Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

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The Fast Track package sent over from the Senate was rejected today by the House because two years of effort by a vast corporate coalition, the White House and GOP leaders – and weeks of procedural gimmicks and deals swapped for yes votes – could not assuage Americans’ concerns that more of the same trade policy would kill more jobs and push down our wages.

Passing trade bills opposed by a majority of Americans does not get easier with delay because the more time people have to understand what’s at stake, the angrier they get and the more they demand that their congressional representatives represent their will.

Welcome to the weekend as the millions of Americans across the political spectrum actively campaigning against Fast Track will intensify their efforts to permanently retire the Nixon-era scheme and replace it with a more inclusive, transparent process that instead of more job-offshoring can deliver trade deals that create American jobs and raise our wages.

Today the allegedly unstoppable momentum of the White House, GOP leadership and corporate coalition pushing Fast Track to grease the path for adoption of the almost-completed, controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal just hit the immovable object called transpartisan grassroots democracy.

The crazy gimmicks employed to try to overcome what polls show is broad opposition to Fast Track actually backfired. Yesterday, the House GOP leadership put most GOP representatives on record in favor of cutting Medicare by $700 million with a vote on a procedural gimmick. Today, it was Democrats’ ire about a gutted version of a program to assist workers who will be hurt by the trade agreements Fast Track would enable that was the proximate cause of the meltdown. That program was included only to try to provide cover for the two dozen Democrats who would even consider supporting Fast Track at all.

Today’s outcome is a testament to the strength and diversity of the remarkable coalition of thousands of organizations that overcame a money-soaked lobbying campaign by multinational corporations and intense arm-twisting by the GOP House leadership and the Obama administration. The movement now demanding a new American trade policy is larger and more diverse than in any preceding trade policy fight. It includes everyone from small business leaders and labor unions to Internet freedom advocates and faith groups to family farmers and environmentalists to consumer advocates and LGBT groups to retirees and civil rights groups to law professors and economists.

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Business for DemocracyCorporate Congress is in session next week and here are some of the public interest attacks Public Citizen is keeping an eye on:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 2289, the “Commodity End-User Relief Act.” This bill is a give-away for Wall Street speculators being masked as a pro-farmer bill. The first sentence of the Committee’s report explains that this bill “will better protect farmers and ranchers” who use the commodity markets. Yet the text of the 63-page statute itself makes reference to farmers exactly one time and instead is filled with provisions that will severely undermine financial reform. In short, these provisions will create barriers that restrict the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from adopting strong financial reforms that protect consumers and the public. Check out a letter (PDF) Public Citizen sent to representatives detailing just how much damage this bill would do to undermine the authority of the CFTC.
  • At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 10, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing titled, “Examining the Federal Regulatory System to Improve Accountability, Transparency and Integrity.” This committee has not previously weighed in on federal regulatory debates, so it is expected that this wide-ranging hearing will touch on a variety of regulatory process themes, including but not limited to judicial review. Public Citizen President Robert Weissman will testify on the importance of a strong and effective regulatory process that protects the public’s health, safety and financial security and the environment. Weissman will point to the need to fix a regulatory process that currently acts too slowly to prevent health and safety disasters and needs fewer, not more, layers of review.

Today Google’s shareholders will once again press the company at its annual shareholder meeting with a resolution to be more transparent about its lobbying expenditures. Though the company opposes the proposal, investors are right to request the tech giant to disclose this information.

Google has embraced old-school lobbying and political spending as a means to advance its policy positions: The tech giant has already spent more than $5.4 million on federal lobbying this year.

Good governance groups applauded the company’s decision last year to leave the controversial and regressive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but have rightly pushed the company to do more. Exiting a group you disagree with on many issues isn’t necessarily a bold move, and Google’s shareholders are looking for the company to transition to a leader on political spending and lobbying transparency. Google notably lags behind many of its tech peers like Microsoft and Intel when it comes to this issue.

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In the age of Big Data, corporate America knows a lot about us—our buying habits, where we travel, even our mental health. But ask Corporate America a simple junior high-level question in long division related to CEO compensation and some of these companies freeze like awkward teens at the sock hop.

Unfortunately, Chair Mary Jo White over at the Securities and Exchange Commission appears to buy this feigned incompetence when it comes to pay disclosure. Congress mandated that her agency require that publicly traded companies disclose the CEO’s pay as a ratio to the median paid employee at the firm, or in other words, what is the difference between the average worker and the boss. It’s been more than 700 days since she became chair on April 10, 2013 and inherited this question, but so far Chair White has been Chair Wait.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), among others, is tired of waiting. On June 2, she fired a coal-hot epistle at the SEC chair. Using the delayed CEO pay rule as Exhibit One, Sen. Warren summarized: “Your leadership of the Commission has been extremely disappointing.”

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Business for DemocracyAfter a week off, the Corporate Congress returns to the nation’s capital on Monday. Here are a couple of public interest attacks we are watching:

- Lawmakers will discuss a proposal to effectively give legal immunity to manufacturers that don’t comply with energy efficiency standards. The proposal is part of a discussion draft (PDF) related to energy efficiency. The draft will be considered at 2 p.m. Wednesday and again at 10:15 a.m. Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

The proposal amends the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to restrict consumer claims against manufacturers of products that don’t comply with the Energy Star program but still tout the Energy Star label. The immunity applies only if the government takes some action against the manufacturer, such as disqualifying it from the program. (Energy Star is used by manufacturers and relied upon by consumers as they increasingly demand energy-saving products. The mark comes with a promise that the appliance will achieve a set amount of savings for consumers.)

Some unscrupulous manufacturers put the Energy Star label on appliances that do not, in fact, meet the program requirements or deliver the promised savings. The legislation would stop consumers from suing the manufacturers for those losses if the government has sanctioned the manufacturer in any way, however inadequately.

The corporate giveaway contained in the bill is an answer to a problem that doesn’t really exist, experts say. Consumers aren’t rushing in droves to sue manufacturers over energy savings they aren’t getting. But the legislation would remove incentives for manufacturers to meet the Energy Star program’s requirements and would enable manufacturers to avoid accountability for misrepresenting the energy savings of their products.

- At 9 a.m. Thursday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology holds a hearing to examine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “regulatory overreach” and its effect on competition. This once again perpetuates a negative myth about rules designed to curb climate change, and ensure clean air and water.

In fact, such safeguards are extremely popular. People want the government to protect the air and water. The overwhelming majority of voters (PDF) in both parties appreciate the need for regulation generally and want increased enforcement. And according to a recent poll by the League of Conservation Voters, voters favor the EPA’s clean water rule by a wide margin.

Plus, many in the business community support strong and effective regulation because high standards and clear rules of the road are essential components of a prospering and fair economy.

The anti-regulatory canard is a device used by corporate shills in Congress to let corporations cut corners when it comes to public protections.

To talk to an expert, contact Angela Bradbery at the email address or number listed above.

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