Posts Tagged ‘Activism’

Activists gathered and rallied in Pittsburgh outside of EQT Corporation’s April 17 shareholder meeting to call on the multinational gas giant to keep its corporate money out of the people’s elections.

Public Citizen's Rick Claypool holding a sign with organization leaders at EQT political spending rally

Public Citizen’s Rick Claypool (holding the sign) with PIRG’s Blair Bowie (speaking) and Keystone Progress’ Ritchie Tabachnick, Common Cause PA’s Barry Kauffman, PennEnvironment’s Erika Staaf and University of Pittsburgh graduate Eva Resnick-Day

EQT has poured nearly $328,000 into Pennsylvania elections since 2001 and $281,000 into statewide races across the country since 2003. On the whole, the fracking industry has spent $23 million to influence Pennsylvania politics since 2003.

What do EQT and the rest of the industry reap from this political spending?

On the national level, the industry’s influence has resulted in fracking– the process of injecting millions of gallons of toxin-laced water deep underground in order to break up shale rocks and extract “natural” gas – being exempt from major environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

In Pennsylvania, 47 percent of state forestlands have been leased to shale drillers and 80 percent of state park mineral rites have been privatized.

The influence is also obvious when you look at EQT’s tax receipts. EQT’s effective federal tax rate over the past five years was -1 percent – meaning that, instead of paying, the corporation actually received $2 million back from the IRS. In Pennsylvania – where EQT is headquartered – the corporation’s five-year effective tax rate was only 0.1 percent.

At the rally, I delivered the petition signed by more than 20,000 Public Citizen activists calling on EQT to stop polluting our elections with its corporate money.

Among the groups rallying outside the meeting were Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG, Common Cause PA, PennEnvironment, Keystone Progress, One Pittsburgh and Clean Water Action. Others supporting the action include Food and Water Watch, Coffee Party and a network of advocates and investors united behind the banner of the Corporate Reform Coalition.

“Corporate spending injects a corrosive agent into our democracy,” said PIRG’s Blair Bowie in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “(It) drowns out the voice of ordinary citizens.”

Before EQT’s shareholders was a resolution, proposed by Clean Yield Asset Management, calling on EQT to study the feasibility of instituting a ban on political spending.

Photo of activists holding signs at EQT rally against corporate political spending

Pittsburgh activists rallying outside of EQT’s shareholder meeting.

EQT’s shareholders did not adopt the resolution, but the demonstration outside the meeting – as well as activists’ departing chant of “We’ll be back! We’ll be back!” – sent the corporation a strong message that the public will not tolerate the industry’s systemic corruption and co-optation of our government, at any level, from local to state to national.

And, as this shareholder season moves on, Public Citizen and the rest of the Corporate Reform Coalition will keep holding corporations accountable and fighting to get corporate money out of our elections.

Rick Claypool is online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.

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Activists holding signs that say "Corporations are not people."I’m a little overwhelmed.

More than 10,000 Public Citizen supporters responded to the survey we sent around a few weeks ago.

Among the survey responses is a wealth of stories, ideas, thoughts, suggestions and praise.

The wide range of individuals who responded is inspiring. We heard from lifelong public interest advocates who fondly remember Public Citizen’s founding in 1971 by a lawyer, then in his 30’s, named Ralph Nader, and we heard from college students just starting to learn about the urgency of fighting for our democracy.

We also heard from self-described “political junkies” who are endlessly fascinated by the inner-workings (and dysfunctions) of Washington, as well as those who would prefer not to think at all about politics – but who have suffered painful, personal wrongs that motivate them to fight for justice.

Below are some of my favorite snippets from what people who responded to the survey had to say about Public Citizen.

David from Fremont, Ohio:

Public Citizen motivated me to draw up a resolution to overturn “Citizens United.” I submitted it to my City Council, here in Fremont, OH. They passed it, and it is on the way to the Governor, and Ohio State Legislature. A single citizen can still make things happen in America. The Supreme Court was WRONG, now its up to the people to change things.  I am 84, and not physically able to knock on doors, and that sort of thing, but I have a computer that enables me to do a lot of other things. My legislators get a lot of e-mails and phone calls from me. You’re never too old to be involved. I have been involved in politics for many years.

Mary from Long Branch, Oregon:

I first became aware of your great work when I was in grad school. My internship was with Change to Win organizing truck drivers at the port of Newark, NJ, and I researched the global supply chain that branched off into trade agreements and the Story of Stuff and corporate personhood. Public Citizen was a great source of information and also organizing around these important issues. Thank you.

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a photo of Rick ClaypoolPeople who are engaged in saving our country from the corporate takeover of our democracy have mixed (and strong) feelings about our recently re-elected president, Barack Obama, judging from some of the replies I received to the latest emails I sent to Public Citizen’s grassroots activists.

The email I sent was about Public Citizen’s campaign encouraging President Obama to refuse offers of corporate money to help pay for his inauguration in January, just as he refused corporate money for his first inauguration. The campaign was launched after The Wall Street Journal reported that some advisors close to the Obama campaign were considering accepting corporate money for the January 21, 2013 event, which coincidentally falls on the three-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s atrocious ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Interestingly, several of the emails I received in response fell into two camps – those who think we should trust that the president will stand up and do the right thing on his own, and those who think the president will inevitably betray the general public to corporate interests, no matter what anyone says. Email responders in both camps used these reasons to abstain from participating in the petition.

Now, I don’t want to exaggerate the significance of these emails. After all, I received probably only a dozen or so like this, which, compared to the 30,576 (and counting!) activists who have signed the petition so far, isn’t exactly statistically significant.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that large segments of the public agree with these activism abstainers.

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a photo of Rick ClaypoolAll-too-often, federal workers who call out corruption in their workplace have been marginalized, penalized and even fired after drawing attention to corporate cronyism and other shady practices.

But, thanks in no small part to tens of thousands of Public Citizen supporters who contacted their members of Congress and urged them to pass the bill, the thirteen-year battle for increased whistleblower protections has finally paid off.

The bill unanimously passed both houses of Congress, and President Obama on Tuesday signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 743) into law.

The law will provide federal civil employees with important protections, including extending the current law’s protection beyond the first person who discloses fraud and/or abuse and overriding the U.S. Supreme Court Garcetti v. Ceballos decision, which held that public employees have no First Amendment protection for speech communicated as part of their job duties.

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Birthday cake, party hats, boxes of presents, and protest signs calling for an end to the corporate takeover of our elections.

These, along with scores of activists who gathered to deliver birthday messages urging disclosure and accountability to one of the nation’s biggest dark money groups, were the main ingredients of the rally organized by Public Citizen and our partners in the Corporate Reform Coalition on Friday, Oct. 19.

Held in mock celebration of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 100th “birthday,” the demonstration occurred outside of the U.S. Chamber’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., where activists held up signs with messages like “Democracy is NOT 4 sale!” and “End Corporate Rule.”

The Chamber, which has pledged to spend as much as $100 million in corporate money to influence elections across the country,  bears a significant portion of the responsibility for keeping our TV screens clear of useful information and facts, like who really paid for its pro-corporate ads (hint: corporations).

You’ve never seen a political ad that said, “Paid for by Chevron” or “I’m Dow Chemical and I approve this message,” right? But that doesn’t mean these corporations aren’t spending millions to influence our votes. That’s because the Chamber uses its 506(c) trade association status to accept millions from its massive corporate sponsors and spend unlimited corporate funds in elections without disclosing which corporations are actually paying for the ads.

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