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People are taking action across the country to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that corporate political spending is the same thing as real speech by real people.

Left unchecked, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling will have grave consequences for our democracy. In last fall’s elections, corporate spending soared, and sources of outside spending were kept secret. This outside money was a major factor in 80 percent of the races where power changed hands.

Now, any lawmaker who is interested in standing against corporate interests has to figure out how to say ‘no’ to corporate lobbyists wielding the resources to replace him or her with a more corporate-friendly lawmaker.

But We, the People are mobilizing to fight back.

From Massachusetts to Oregon, Florida to Alaska, more than 100 demonstrations are being held throughout the nation.
Even a group of socially conscious business corporations, led by Ben & Jerry’s, is standing up to assert that we need a constitutional amendment to stop the corporate takeover of our democracy.

Nearly a million concerned citizens have signed petitions calling on Congress to pass such a constitutional amendment — petitions that will be delivered to Congress at noon today (Public Citizen’s petition is at www.DontGetRolled.org).

If you’re participating in today’s actions, be sure to take pictures, make videos, blog and tweet about what you’re doing. You can share your photos, videos and other documentation with us by sending an email to action@citizen.org, sending a tweet to @Public_Citizen or posting it on our Facebook page. Continue Reading »

Today’s Flickr photo:

Flickr photo from BP America

If you read one thing today…

Dave Barry’s annual year in review is out. How did 2010 measure up? It wasn’t pretty. From the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico to Toyota’s runaway cars, 2010 was a rough year.

On the BP oil spill:

The perfect symbol for the awfulness of 2010 was the BP oil spill, which oozed up from the depths and spread, totally out of control, like some kind of hideous uncontrollable metaphor. The scariest thing about the spill was, nobody in charge seemed to know what to do about it. Time and again, top political leaders personally flew down to the Gulf of Mexico to look at the situation first-hand and hold press availabilities. And yet somehow, despite these efforts, the oil continued to leak. This forced us to face the disturbing truth that even top policy thinkers with postgraduate degrees from Harvard University — Harvard University! — could not stop it…

…the Deepwater Horizon oil spill officially becomes, according to the news media, the worst thing that has ever happened, with environmental experts reporting that tar balls have been sighted on the surface of the moon. Just when all appears to be lost, BP announces that it has stopped the leak, using a 75-ton cap and what a company spokesperson describes as “a truly heroic manatee named Wendell.” Although oil is no longer leaking, much damage has been done, so this important story remains the focus of the nation’s attention for nearly 45 minutes, after which the nation’s attention shifts to Lindsay Lohan.
If you have a better attention span than that, feel free to check out Public Citizen’s work on the BP oil spill from throughout the year.
At the very least, Barry can make you laugh, shake your head, and then hope that 2011 will bring us some better news. Let’s see what the new Congress and the Obama administration have in store for us this year…

Today’s Flickr Photo

On Fort Lauderdale beach in Florida. Flickr photo by ticktockdoc.

If you read one thing today . . .

Politico’s David Rogers sat down with outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and talked about the highlights of her term — passing health care legislation and financial reform.

“We came here to do a job, and we did the job. … Those two issues, Wall Street reform and health care, were two that changed the leverage for the American people. Whether you were a consumer or a patient, the leverage is now with you. And that, for me, is why I am a Democrat: to have the leverage to be with the average person.”

There’s some denial to be sure. In the course of an interview, Pelosi repeatedly spoke of her ranking Democrats as committee “chairmen” when they won’t be in the new Congress. Four years of restrictive rules on House debate seem a lost memory: “I’m thoroughly agnostic. If Republicans have a good idea, let’s go with it.”

And by her reckoning, little or nothing about November’s losses can be attributed to the enactment of health care reform.

“If we had never passed the bill, we would still have had these losses. We were told a year ago: ‘If you’re anywhere near 10 percent unemployment, there’s no chance you can hold the majority.’”

“Nothing compares — in anything I have ever done — with passing the health care bill.”

Overheard:

Someone should really do something about those damn environmentalists and their need to protect us from companies that want to pollute our air and water.  Have no fear, Rep.-elect Bill Flores (R-Texas) is here and he’s ready to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency. Think Progress has a snippet from his appearance on something called the Tea Party Internet Radio:

I can tell you the House as a whole, the Republicans in the House as a whole want to get the EPA shut down on these bunny trails that’s going down that are throwing people out of work — particularly the way it’s abusing Texas. And I think that Texas can count on getting some relief from the EPA within the first few months of this Congress because they really have gone overboard.

Today’s Flickr photo

A winter postcard from Cambridge, England. Flickr photo by .mush_king.

 

If you read one thing today . . .

Economist Dean Baker in the Talking Points Memo builds the case for a financial speculatin tax on stock market trades — a move that could raise $150 billion a year from Wall Street banks. It only seems fair that when the rest of us are worrying about our jobs and making mortgage payments that Wall Street “share the pain.” Not likely. Despite the recession, the banks, thanks mostly to a government bailout, are turning out huge profits and once again ready to  pay out obscene bonuses.

What is really great about a financial speculation tax is that the Wall Street banks would pay almost the entire tax. The economics on this is very simple. If a tax makes trading shares of stock, options, or other assets more expensive than people will trade less. For example, if a tax doubles the price of trading shares of stock, research shows that people will trade roughly half as much.

This means that investors will spend roughly the same amount on their trading with the tax as they did without the tax. They will pay twice as much per trade, but since they trade half as frequently, they end up paying the same amount on their trading.

Instead the cost of the tax will be born by Wall Street. The banks will have to absorb pretty much the full cost of the tax. This explains why prominent people in Washington have so little interest in financial speculation tax.

Overheard

Adam Liptak in the NYT looks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s success arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, big business has done extremely well.

“The Roberts court appears to be a mainstream, traditional, modern Republican, conservative court,” said Bradley W. Joondeph, a law professor at Santa Clara University and a former law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “Part of its constellation of commitments is against the regulation of business and, in particular, the regulation of business through litigation.”

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $718 million: Total amount spent by all presidential candidates in 2004
  • $745 million: Amount President Barack Obama spent to get elected in 2008 – a new record
  • $1 billion: Amount Obama is expected to raise and spend on his 2012 re-election campaign
  • $1.3 billion: Total amount spent by all presidential candidates in 2008

Republicans reap benefits of being in power
Just before the midterm elections, when it was pretty clear that Republicans would be taking over the House of Representatives, industry interests lavished hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawmakers slated to be chairs of influential committees. These include committees overseeing tax policy, energy matters and the implementation of the new health care law. “People bet on winners,” Craig Holman, money and politics expert at Public Citizen, told USA Today. Continue Reading »

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, joined Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez this morning to talk about our new report that shows the pharmaceutical industry has overtaken the defense industry in the amount of fines paid for violating the Fair Claims Act.

Defense contractors,who may never live down their reputation of overcharging the government (remember the $640 toilet seats?), can now offer up that there is a worse industry when it comes to cheating the government. A Public Citizen report released today found that the pharmaceutical industry has now become the biggest defrauder of the federal government.

The study found that pharmaceutical cases accounted for at least 25 percent of all federal Federal Claims Act violation payouts over the past decade, compared with 11 percent by the defense industry.

The fraud results were a key finding from a Public Citizen analysis of all major pharmaceutical company civil and criminal settlements on the state and federal levels since 1991 and found that the frequency with which the pharmaceutical industry has allegedly violated federal and state laws has increased at an alarming rate. Of the 165 pharmaceutical industry settlements comprising $19.8 billion in penalties during the past 20 years, 73 percent of the settlements (121) and 75 percent of the dollar amount ($14.8 billion) have occurred during the past five years.

Many of the infractions, and the single largest category of financial penalties, stemmed from the practice of off-label promotion of pharmaceuticals – the illegal promotion of a drug for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Off-label promotion can be prosecuted as a criminal offense because of the potential for serious adverse health consequences to patients from such promotional activities. Another major category of federal financial penalties was purposely overcharging for drugs under various federal programs, which constitutes a violation of the FCA.

Here’s the report: Continue Reading »

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