Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

Last week my colleague Rick Claypool and I hosted our second online conversation with Public Citizen activists. Thanks to everyone who tuned in!

Here’s the video in case you weren’t able to make it:

In this installment, Rick and I reviewed four of the Congress Watch division’s key legislative priorities. We outlined the details of the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act, the Arbitration Fairness Act, the Shareholder Protection Act, and the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. Then we had a discussion of why it’s important for us to push our lawmakers to cosponsor these pieces of legislation, and how Public Citizen activists play a crucial role in achieving our goals during the month-long Congressional recess.

During the month of August, lawmakers make their way back to their home districts. This is the perfect time to swing by your member’s office for a meeting or just drop off some material for him or her to review. During our next webinar, we’ll give folks tips and tricks for dropping in on their member of Congress during the recess. Sign up to let us know you’re interested.

Connecting with lawmakers during the recess is an effective way to let them know what issues matter to the people who live in their districts. Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had this to say about the role of grassroots activists in the passage of Dodd-Frank:

“The role of public opinion [during the passage of Dodd-Frank] was … to give [members] the courage of their convictions, and in particular to enable them to withstand the political pressures being generated by the financial interests that opposed the bill.”

Remember: Even if they’re not hearing from us, they’re definitely hearing from corporate lobbyists and other opponents of the public interest.

Make sure they hear from you:

Sign up for our next online chat scheduled for July 31 at 8 p.m. Eastern, and let’s remind our lawmakers who they work for.

Kelly Ngo is the online advocacy organizer for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.

By Darci Kovacs

In order to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Public Citizen is pushing for a constitutional amendment to limit spending in elections. Already, the fight to get corporate money out of politics has 16 states on its side – almost half the number of states it would take to ratify an amendment.

Now, after an intensely successful two months—with Oregon, Delaware, West Virginia, Maine and Illinois all backing a constitutional amendment—Public Citizen is taking the fight to overturn Citizens United to Congress for the rest of the summer.

So far, 111 lawmakers have co-sponsored such an amendment in this legislative session. But, 111 does not come close to the 67-vote supermajority in the Senate and 290-vote supermajority in the House of Representatives necessary to pass one.

So in the next month, Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People campaign is taking the momentum from the states that have backed an amendment and calling or visiting lawmakers who have failed to co-sponsor a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

To get lawmakers on board, we need your help.

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Three years ago, on July 21, 2010, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law.

Potentially, you may not want to read this blog because you’ll be hearing about this landmark achievement from many avenues: the New York Times, Fiscal Times, Inside Washington, Washington Post, Huffington Post, a huffing Rush Limbaugh, (Hush!), and even in the Idaho Statesman, my hometown paper.

These commemorative articles will contain flights of optimism, how the important legislative victory that was Dodd-Frank moves us ever forward, and how regulators have begun to use their Dodd-Frank authority to approve stronger equity capital requirements. We agree.

However, a n interesting piece of the post-Dodd-Frank passage puzzle is that is still requires defense and assistance. In an attempt to stymie reform and our optimism, those that lobby on behalf of industry have successfully delayed many pieces of the necessary rulemaking and continue to argue that key protections included in the bill are unnecessary. Wall Street spends about $2 million a day on some 3,000 lobbyists.

The need for defense was never as clear as on July 16, when Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) threatened the “nuclear” option to unblock the Republican Senate caucus’ filibuster threat against Richard Cordray, the president’s nominee to direct the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB). This agency was created in  Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act, and of course is a key reason this bill makes financial waters safer for consumers to wade in. Reid was successful in defending the appointment of Cordray, and thanks to this outcome of this battle we will continue to have a fully functioning CFPB.We’re grateful to Senator Reid, but also to you, our Public Citizens, for calling your senators and representative as well, and telling them not to sell out to Wall Street. We appreciate that tell them that Main Street spent $12.8 trillion lobbying for the Dodd-Frank Act (the official government estimate of the cost of the ’08 crash.) We know a bit about our Public Citizen members, because you respond to our surveys, and Rick Claypool’s lively emails. We know many of you are attorneys or doctors, or full-time dads and moms, or full-time grandmothers or grandfathers who have become the opposite of more conservative as the years pass.  We know some of your crash horror stories. You’ve shared them with regulators crafting the Dodd-Frank rules, thank you kindly.

So in the end, perhaps it is a good thing that you won’t find anything new in this blog. It is gratifying that this landmark achievement is still as momentous as it was 3 years ago, and this is due in large part to your robust defense. Thank you all, and happy birthday Dodd-Frank.

Bartlett Naylor is the financial policy reform advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @BartNaylor.

by Kristen Essel and Ashley McKay
Public Citizen interns

The police officers pushed us toward our fellow protestors to clear an aisle. The officers stood between the crowd we were in and 21 protestors who sat in front of the doors to the Independent Democratic Caucus’ office.

We were at the Capitol building in Albany, N.Y., with people from a coalition of organizations, holding up signs calling for state senators to vote on issues that ranged from protecting the environment, to guaranteeing equality for female and transgender citizens of New York.

We were there to campaign for a public campaign financing system to limit large corporate and individual funding of New York state elections. The Fair Elections Act called for a financing system in which, for every dollar given by an individual to a candidate, six dollars would be given by the state, up to a certain threshold.

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A photograph of Richard Cordray

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

This week, the Senate finally confirmed Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It’s a victory we’ve been working toward for a long time.

For two years, a bloc of Senate Republicans held up Cordray’s confirmation with a filibuster threat based not on their dislike of Cordray, but on their opposition to the consumer protection agency he was nominated to lead.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) – one of the obstructionists – even praised Cordray during his nomination hearing earlier this year: “I think you have done a wonderful job so far in carrying out your duties.”

Grassroots pressure from activists all around the country proved to be too much for this obstructionist bloc. Activists refused to let up in calling for Cordray’s confirmation and even backed the idea of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) employing the so-called “nuclear option” to change Senate rules so the vote on Cordray and other nominees could have proceeded with a simple majority of 51 votes (rather than the 60 votes required to overcome the GOP’s filibuster threat).

On Tuesday, 17 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), broke the obstructionist blockade and voted to allow Cordray to come up for a floor vote. In the end, 12 Republicans joined the 54 Democrats in voting for Cordray’s confirmation.

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