Archive for the ‘Congress Watch Column’ Category

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Last week, we hosted an online conversation with Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, and Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Robert and Lisa discussed the progress we’ve made together so far — and the next steps we need to take — on some of the most pressing issues facing the country.

Miss the webinar? Catch up by watching the video below:

(Note: Unfortunately because of network issues beyond our control, you can’t see Robert or Lisa for most of the presentation. But the audio is there, and the analysis and insights they provide are inspiring and thought-provoking).

Some of our highest priorities include ending corporate money’s domination of our elections, fighting for universal health care, reining in Big Bank recklessness and stopping congressional attacks on consumer protection.

Members of Congress — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike — must hear from We the People that these issues matter to us.

We’re going on the offensive this summer, and we need your help.

To make sure you’re invited to our live online discussion in July, sign up today.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

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A joint op-ed by Public Citizen’s Lisa Gilbert with libertarian Cato Institute’s Mark Calabria was published recently in USA Today.

The unlikely pair – considering Public Citizen’s progressive perspective and Cato’s libertarian stance – call Attorney General Eric Holder to task for the Department of Justice’s timid treatment of criminal banks.

Acknowledging the Credit-Suisse guilty plea that Justice recently obtained, Gilbert and Calabria write, “we certainly applaud the DOJ’s action, a criminal guilty plea from a foreign bank doesn’t erase the many non-prosecutions and deferred prosecutions of the too-big-to-fail banks at the heart of the financial crisis.”

Advocates and activists on the left and right demand action. What can Justice do to start restoring faith in a system that imprisons low-income lawbreakers but allows Wall Street’s worst to walk free?

Gilbert and Calabria offer a next step:

Crimes require the action of individuals. The DOJ has yet to articulate why proceeding with criminal prosecution against individuals would undermine the safety of the institutions at which they work or the broader economy.

We are not advocating criminalizing irresponsible behavior after the fact or abandoning due process protections. We are advocating a justice system that treats all equally, regardless of size or importance to the broader economy.

[…]

Holder wants to be “very, very, very, very clear,” that no bank that commits crimes is too big to jail. To ensure that clarity, we should enhance transparency on the process.

Read the full USA Today op-ed here.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

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Congress passed – unanimously in the Senate and without debate – and President Obama will sign, H.R. 2019, the “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act” (named after a 10-year old child who died last year of brain cancer). If the legislation actually did what it touts – to finance pediatric research – it would be a noble bill for a noble cause.

But it is a fig-leaf bill. Its real purpose is to begin dismantling the presidential public financing system, and is very unlikely to produce any revenues for pediatric research.

The bill was originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), a longtime opponent of campaign finance reform. After Harper was unable to persuade Congress to approve earlier legislation that would have entirely defunded the public financing program, Harper re-worked the bill into what it is known now.

The legislation transfers public funds used to pay for the nominating conventions into the general treasury, then states that those funds may be used for pediatric research, if Congress ever decides to appropriate the funds for that purpose.

This same Congress slashed National Institute of Health (NIH) funding by $1.55 billion, which finances the pediatric research program, in the appropriations bills, and then placed caps on any further spending by NIH. The Kids First Research Act, if ever implemented, would transfer from the presidential public financing system to pediatric research, a pittance of what Congress slashed from the research budget. And even that pittance is not likely to happen. Given current spending caps on governmental agencies, Congress also would have to pass legislation lifting the spending ceiling for the National Institutes of Health to carry through with this appropriation, something that this Congress is very unlikely to do.

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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:

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Last week, activists from across the nation tuned in to Public Citizen’s online presentation about writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Writing a letter to the editor is a very important way to have your voice heard on issues since that section is one of the most widely read parts of a newspaper.

You can get valuable tips on writing a letter to the editor by watching a recording of the webinar here:

To make sure you’re invited to the next live online discussion, sign up today.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.

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