Stunning Statistics of the Week:
- 1626.7 percent: The percentage by which the volume of ads paid for by outside groups has increased since the 2008 presidential race
- 1281.8 percent: The percentage by which outside group spending on ads has increased since the 2008 presidential race
Senate bans congressional insider trading; House vote is next
Congressional insider trading is one step closer to being banned. The U.S. Senate this week approved a bill to ban it; now it heads to the U.S. House of Representatives. President Barack Obama says he will sign it. The bill has been in the works for years but gained traction recently when “60 Minutes” highlighted the need for it. Public Citizen, which has pushed for the measure for years, is urging its passage. Tell Congress to pass the STOCK Act.
Super PAC reports are in to the FEC
Jan. 31 marked the deadline for many Super PACs to tell the Federal Election Commission who their donors are. (A caveat: Some reported getting money from generic-sounding corporations housed at a P.O. box, so the information is not complete.) What did we learn? That the casino mogul who is pouring money into a pro-Newt Gingrich group gave five times more than all other donors to Gingrich’s Super PAC combined. And that millionaires and billionaires are having a huge amount of sway over the presidential election process. And that the Karl Rove-backed groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS raised $51 million last year.
Breakfast cereals equivalent in nutritional value to Twinkies are heavily marketed to children using cartoon mascots and online “advergames.” Schools display advertisements for everything from fast food to the U.S. Army on every available surface, from lockers to flat-screen televisions in cafeterias to report cards. Corporations hire student “brand ambassadors” on college campuses to subtly push their product on classmates and friends. Public art galleries, subway stops, and roadways are named for the highest corporate bidder. Historic bridges and parks are draped with advertisements. Infant formula makers market their products in doctors’ offices and hospitals.
These examples are all evidence of the rapidly growing space that commercial culture has come to occupy within our society. As large a space as they may already inhabit in our lives, corporations are seeking still more facets of our society that can be put up “for sale,” never mind the higher values that get trampled in the process – values like family, community, environmental integrity, and democracy. That’s why Commercial Alert, a project of Public Citizen, has no shortage of work to do.
Ralph Nader and Gary Ruskin founded Commercial Alert in 1998, seeking to keep commercial culture within its proper sphere. Since then, Commercial Alert has fought to lay down boundaries that preserve crucial spaces in our culture as commercial-free. Commercial Alert has stood up for children’s rights to be free of commercialism in schools, parks, libraries, and other public spaces. We’ve demanded that government be a vehicle for democracy, not commercial advertising, fighting back against plans to advertise on government vehicles, history-laden bridges and buildings, and in cultural institutions. We’ve decried the number one public health disaster of our times – marketing-related diseases, including obesity, smoking-related illnesses, diabetes, and many more.
Despite successes along the way, the fight is far from over. As those intent on putting everything and everyone up for sale wage their war on our culture, Commercial Alert continues to resist the spread of commercial culture – now as an important part of Public Citizen. We’re confident that supporters of Public Citizen will find that Commercial Alert’s upcoming campaigns address crucial issues that are important to them – issues that fit well with Public Citizen’s historic concerns about unchecked corporate power and consumer protection. And supporters of Commercial Alert who have been eagerly awaiting our return to action after a brief hiatus will be excited to see the powerful connections between Public Citizen’s work and Commercial Alert’s goals, connections that will enable us to combat excessive commercial culture even more effectively.