The government has taken action against yet another company, subsidiary or executive represented on the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or its Institute for Legal Reform for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). On Thursday, Alcoa World Alumina, a company controlled by Alcoa Inc., pleaded guilty in federal court to bribing officials in Bahrain to win a supply deal in violation of the FCPA, which bars U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials to gain a business advantage. Alcoa will pay a $161 million civil penalty, the third largest FCPA-related disgorgement ever.
Public Citizen’s November 2013 report “License to Bribe” documented the efforts made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since 2010 to weaken the FCPA. The Chamber has proposed five changes that are wolves in sheep’s clothing and would undermine the law. All of the proposed changes were rebuffed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which have joint jurisdiction to enforce the FCPA and released guidelines responsive to the U.S. Chamber’s requests to weaken the law.
One change the Chamber seeks is to limit a company’s liability for the acts of its subsidiaries. The DOJ and the SEC responded in a set of guidelines, saying that such a limitation would give companies an incentive to create subsidiaries for the purpose of engaging in bribery. Indeed, that is the mechanism through which many FCPA violations have taken place – including the Alcoa violations identified by the government.
Last night, Public Citizen, along with our allies at Free Speech for People, hosted an online conversation featuring Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and superstar activist for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to secret corporate money in elections). The court is likely to hand down another decision soon that could further increase corruption of our democratic election system.
During yesterday’s webinar, Ben Cohen, Public Citizen’s Robert Weissman and Jonah Minkoff-Zern, and Free Speech For People’s John Bonifaz discussed how a bad ruling in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could fundamentally reshape how candidates and political parties raise money.
These leaders of the movement for a constitutional amendment to prevent corporations and the 1% from dominating our elections also called on activists to join our campaign to fight back on the day the court hands down what’s likely to be a harmful decision in the McCutcheon case. We hope you and your friends and neighbors can get involved in the events planned across the country!
Did you miss the webinar? If so, you can watch a replay here:
Plutocracy or democracy; the rich or the rest of us; legalized bribery or law and order; corruption or common sense.
The choice facing the U.S. Supreme Court today in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could not be clearer.
If the court decides to strike down limits on what an individual can give directly to candidates, parties and PACs, the real-world impact is plain enough. A few hundred people will be empowered to spend millions to buy elections.
We will see a rise in corruption both as the public understands the term – meaning the entire political system will shift still more to favor the super-rich – and as the Supreme Court defines it – meaning quid pro quo corruption.
There is reason to hope the court will decide to uphold current giving limits. Striking down the aggregate limit rule will require abandoning the underpinnings of Buckley v. Valeo, the foundation of current campaign spending law.
So, we must hope the court respects precedent and common sense.
But we shouldn’t have to hope. That’s why it’s time for a constitutional amendment to restore our democracy – an amendment that firmly establishes the people’s right to control campaign spending and ensure that we maintain a government of, by and for the people – not the superwealthy and giant corporations.
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.
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.
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.