between the limits on congressional travel and those affecting executive branch officials represents ‘a gaping chasm.'”

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