Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

By Amanda Warner

Last week, some members of the House Financial Services Committee lavished praise on a piece of legislation they said would “restore due process rights to all Americans.”

“All the bill says is that if somebody wants their day in court, they should have their day in court,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), explained, adding that “preserving the rights of Americans to defend themselves in a fair and impartial trial…is one of the most fundamental rights, and it is enshrined in our Constitution.”

Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chair of the committee, championed the measure as well. “Every American deserves to be treated with due process,” Rep. Hensarling declared. “They ought to have the opportunity to have a trial by jury. They ought to be able to engage in full discovery. They ought to be subject to the rules of evidence.”

A listener might have thought these legislators were standing up against forced arbitration – “rip-off clauses” that big companies bury in the fine print of contracts to prevent people from suing them, even if they have broken the law.

Astoundingly and unfortunately, the legislators were actually moving in the opposite direction. They were extolling HR 3798, the so-called “Due Process Restoration Act,” which would extend special legal protections to Wall Street banks and other financial firms charged with violating federal securities law by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Privatization is the age-old right-wing response to imagined problems.

But if a public function like preventing plane crashes is transferred to corporations, the result could mean tragedy.

A threat to our wallets and flight safety, the air traffic control privatization effort currently underway in Congress is another move by right-wing lawmakers to deliver a favor for corporate interests while ignoring the consequences for consumers.

This week, Public Citizen joined with our partners in the Americans Against Air Traffic Privatization coalition to deliver more than 130,000 petition signatures to members of Congress demanding that air traffic control stay under federal government purview and not be spun off to a new corporatized entity.

The air traffic control system is neither broken nor bankrupt, and the only uncertainty in its running is the confusion instigated by Congress around Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding reauthorizations. The solution to the funding issue is not to privatize air traffic control but to give the FAA the stability it deserves.

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By Sonia Gill

Smart and effective consumer protection is preconditioned on the availability of data and information. For this reason, Public Citizen – and numerous leading consumer and privacy groups – strongly support robust and purposeful data collection and analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CFPB’s consumer financial data collection practices allow it to monitor emerging market trends and business practices that are harmful to consumers and to respond in an effective and proportional manner – in other words, to fulfill the pro-consumer mission created for the agency by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Not all are on board. Despite being the only federal agency dedicated to protecting the average American consumer from the abusive and unfair business practices of the financial industry, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations dedicated its last hearing of 2015 to attacking the CFPB for purported consumer privacy risks associated with the CFPB’s collection and analysis of consumer data. In yet another attempt to discredit the work of the CFPB, the subcommittee dusted off time-tested, paranoia-inducing talking points and catapulted a series of accusations at the CFPB ranging from the fantastical – likening the CFPB to an NSA-style spy agency, secretly collecting personal information from unsuspecting Americans – to the conceivable, such as potential cyberattacks against the CFPB that might result in data breaches.

While this last concern is at least a plausible one, the reality is that political opponents of the CFPB are looking for ways to  stifle the agency to protect their friends on Wall Street (friends who happen to donate generously to their reelection campaigns). These legislators are smart enough to understand the exceptional importance of data to enforce federal consumer financial law and inform the agency’s actions. By blocking access to information, they know they can cripple the CFPB’s ability to hold financial fraudsters accountable.

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We’ve had a busy few weeks at Public Citizen.

This month we delivered over 2 million petition signatures for five different campaigns for public justice and a more democratic government.

One of the most rewarding parts about working here is seeing how our actions take shape both before and after the petitioning process.

The frustration with pay-to-play politics and greed is always there, but it’s worth it to see the shock on a staff member’s face as we deliver thousands of petition signatures to congressional offices, the crowds that gather to watch millions of voices being heard in front of the White House, or the actions taken across the country to make the system a little more just.

Public Citizen will continue to fight for a stronger democracy and public protections and we will continue to oppose threats to the public interest that reward greed and recklessness.

Here’s what we’ve been up to recently:

Over 200,000 Signatures Delivered to Congress on the #NoRiders #CleanBudget Petition

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By Cameron Berube

A new budget bill has just been released and it’s clear that voters are getting the losing end of a last-minute bargain forged to keep the government from shutting down.

Perhaps with the hopes that Americans would be too busy preparing for the holidays to notice, Congress has packed the “omnibus” mega budget bill that appropriates spending for agencies with ideological riders that blatantly favor corporate interests. And while several bad campaign finance riders were kept out of the package thanks to the hard work of our champs on the Hill, unfortunately there were still several disastrous provisions included in the just-released omnibus package.

Arguably the worst of the bunch, the budget bill includes a rider that prohibits the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from writing a rule requiring corporations to disclose their political spending. Currently, corporations are free to funnel secret money into our political process, drowning out the voice of the people and endangering our democracy and there is no way for Americans to know who is paying for what (or who).

For years now, Americans of all stripes have been calling on the SEC to take action so that investors and customers can make informed decisions and hold corporations accountable for the causes they support and the money they spend on elections. In fact, 88 percent of Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — support such a rule.

So while the lights are set to stay on in the Capitol, the American people will remain in the dark.

The budget should not be used as a bargaining chip. Millions of hard working Americans count on employment with the federal government to feed their families during the holiday season. However, when Big Money interests pack the budget full of poison-pill riders like this, we can’t support its passage. And when Congress can’t pass a budget, we put those jobs and those families at risk.

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