Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today announced four campaign planks, one being to “fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of politics once and for all, even if that requires a constitutional amendment.”

Hillary Clinton today not only expresses support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and restore our democracy, she makes it a central pillar of her campaign. This move reflects the basic reality – recognized by the vast majority of Americans – that our democracy is being stripped away by a handful of Citizens United-enabled billionaires and giant corporations. It is also directly responsive to a rising grassroots movement demanding that the Constitution be amended to overturn Citizens United and restore We the People as sovereign.


Statement of Bartlett Naylor, Financial Policy Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: In a letter (PDF) sent today to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Public Citizen calls for lawmakers to oppose a suite of bills that would harm consumers of financial services.

House lawmakers should not make things worse for homebuyers. Instead, representatives should oppose a suite of harmful bills when they come up for a vote early this week.

Two bills in particular deserve rejection: H.R. 650, which exposes buyers of manufactured housing to greater predatory practices by raising the thresholds for protections under existing law; and H.R. 685, which further enables the dubious title insurance industry – a type of insurance made superfluous by modern records management systems.

A recent investigation of the nation’s largest manufactured housing company revealed widespread consumer abuse. Meanwhile, title insurance is a product with little purpose. It doesn’t even exist in most countries.

Congress should be finding solutions to these problems, not exacerbating them.

The other bills Public Citizen opposes are: the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Advisory Boards Act (H.R. 1195); the Helping Expand Lending Practices in Rural Communities Act (H.R. 1259); the Bureau Advisory Commission Transparency Act (H.R. 1265); the Mortgage Servicing Asset Capital Requirements Act of 2015 (H.R. 1408); the Community Institution Mortgage Relief Act of 2015 (H.R. 1529); and the Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion Act (H.R. 601).

By Emily Myers

The United States needs a superhero to rescue us from the influence of large corporations over our democracy. Superman and Batman can’t help us, but the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mary Jo White, can.

Mary Jo White and the SEC have the power to bring corporate political spending out of the shadows, an action that would help Americans reclaim control over political decisions made in their name. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporations have had the green light to spend shareholder money to influence the outcomes of elections, but there have been no new efforts to ensure shareholders and voters are aware of corporations’ political spending.

Shareholders and voters deserve to know how much money corporations are contributing to political campaigns and which candidates and causes they fund. To that end, Public Citizen and its allies in the Corporate Reform Coalition have launched a campaign aiming to persuade the SEC to require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending. (Public Citizen also has launched its own petition calling on Mary Jo White to require corporate political spending disclosure.)

The campaign, entitled ‘Where is Mary Jo White?’ uses comic book art to call upon Mary Jo White and the SEC to act. Commuters leaving and entering Union Station, a major transportation hub located near the SEC headquarters, can see scared investors and voters begging for Mary Jo White’s help in keeping dark money monsters from destroying Washington.

I visited Union Station today to see for myself how badly American voters need Mary Jo White to act. I also wanted to see just how cool the campaign is. You can see for yourself by visiting Union Station or, or, if you want to save yourself a trip outside or to another website, you can see the pictures I took below:



mjw1 You can  follow the campaign on social media by checking the hashtag #WhereIsMJW. Here are some highlights:

Have you seen SEC Chair Mary Jo White? Emily Myers is a intern with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. 

After a two-week spring break (really?? who gets two weeks off for spring break?), the Corporate Congress is coming back to the nation’s capital next week. On the agenda is a smorgasbord of attacks on the public interest:CA5mcpEWEAABJ6b.jpg large

• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to curb emissions from existing power plants will be a great deal for consumers. Because the plan relies heavily on efficiency measures to reduce energy use, consumers will see their electricity bills shrink. Yet lawmakers in the McConnell-Boehner Congress, who carry water for the fossil fuel industry, are trying to convince the public that the EPA’s proposal (called the Clean Power Plan) would do the opposite.

A proposal scheduled to be considered at 10 a.m. Tuesday by a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee would help states wiggle out of participating in the Clean Power Plan. The measure would allow for judicial review of any final rule before states would have to comply, and it would give them a way to opt out altogether. The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), claims this would protect households and businesses from higher electricity rates. Funny, because that’s exactly what the Clean Power Plan would do. At least we all have the same goal.

• We expect a Fast Track trade authority bill to be introduced next week. This would revive a controversial Nixon-era mechanism that enables presidents to sign and enter into trade agreements before Congress approves their contents and then railroad the deals through Congress with limited debate and no amendments. The Obama administration wants to use Fast Track to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress. Without Fast Track, the 12-nation pact spanning four continents doesn’t have much of a chance of passage. Which is a good thing, if you know about all the dangerous non-trade rollbacks of basic consumer, environment and health safeguards that are in it. Fast Track would enable the administration to expand the same broken trade model that has led us to a $912 trade deficit, the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs and corporate attacks on public interest policies regarding food safety, environmental laws, Internet freedom, affordable medicines, financial stability and more.

• The House plans to vote next week on repealing the estate tax (H.R. 1105). This would give a significant tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, put a hole in the deficit and slash revenue needed to protect critical programs and make new investments for a more productive economy. The estate tax exists to provide a meaningful check on the growing concentration of wealth, while generating revenue from those most able to pay and encouraging charitable giving. Repealing it would exacerbate the disparity between rich and poor. The vote, of course, is scheduled for April 15, tax day.

• Rumor has it that House lawmakers next week will consider the REINS Act, a bill that would severely hamstring the entire regulatory system by requiring all new economically significant regulations – in other words, the big-ticket public protections that provide the most health, safety, environmental and economic benefits – to be approved by both chambers of Congress before taking effect. It was introduced in January and referred to several committees.

• As soon as Tuesday, the House will take up eight bills that recently cleared the House Financial Services Committee. None of the bills advance consumer interests; all generally favor business:

o H.R. 650 would boost fees for mobile home buyers, thereby making homeownership more costly for those who can least afford it. The measure would strip away protections already created by Congress and implemented by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
o H.R. 685 would reintroduce some of the high fees that borrowers faced in the lead-up to the mortgage crisis, fees that the new mortgage rules were designed to prevent.
o H.R. 1195 would add needless regulatory layers to the CFPB’s processes relating to small businesses.
o H.R. 1259 would enable people and businesses in rural areas to circumvent certain mortgage provisions put in place by the CFPB. The bill is unnecessary because the CFPB already has in place special considerations for rural and underserved small lenders.
o H.R. 1265 would constrain the CFPB’s ability to engage advisory committees in its process of developing policies and engaging in oversight.
o H.R. 1408 would weaken new rules that strengthen controls on bank borrowing.
o H.R. 1529 would allow larger institutions to make high-priced loans, with no escrow protections, to borrowers.
o H.R. 601 would eliminate disclosures that help consumers understand how their information is used without their consent.

Statement of Bart Naylor, Financial Policy Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: Today, General Electric (GE) announGE Capitalced that it is selling its financial division, GE Capital. In a statement, CEO Jeffrey Immelt explained that GE intended to become “a simpler” company.

GE gets it: Leaner business models pose less risk to the company itself, less risk to shareholders and less risk to financial markets and the broader economy. In the wake of GE’s announcement, investors are already responding enthusiastically.

GE isn’t the only one thinking about shrinking. Other leaders in finance are calling for breaking up the major banks, including Sanford Weill, who merged Travelers Group with John Reed’s Citicorp to form Citigroup. One analyst recently observed that JPMorgan Chase would be worth more to shareholders with a breakup. And on Wednesday, vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Thomas Hoenig spoke out in favor of simpler, smaller financial institutions. On May 6, Bank of America shareholders will vote on a proposal (PDF) from Public Citizen to analyze the benefits of breaking up the bank.

We hope GE’s leadership will pave the way for other large financial institutions to take similar action.

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