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Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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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: (more…)

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Today’s Flickr photo

The Barkhor in Lhasa, Tibet. Flickr photo by Alex '77.

If you read one thing today . . .

This is a late entry but this gem from Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) might very well be the quote of the year. Bachus, the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, clearly gives a new meaning to the phrase “letting the fox guard the hen house.” Bachus told Mary Orndoff of the Birmingham News , it’s the banks, not Congress that should be calling the shots. This despite the fact it’s those same Wall Street bankers who drove our economy into the ground with their reckless deal making.

Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a “main street” perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street.

“In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks,” he said.

He later clarified his comment to say that regulators should set the parameters in which banks operate but not micromanage them.

Overheard

Kevin Sessums with The Daily Beast interviewed Kevin Spacey about his new film “Casino Jack,” which is about everybody’s  favorite disgraced K Street lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Spacey on fact being stranger than fiction:

But these kinds of stories based on real events—like Recount and now Casino Jack—are filled with characters that are so larger than life and the decisions and judgments are so outrageous and the excesses even more outrageous when money and power and influence become such an integral part of the political process. All of that is so crazy that it is inherently funny. You couldn’t f*#king write this shit. It’s far more funny because it is real. We’re not making this stuff up. This shit happened.

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If you read one thing today

A Virginia judge’s ruling against the Obama health care plan shows that the constitutional challenges to the law “can no longer be dismissed as frivolous,” writes the NYT’s Kevin Sack. Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond came down strongly against the health care reform, just as two other judges in other states had upheld it.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to resolve the conflict, and many court watchers already expect a characteristically close decision. But what is now clear is that the challenges from dozens of states to the law’s constitutionality can no longer be dismissed as frivolous, as they were earlier this year by some scholars and Democratic partisans.

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

Overheard

And this from Politico on how President Obama feels he’s perceived by the American public:

“I don’t think there’s a sense that I’ve been successful,” Obama told Colorado’s 9NEWS. “I think people still feel that over all, Washington is about a lot of politics and special interests and big money, but that ordinary people’s voices too often aren’t represented, and so my hope is that we’re going to continue rebuilding a trust in government.”

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $4 million: The amount U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski raised during the 2010 election cycle
  • $1.26 million: The amount spent by a super political action committee (PAC) sponsored by Alaskans Standing Together to re-elect Murkowski. Much of that came from corporations.
  • $250,000: What Murkowski’s own PAC raised
  • Nearly $2 million: What Murkowski’s opponent, Joe Miller, raisedNote: Murkowski won a long-shot write-in campaign.

Although clamoring for change, these new lawmakers go straight for the cash
They came in as renegades, determined to upset the system and do things differently. Washington – Congress in particular – won’t do business as usual any more, they vowed. So what are the tea partiers and others who were swept into office on anti-incumbency fervor during the midterm elections doing now? Holding big-money fundraisers, of course. And many of those who newcomers are beefing up their staffs with well-entrenched K Street lobbyists. “Lobbyists for the most part are hired guns that represent corporations and other special interests that pay for them,” Craig Holman, money and politics expert at Public Citizen, told The Washington Post. “Those lobbyists now have direct access to the political agenda of these lawmakers.”

U.S. Chamber’s aggressive tactics prompt consternation by local chambers
The U.S. Chamber was unabashedly aggressive in its attempt to sway the midterms and in particular help conservatives get elected. But its tactics made many of its local affiliates uncomfortable. More than 40 local chambers distanced themselves during the elections from the U.S. Chamber, including (more…)

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A meager $293? That’s the average weekly unemployment check collected by the 15 million Americans looking for work right now. Or $293 million? That’s what outside groups funded primarily by corporations and the very wealthy spent on the 2010 elections.

$75 billion? That’s the windfall coming to people who are already rich if the Bush tax cuts are extended. $145 billion? That’s the record amount Wall Street is paying in bonuses this year.

Trillions? In the wake of the financial crisis, that’s what We, the People provided in bailouts, loans and other supports to save Big Business from its own greed and irresponsibility.

At Public Citizen, our mission is to counteract the policies that cause numbers like these. We can defeat corporate power. But we need your help.

Please contribute $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can today.

Contribute $100 or more and get a free DVD from a selection of popular progressive films!

Corporations just elected their dream Congress. It’s going to take all of us doing everything we can, together, to prevent Congress from rolling back our health and safety protections and showering gifts on their corporate patrons—and to win new public interest initiatives.

Public Citizen will be leading the fight against corporate power in the new Congress, a Congress that will be less critical of corporate America’s agenda than any we’ve ever seen.

The critical first step is making sure we can hit the ground running when Congress returns to Washington in January. That’s why I’m writing now to ask for your help to raise $150,000 by the end of 2010.

Your contribution of $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can afford will be put to work immediately building on our important achievements in 2010 and growing our movement against runaway corporate power.

For four decades, Public Citizen members have stood together to face down corporate power.

I need you to stand with me today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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