Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Party politics and big money interests often work in the shadows to defeat good public policy. An intersection of these two challenges in Washington state may have played a role in the failure of an erstwhile popular resolution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

Public Citizen is a key part of the nationwide movement to pass state resolutions calling for an amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases. The 2010 Citizens United ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited sums in elections independent of parties or candidates. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia already have called for an amendment to overturn the unpopular decision.

Poll after poll shows that large majorities of Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike disapprove of Citizens United and want to see limits on election spending by corporations, unions and individuals. Yet too often, party labels block passage of popular and desperately needed laws.

Earlier this year, the Washington Legislature was moving a resolution calling for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. Thousands of Washingtonians called, emailed and visited their legislators to ask them to support the resolution. More than 15 Washington towns passed resolutions calling for an amendment, from the conservative Walla Walla to the more liberal Seattle.

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"Tyson Slocum" "Public Citizen"Was a $100,000 inaugural contribution linked to a utility’s newfound optimism about receiving an $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee?

We need more information to answer that question, but it sure seems fishy.

A Southern Co. executive told an audience at a Washington, D.C., conference last week that he is “newly optimistic” about receiving an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to build new nuclear reactors at a Georgia plant. The executive vice president of nuclear development, Joseph Miller, said he thinks the company can seal the deal by mid-year.

The statement came after the company gave $100,000 to President Barack Obama’s inaugural committee to help pay for festivities.

The timing is suspicious. Are the donation and optimism linked? It’s hard to tell. Decision-making about the loan guarantee program is cloaked in secrecy. But it is clear that robust financial assessments, not political decisions, should drive funding decisions and the terms of government loans, which should protect taxpayers.

Southern wants the money to build two new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Ga. – the first new reactors built in this country in three decades. Given the high cost of new nuclear reactors, and the fact that the project already has encountered cost overruns, the taxpayer assistance is very important to the company.

The Obama administration should halt its negotiations with Southern Co. until a full record of all communications between Southern, its lobbyists and its lawyers, and all relevant agencies and the White House, is released to the public. Transparency is imperative to ensure public confidence in the process and ensure that this deal doesn’t stink like, well, rotten fish.

Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum

 

Public Citizen and many other organizations helped organize a historic gathering of climate activists in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

In case you missed Public Citizen Energy Director Tyson Slocum on Up With Chris Hayes discussing new legislation and the amazing momentum of the climate movement here are the three clips: introduction, panel discussion and predictions.

Also, you’ll definitely want to check out below video on YouTube to hear the perspectives of Texans opposed to the Keystone Tar Sands pipeline that traveled up with our Texas office for the big #ForwardOnClimate rally.

 

Finally, quotes from some of these Texans can be read here in this front page Huffington Post hit . Despite harsh conditions, more than double the expected number of activists came out to take a stand against from the largest climate rally in history. Meanwhile, we learned that as this historic rally was happening, the president was actually golfing with executives from Haliburton and other big oil and defense industry representatives. You can read that story here.

Follow our energy director @TysonSlocum and @PublicCitizenTx on Twitter to keep up with the latest on climate change.

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

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