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"Public Citizen Lady Liberty"The battle between corporate interests and the public interest is on again this week. We are working to ensure the public interest prevails!

On Tuesday, there will be a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee because some in Congress aren’t pleased with the legislative momentum of the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” (STOCK) Act, a bill with a Senate counterpart that takes aim at elected officials personally benefiting from insider trading information they are often privy to as members of select committees. As Public Citizen’s lobbying and money/politics expert Craig Holman explains,

The panel is geared toward killing the bill by arguing that congressional insider trading is already illegal, despite the fact it has never been enforced when it comes to Congress.

According to Holman,  “The STOCK Act is a legislative imperative. We know that many members of Congress are active traders in the market, and they enjoy a 6 percent higher rate of return on their investments than the market. Either these members of Congress are geniuses when it comes to stock trading, or they know something the rest of us don’t – and trade on it.” We are sending a letter to lawmakers encouraging them to stop with the committee panel theatrics and go ahead and pass this bill.

On Wednesday, the House votes on the third of three anti-consumer bills designed to eviscerate the process that brings us clean air rules, food safety regulations and other sensible safeguards. This time, lawmakers will vote on  the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2011 (H.R. 10/S. 299). This bill is nothing short of an attempt to repeal the 21st century, so expect a statement from the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards!

Also on Wednesday, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, will be holding a seminar during the MIT Knight Journalism Program’s Medical Evidence Boot Camp in Cambridge, Mass.

And on Thursday, we expect a vote in the Senate on the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is still not fully functional because it lacks a director! Republicans are threatening to block the nomination because they want to first weaken the agency before it even gets fully off the ground. Have they already forgotten about the 2008 Wall Street crash? Look for a showdown on this one.

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Peabody Award-winning journalist Bill Moyers’ keynote remarks for Public Citizen’s 40th Anniversary Gala are found below.

"Bill Moyers" "Public Citizen"

I am honored to share this occasion with you.   No one beyond your collegial inner appreciates more than I do what you have stood for over these 40 years, or is more aware of the battles you have fought, the victories you have won, and the passion for democracy that still courses through your veins.  The great progressive of a century ago, Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin – a Republican, by the way – believed that “Democracy is a life; and involves constant struggle.”  Democracy has been your life for four decades now, and would have been even more imperiled today if you had not stayed the course.

I began my public journalism the same year you began your public advocacy, in 1971. Our paths often paralleled and sometimes crossed. Over these 40 years  journalism for me has been a continuing course in adult education, and I came early on to consider the work you do as part of the curriculum – an open seminar on how government works – and for whom.   Your muckraking investigations – into money and politics, corporate behavior, lobbying, regulatory oversight, public health and safety, openness in government, and consumer protection, among others – are models of accuracy and integrity. They drive home to journalists that while it is important to cover the news, it is more important to uncover the news.  As one of my mentors said, “News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.”  And when a student asked the journalist and historian Richard Reeves for his definition of “real news”, he answered: “The news you and I need to keep our freedoms.”  You keep reminding us how crucial that news is to democracy.  And when the watchdogs of the press have fallen silent, your vigilant growls have told us something’s up.

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By Aquene Freechild, Senior Organizer with the Democracy Is For People campaign.

Americans are taking to the streets and standing up to corporate greed and injustice. This is a moment to make our voices heard. As we are protesting the forces that are consolidating economic and political power, we should not lose sight of what we’re fighting for.

Despite deep and trying struggles for a better society, most people can look around and have much to be thankful for. I hold a degree from an affordable public college; I enjoy safe and healthy food; I recovered from asthma thanks to cleaner air; I love our public transportation systems and bike lanes in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.; and I love my neighbors, family, and the community we have built and are building.

To express my love of these things and to defend my rights and the rights of those I care for, I love to vote.

Yet according to a Brennan Center report, in the coming election more than 5 million voters may see that right taken away from them due to changes in voting laws. For all but a few of these 5 million people the right to vote was fought for and won, as once only the wealthy, white and male could vote. It is a right some are still fighting for, and for which many more will have to fight now.

How is this tied into money and politics? According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 34 states saw Voter ID laws introduced in the last year. Voter ID laws disproportionately impact, and effectively disenfranchise, senior citizens, students, people of color, and lower-income Americans. And they, and other disenfranchisement measures, are being written and promoted by a corporate-state legislative body called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)ALEC drafts model laws and promotes them to state legislatures for passage.

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:"Public Citizen Money and Democracy Update"

Contributions and cuts
Members of the “super committee” created to find $1.2 trillion to cut from the budget have received $64.6 million from political action committees and other industry groups representing the health care industry, financial industry, defense contractors and more. It’s hard to imagine that campaign money won’t affect the super committee’s recommendation, which is even more of a reason that the committee members should stop fundraising while they do their work, as two dozen public interest groups have called for.

Nebraska’s public funding law said to be likely unconstitutional
Nebraska’s law regarding public funding of campaigns is likely unconstitutional in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding a similar Arizona law, Nebraska’s attorney general says. Public funding of elections is designed to curb the influence of large corporations and donors over the political process.

Another ballot measure on corporate personhood?
A Missoula City Council member is pushing her colleagues to place a referendum on the next ballot that asks voters if they want to urge the state and U.S. Congress to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision and declare that corporations are not people. That’s the ruling that said corporations can spend as much as they want to influence elections. Two towns in Wisconsin have held similar votes, with voters overwhelmingly saying that corporations aren’t people (no matter what Mitt Romney may think), and Boulder, Colo., is slated to do so later this year.

A step in the right direction for New York
For a state that has made national headlines with its political corruption, strides were made when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new ethics law on Monday establishing a 14-member Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The commission will oversee lawmakers, lobbyists, and executive branch and legislative employees, and crack down on the registration and conduct of lobbyists. Will this boost integrity in New York politics? Only time will tell.

But … as long as prices go up, the sky’s the limit on political contributions in New York
The price of everything is going up, it seems. The New York state elections office wants to keep up. There, contribution limits go up every four years along with the consumer price index. Caps on the amount you can give party committees and candidates just rose again. Now, for instance, individuals or legal partnerships may give $102,300 to a party committee, up from $94,200.

Starbucks CEO calls for halt on political contributions
Disgusted with the deficit reduction negotiations, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is calling on members of the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ to stop making political contributions until Congress and the president “deliver a fiscally disciplined, long-term debt and deficit plan.”

You can’t make this stuff up: the latest Colbert PAC development
The treasurer of comedian Stephen Colbert’s mock Super PAC is leaving to go to a real campaign. Salvatore Purpura, who has been treasurer of Colbert’s Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, is now treasurer for presidential candidate Rick Perry.

If it walks like a lobbyist and talks like a lobbyist, it probably is a lobbyist
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Minnesota group that connects corporations with state lawmakers to draft model legislation, should register as a lobbyist under state law, experts say. “The fact that ALEC … does these direct activities to meet with lawmakers in Minnesota and to proselytize this model law and then help them draft it into actual state legislation, that crosses the line,” said Public Citizen’s lobbying expert Craig Holman. ALEC is stubbornly maintaining that it is not a lobbyist and merely takes a policy position.

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"Public Citizen Money and Democracy Update"Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 22: The number of companies represented on the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “private enterprise board” in 2010
  • $38 million: The amount that board members spent on state politics during the 2009-2010 election cycle
  • 2,000: The number of state legislators that are currently members of ALEC
  • 180: The number of ALEC’s model bills that are enacted in at least one state every year

Budget-slicing lawmakers should stop fundraising, groups say
Public interest organizations are calling for the lawmakers who make up the “super committee” that will decide how to slice the budget to stop fundraising and disclose to the public information about their meetings with lobbyists. More than two dozen groups, including Public Citizen, Common Cause and, sent a letter to lawmakers this week.

New ethics quandary: when city council members hire lobbyists to represent them
Is it kosher for city council members to hire high-powered city lobbyists to personally represent them? That’s what has happened in the District of Columbia. Not only is it legal, but the money paid to the attorney/lobbyist need not be disclosed. That creates all kinds of sticky ethical questions, such as, if the attorney who got you acquitted in an ethics charge comes back a month later to lobby for a new development, will your vote be colored? The situation is troubling, Public Citizen’s Craig Holman told The Washington Post.

It’s really coming  . . . 8.11.11. Are YOU ready?
Public Citizen and partners want you to know it’s time to make a choice– which is it going to be– Dollars or Democracy? Do you know a celebrity or someone who runs a nonprofit? Are you on Twitter or Facebook? If you answered yes to any of these questions please email us at engage (at) citizen dot org to find out how you can help us make a difference on 8.11.11!

Mysterious donation to pro-Romney group
It’s the case of the mysterious campaign contribution. On April 28, a company called W Spann LLC donated $1 million to the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future. Here’s where things get sticky. The group was founded on March 15, dissolved on July 12 and nobody remembers the company existing at the address listed in the filing. Curious. Now, there are calls for the Justice Department to investigate.

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