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Note: This post originally appeared in The Hill’s Congress Blog.

There is a vast and dangerous imbalance of transparency in Google’s relationship with the American people. The company, which has a $395 billion market capitalization value – the second largest after Apple –  can see our Internet searches, our inboxes, our contacts, our instant messages, our use of maps to get around, our shared documents, and more. “No one knows as much about its customers as Google,” said the chief executive of Europe’s largest newspaper publisher recently. In fact, Google’s business model relies on collecting as much information as possible about its users and selling it to advertisers, which then follow us around the Internet, peddling their wares with an eerie omniscience.

Compare Google’s all-seeing position with how little we know about what the tech giant is spending to influence our government. We know Google is providing what it calls “substantial contributions” to at least 39 trade associations and membership organizations, including extreme right-wing groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which pours tens of millions of dollars into election ads, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which writes and lobbies for conservative legislation. But we don’t know how much funding it provides them, or to what ends – which is the ultimate definition of dark money.

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Shareholder meeting season is upon us!

I know, Public Citizen is known for watch-dogging corporations not investing in them.

But this is the time of year that the Corporate Reform Coalition (a coalition Public Citizen chairs) gears up to do some serious protesting outside of company meetings (and to ask tough questions inside the meetings too.)

Corporate cash in elections corrupts our public officials and thwarts important progressive reforms by spreading misinformation and drowning out the voices of average people.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has the power to change this.  Until they act, we’ll be joining with shareholders who are fed-up with the lack of transparency and who are striking back with resolutions and rallies to pressure companies to do the right thing themselves. With those things in mind we picked a couple of big corporations this year that stood out as uniquely deserving of activist anger for their meddling in our democracy and our lives.

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Last Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted an event called Shifting Tides: Worker Centers and a New Model of Representation, a live-streamed symposium to inform representatives from industry and government about how worker centers are empowering workers and communities, in an effort to coordinate weakening these centers’ ability to impact business practices. The event was put on by the Chamber’s Workforce Freedom Initiative. Apparently, companies hiding behind the veil of the Chamber and other business associations like the Orwellian-named Workforce Fairness Institute are the only voices qualified to decide what constitutes freedom and fairness in the workplace.

Out of the four guest speakers at Wednesday’s event, only one could be traced back to a specific company, and only from earlier in his career: Joe Kefauver, formerly an executive of Walmart and Darden Restaurants – both targets of worker center campaigns that educate the public about poor treatment of employees. Kefauver now heads Parquet “How do We Challenge the Social Justice Narrative?” Public Affairs, which is tied to another anonymous corporate front group, Worker Center Watch, and is a member of ALEC. The other guests included George Washington University Professor Jarol Manheim, who has a long history of opinions that favor of employers over union interests and who recently wrote a report for the Chamber; Stefan J. Marculewicz, a corporate lawyer; and Brian E. Hayes, a former Republican member of the National Labor Relations Board who once made the unprecedented threat to quit the NLRB so that it wouldn’t be able to achieve quorum.

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The weekend of January 19, 2013, will mark an incredible confluence of events. As a nation, we will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., inaugurate President Obama to a second term and reach the third anniversary of the disastrous "MOney Out Voters In" Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by the Supreme Court.

We can’t think of a better time to stand up for the power of real people in our democracy.


In 2010, after Citizens United, a tidal wave of corporate money was funneled through super PACs and secretive front-groups to elect an obstructionist Congress and regressive state legislatures. Through gerrymandering, voter ID laws, registration restrictions and other tactics, often based on model bills from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), corporate-backed politicians sought to secure their own power against democratic accountability.

In 2012, an unprecedented $6 billion was spent to influence the presidential, Senate, and House elections, mostly coming from just a handful of corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals. Small wonder, then, that everyday Americans feel their voices aren’t heard in Washington and Congress continues to slide to all-time low approval ratings.

We want our democracy back. We want to get money out of politics and restore and expand voting rights.

That’s why on January 19 and the surrounding days, hundreds of local activists, with support from Public Citizen and an amazing coalition of organizations, will be participating in a nationwide action to educate our friends and neighbors, rally our communities and demand action from our representatives. We want you to lend your voice in any way you can: click here to find a Money Out, Voters In event near you!

While we continue to build this movement from the ground up, action is still needed at the top. On February 13, President Obama will deliver the first State of the Union address of his new term. He has expressed support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and yet in this past election he played along with the super PAC game.  Now is the time for him to put the full weight of his office behind the effort to get big money out of politics. Sign the official White House petition asking President Obama to use the State of the Union address to call on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that will restore democracy for We the People.

To be a part of this historic weekend of Money Out / Voters In events, click here.  Learn more about Public Citizen’s work in this movement and join the millions who have already signed the petition to overturn Citizens United by clicking here.

Dan Mayer is Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign legal fellow. Follow our efforts to pass an amendment to get money out, voters in!” on Twitter: @RuleByUs and #MoneyOutVotersIn or #Democracy4Sale.

By Dalvin Butler

Billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch are looking to call the shots in the 2012 elections.

The Koch brothers are using their vast financial resources to push policies and candidates that favor the one percent, at the expense of the rest of us. If left unchecked, these schemes would be disastrous for our democracy.

The Koch strategy?

Diminish the rights of ordinary people and maximize those of corporations and the super-wealthy.

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