Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Note: Public Citizen runs U.S. Chamberwatch, a project designed to shed light on the funding and practices of the largest private interest lobbyist in America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."Robert Weissman" "Public Citizen president"

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue today delivered his annual State of American Business address. As he paints a fantastical picture of the unfair burdens imposed on Big Business, Donohue neglects to mention a few things, most importantly, that corporate profits are at record highs.

Of course, there’s nothing surprising here, since he gives pretty much the same speech every year. Still, a few comments are in order.

First, isn’t it a bit much for the rich and powerful to endlessly call for cutbacks in the nation’s leading anti-poverty programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? If Tom Donohue is concerned about the government’s fiscal situation, perhaps he should acknowledge the unreasonably low effective tax rate on corporations. Or declare that it’s outrageous for two dozen profitable Fortune 500 companies to pay zero in federal income tax in the past four years.

Second, he whines about a “coming flood of new regulations,” even as we still suffer from the Great Recession, a direct outgrowth of too little regulation and enforcement. This complaint comes despite no evidence that regulation meaningfully impedes job growth and despite lots of evidence that regulation protects and creates new jobs (not to mention making jobs safer, better paid and equitability available).

Third, he urges more NAFTA-style trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a NAFTA-on-steroids that would encumber every country on the Pacific Rim. This call will come despite an abundance of evidence that this trade model has cost jobs, lowered living standards and undermined our sovereign ability to set our own safety and health protections.

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What can you do if you want to help stamp money out of politics? Well, Ben Cohen, the Ben from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, has an idea: stamp money.

The founder of one of the biggest ice cream brands in the country is teaming up with Public Citizen, Move to Amend and People for the American Way to garner support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend unlimited money to influence elections, and related cases.

To raise awareness, Ben & Jerry’s are calling on concerned citizens to stamp dollar bills with slogans such as “corporations are not people” and “not to be used for buying elections.” These stamps are being sold at cost at the Stamp Stampede website (http://stampstampede.org/shop/).

“It’s some monetary jujitsu – using money to get money out of politics,” Cohen told the USA Today.

The Stamp Stampede calculates that every bill will be seen by approximately 875 people in its lifetime. If 100 people stamped 10 bills every day, the entire population of the United States would have seen the message at least once within a year. Activists are being encouraged to stamp as many bills as they can to exercise their right to free speech and raise awareness of the dangers of corporate money in politics.

Cohen has consulted with his lawyer and assures activists that stamping dollar bills is legal. The First Amendment protects the stamps because they are political messages that don’t damage the bills or render them unusable.

You can get more involved with Public Citizen’s efforts for a constitutional amendment at www.democracyisforpeople.org.

Aquene Freechild is Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign senior organizer. You can follow the campaign for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC and end our #Democracy4Sale on Twitter @RuleByUs

Red white and blue elephant and donkey representing the Republican and Democratic parties.Corporate lobbyists and other political creatures intent upon distorting our democracy are descending on the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention.

Their objective is simple: To schmooze with and buy the gratitude of lawmakers who might be in power after the elections.

Most of what happens will be the (disturbingly) run-of-the-mill, “corporate corruption as usual” that happens every day in Washington, D.C. During the conventions, what so many cynically call “how Washington works” becomes “how Tampa works” and “how Charlotte works.

But some of what happens at the conventions may cross the line from everyday political corruption (outrageous as it may be) into violations of Congressional ethics rules and even outright illegal activity.

With help from citizens and journalists (and citizen journalists) attending the conventions, we’re working to hold lawmakers and special interests accountable when they cross the line. But we need your help.

Attending one of the conventions? Here’s what you need to know to keep an eye out for undue influence peddling:

1. During the conventions, all members of Congress are banned from participating in any event held in her or his honor if that event is hosted by a lobbyist (or a corporation or special interest group that employs registered lobbyists). [Paraphrased from House Rule XXV(8); Senate Rule XXXV(5)]

This rule expressly prohibits members of Congress from attending any convention party thrown by a lobbyist or lobbying organization where a specific member or members are identified by name and title as the honoree (including as a “special guest”), as well as events honoring a group composed solely of members, such as a congressional committee or congressional caucus (though the House ethics committee so far refuses to apply the rule to parties that honor groups of members).

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Wall Street getting its way in Washington, D.C.  That’s been the theme of a series of financial disasters, including the $5 billion-plus trading loss disclosed by JPMorgan Chase in May. After that “embarrassing” episode (so described by "Lisa Gilbert"the company’s CEO Jamie Dimon when he testified before the Senate), the JPMorgan political action committee (PAC) suspended its political spending.

We wondered how long their embarrassment would last. Now we know: not long.

The JPMorgan PAC is once again writing checks – writing them to, among others, the same old cast of House Financial Services Committee members who have done their persistent best to both undermine the Volcker rule and block tighter derivatives regulation that would bring more transparency and accountability to the kind of deal-making that triggered the financial crisis. Of course, in strong form, the Volcker rule might have prevented the JPMorgan trading debacle.

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It will take some time to digest the Supreme Court’s decision today, but it appears to have averted some terrible jurisprudence that might have very seriously restricted the government’s overall ability to regulate the economy and protect citizens.

In upholding most of the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court lets stand legislation that offers some important benefits, but only to a portion of those who are uninsured, and will predictably fail to solve our nation’s health care crisis.

However the health reform law ultimately plays out, we know two things for certain: Tens of millions of Americans will remain uncovered as will tens of millions of under-insured who will remain at risk of financial ruin if a major illness strikes and it will leave the private health insurance and pharmaceutical industries in charge of prices and life-and-death treatment decisions.

There is a single solution to the challenges of providing coverage to the 50 million who are uninsured that would curb out-of-control health care costs and provide a humane standard of care to all who enter the medical system. That solution is an improved Medicare-for-All, single-payer system.

The improved Medicare-for-All approach starts with the premise that health care is a critically-needed right that must be afforded to all, irrespective of any individual’s ability to pay for care. It solves the problems of 50 million uninsured Americans simply and directly by establishing that everyone is covered by the improved Medicare-for-All system. Everybody in, nobody out.

Improved Medicare-for-All would prevent the deaths of the 45,000 Americans who die every year from lack of health insurance. It would eliminate the hundreds of thousands of medical bankruptcies — affecting millions of Americans every year — that occur because people can’t pay their medical bills. These deaths and economic tragedies are entirely preventable; a system that permits them to continue is morally repugnant and must be replaced.

The improved Medicare-for-All approach would eliminate the greatest waste in the health care system: the needless costs imposed by the private health insurers. These firms impose hundreds of billions of dollars of excess cost on us via their excessive profit-taking and executive compensation, their marketing expense, their vast bureaucracies devoted to denying care and their imposition of massive paper-pushing obligations on actual health care providers.

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