Elizabeth Warren was the obvious best choice to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Wall Street and the Big Banks did not want her to get the job.
President Barack Obama decided to succumb to those interests, rather than fight for the American people.
Warren originated the idea of the CFPB. She was a tireless advocate for its inclusion in Wall Street reform legislation, and creation of the bureau is the signal achievement of that legislation. She has done an excellent job leading the team that is setting up the agency. She knows the issues better than anyone. She is an unparalleled communicator about the importance of protecting consumers from predatory financial interests.
Citizen Vox (voice), the official blog of Public Citizen. Keeping it real offline AND online.
Exhausted but inspired, I returned to D.C. from Netroots Nation grateful to have connected with some wonderful progressive bloggers and activists (and that I was not flying United). Now, the all-important question . . . what to do with all these buttons and QR codes? Kidding. The all important question in my mind is how do we achieve synergy within the movement?
One theme that came up again and again no matter what panel I was attending or person I was chatting with at Public Citizen’s booth or at a bar: Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. That’s the U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave corporations First Amendment rights and in essence said “money is speech,”undoing a century’s worth of campaign finance jurisprudence and giving corporations the ability to give unlimited sums to sway elections, thus launching a new juggernaut of spending in American elections.
As the new media coordinator here at Public Citizen, I deal with a wide variety of issues. Whether I am getting up to speed on our government colluding with Big Pharma, blogging about frackaholics or tweeting the latest observations on Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform, one thing is clear: No matter our differences, we have to stand up to corporate power and reclaim our democracy.
In the panel entitled, “The Corporate Court,” Slate blogger Dahlia Litwick said: “The Supreme Court has been trimming, cutting and cramping the notion of who can have access to the courts.” Public Citizen witnessed this with AT&T v. Concepcion, the case in which the court said that companies could immunize themselves from class actions by inserting clauses in consumer contracts (those pages of fine print that you get when you buy a computer or download software). Lithwick also noted the Roberts court has been increasingly putting caps on damages and nipping discovery.
On the legislative side, I returned to D.C. to find out that last week the U.S. House of Representatives incorporated language into the defense authorization bill designed to block the president from issuing an executive order that would require companies vying for government contracts to disclose their political contributions. Yet, Americans from across the political spectrum disagree with the idea of pay-to-play politics and are incredibly frustrated by corporations having increasing sway over government while the public is in the dark about just how much money Big Business is funneling to their members of Congress.
It’s almost as if HuffPo’s Dan Froomkin knew I’d still be working on my mug of coffee this Monday morning. He decided to lay it out really clearly for me in this morning’s post:
Two economists at the International Monetary Fund crunched the numbers and determined lobbying by lenders and other U.S. financial interests encouraged the watering-down of regulations that contributed to the 2007 meltdown of the mortgage market, he wrote.
Revolving door! Regulations! Financial reform! Oh my.
In the six years before the total meltdown of the financial market, federal legislation fared better when lawmakers were lobbied by former members of their own staff, Froomkin reported. Here’s a breakdown in numbers: Between 2000 and 2006, there were 19 bills seeking to tighten financial regulation. Of these, only 5 became law. But on the other side of the regulatory battle, there were 32 bills aiming to loosen regulation on the financial sector; 16 percent were signed into law.
But even more stunning was the relationship between the lawmakers and lobbyists in the deregulation camp.
Network connections had a big influence on voting patterns, [IMF researchers] Igan and Mishra found. “If a lobbyist had worked for a legislator in the past, the legislator was very likely to vote in favor of lax regulation,” they wrote.
Public Citizen has fought to limit revolving door activity, as well as advocated for increased regulation of the financial system to rein in the risky practices that crashed our economy. But our work is far from over. See what else must still be done.
As our energy guru Tyson Slocum just wrote, fracking is more than just a controversial method for extracting natural gas , it’s another weapon in the oil industries’ inside-coat-pocket-o-tricks. Yeah! As if we really needed another reason to dislike Big Oil.
Tyson Slocum debates fracking, Eagle Ford and the Safe Drinking Water Act on CNBC
Last week as industry executives gathered in Houston for a major global energy conference, the Houston Chronicle ran a front page story entitled, “Fracking foes put industry on the defensive,” which it then featured later on that day on the often turned to “FuelFix” blog. In it, reporter Brett Clanton writes: “Anyone scoring the ongoing debate over hydraulic fracturing would notice that critics of the controversial oil and natural gas extraction process have lately put a few points on the board.” He goes on to quote Public Citizen’s energy program director Tyson Slocum:
The next order of business is going to have to be holding politicians’ feet to the fire.
This is pretty much exactly what Slocum did last night in a debate with industry talking head John Killduff on CNBC regarding the oil industry’s push to use a form of fracking to access and exploit oil locked in shale rock in an area in Catalina, Texas, called Eagle Ford.
Slocum began by explaining that for each shale well that is made six million gallons of clean drinking water must be used. The water is loaded up with toxic chemicals, which the industry will not disclose and doesn’t have to because they are exempt under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and shot into the shale rock where 85 percent of it will remain. This brings about all kinds of problems and questions like, can you light your water on fire?
And yet, industry claims it’s totally safe:
Public Citizen is back in court fighting yet another Freedom of Information Act case. This time, the powers that be at the CIA seem dead-set on maintaining an unnecessary cloak of secrecy on decades old records about Opus Dei. The case began in June 2009 when Harry Cason, who is working toward his Ph.D. at the City University of New York, submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the CIA. Cason is working on a dissertation about U.S. involvement in Spain’s transformation during Francisco Franco’s regime. He asked for any records or information about the Catholic group Opus Dei generated before 1980. He cited two reports he knew of, one completed in 1952 and another in 1964 that was referenced in a letter from an official at the American Embassy in Madrid to a Department of State official.
The CIA refused to fully respond to Cason’s request. Although it released 207 pages of records, it also said that it couldn’t confirm or deny the existence of other records responsive to the request. It said that acknowledging the existence or nonexistence of responsive records would itself reveal information that is exempt under FOIA – i.e., by revealing whether the agency has records about a covert operation or a confidential source.
Seeking a more substantive response, Cason sued the CIA on Jan. 3.
Public Citizen filed a motion for partial summary judgment late Monday in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Carson. In this motion, we said that the CIA should fully respond to the historian’s request for decades-old CIA records about Opus Dei. Why? Because simply acknowledging whether the CIA possesses these records, which are between 31 and 64 years old, would neither reveal intelligence sources and methods nor undermine national security.