Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

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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Vijay Das is the health policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, and today CNN published Congress, don’t fall for Big Pharma’s gimmick, his op-ed about how much the Big Pharma lobby is costing the American public.

“Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli was labeled the “most hated man on the Internet” after he raised the price of an HIV/AIDs medication’s price by 5,000 percent.

His smug prioritization of profits over the people who are prescribed the medication brought to the forefront a conversation that has been happening over pharmacy lines and kitchen counters for years: what to do about the high cost of drugs. There has been an explosion of costs not only for new treatments, but also older medicines that work perfectly well. The high price of prescription drugs has affected the everyday choices of Americans as long as the corner drug store has existed.

It’s easy for me to read Vijay’s article and feel personally affronted – I still talk to my grandmother very often, and she anguishes over how expensive her blood pressure medication is. Thirty percent of Americans are known to skimp on their medicines in order to cut down on costs, but when life-or-death medications are out of reach, the public starts to speak up.

Rather than simply charging less, the industry is pushing for watered-down safeguards it claims will lower development costs and get patented drugs to market sooner and cheaper. It will deploy 1,200 lobbyists to try to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and will have its companion bill introduced in the Senate.

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Ideological riders are a constant threat to the budget process.

Big business backers have been sticking up for their corporate special interests by   by pushing to attach policy provisions that they can’t pass through regular order to the must-pass budget package.

And we’ve been sticking up for the public interest in-kind.

Right-wing lawmakers are holding the budget hostage and blaming everyone but themselves for the stalemate– refugees, students, Planned Parenthood, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to name just a few. A few examples of the policy riders being considered are those that would  block money in politics reforms, obstruct regulations meant to prevent the next Wall Street crisis, and attack worker and environmental protections.

So after weeks of debate – including a brief bright spot when the bi-partisan budget framework that lifted the sequester spending caps was announced – we still don’t have a final budget omnibus package. And they’re still threatening a shutdown over these ideological riders.

As lawmakers continue to try to worm riders into the budget appropriations process, Public Citizen and nearly 200 coalition partners have come together to oppose riders in the final budget.

Below are several articles written by coalition partners that speak to the true human cost of just a handful of riders in the final budget deal, the real overarching cost is incalculable.

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