Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

In an effort to hold BP accountable for the damage done to wildlife as a result of the oil disaster in the Gulf, three environmental groups have sued the company.

The three groups, Defenders of Wildlife, Gulf Restoration Network and the Save the Manatee Club, say the spill has caused and will continue to cause the taking of endangered and threatened species,” including whales, manatees, birds and sea turtles that “show no avoidance response to oil slicks.”

While BP has already agreed to pay $ 500 million for restoration efforts, the groups are concerned it’s not enough because the effects of the disaster will continue for a long time.

This is welcome news for anyone still appalled by the ambivalence displayed by Congress’ lack of legislation in response to the spill. A new plan released from the Obama administration would invest billions of dollars of BP fines into recovery efforts in the Gulf.  But that’s mopping up the damage. What about going forward?

Lawmakers have yet to vote on sensible legislation designed to address the core causes of the disaster and the inadequate response to it— issues that apply to the oil industry as a whole. It’s been six months since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and we still have nothing. Congress needs to act.

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Today’s Flickr Photo


From an Oxfam campaign on sustainability and climate change. Flickr photo by Oxfam International.


If you read one thing today . . .

While the GOP is the party mostly benefiting from the flood of anonymous corporate donations being collected and spent this year on political ads, the WaPo’s Sue Marcus points out that just six years ago the Democrats were the party being accused of running roughshod through campaign finance regulations. There’s little moral high ground for Dems  in the debate over reforming our campaign finance rules. Marcus writes:

Let’s not be naive, though. Unlike most Republicans, Democrats have long supported campaign finance reform; for that they deserve enormous credit. But campaign cash is where the hardball hits the mitt. For decades, both parties and their allies have demonstrated a hardheaded willingness to exploit and stretch existing campaign finance laws. To expect otherwise is to expect lions not to eat zebras when the opportunity arises. The ethics — and the expressions of ethical outrage — are purely situational.

Democrats are not playing the outside group game this election — but it would be awkward to do so while blasting Republicans. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama discouraged the formation of outside groups — but his fundraising juggernaut meant he didn’t need them.

The real villains of the current mess are a tax code that gives way too much leeway for secret and unlimited political cash and a regulatory regime that has proved itself incapable of stemming the flow.


From  Jennifer Steinhauer and Carl Hulse in the New York Times comes a look at House Minority Leader John Boehner’s humble Ohio roots:

“Growing up, we were probably Kennedy Catholics because we were a strong devout Catholic family,” said Bob Boehner, the congressman’s older brother, who like all his siblings eventually switched party allegiance. “But the first time you get a real job and get your paycheck, you look down and you wonder, where’s the rest of your money, and they explain to you that that’s the tax you have to pay to the government, you start thinking more and more about becoming a Republican.”

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Today’s Flickr Photo


From a rally against Prop 23 in downtown Los Angeles. Flickr photo by Faultybox.


If you read one thing today . . .

This  seems like a no-brainer — a law that would prohibit members of Congress and their staffs from making stock market trades based on inside information they learn on the job. A no-brainer, except that the sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., has been told by colleagues that they’ll block any attempt to make them play by the same rules as everyone else in the country. Perhaps, they think padding their income with a few “smart” stock bets is a matter of congressional entitlement. Erika Lovely writes about it in Politico:

“There are some members who seem to think the rules just shouldn’t apply to us,” said Baird in an interview with POLITICO. “There’s money to be made, lots of it, and in ways that aren’t clearly illegal.”

Baird’s comments were spurred by a Monday report from the Wall Street Journal, which analyzed trading activity by Capitol Hill staffers between 2008 and 2009 and found market bets were made by high-level aides whose bosses helped influence related policy.


There’s a minor furor in the West Virginia Senate race over a commercial that the National Republican Senatorial Committee aired featuring some blue-collar types sitting around a diner complaining about the Democratic candidate’s ties to President Obama. The problem was that the diner was actually in Philadelphia and the West Virgina guys in trucker hats were actors who answered a casting call for “hicky” types. Governor Joe Manchin, the Democratic candidate, is hoping the dust-up will give his sagging campaign a boost:

“I wouldn’t have been upset if they said we want coal miners and truckers,” [Manchin] told me.  “Those are 2 of the most honorable professions we have- hard-working people. But to cast that in such a disparaging light is just awful. And that does get your blood boiling in West Virginia whether you’re a democrat, republican, or an independent.  It should get them fired up.”

See the ad here.


This is why I love living in America and why communism doesn’t hold a candle to good, old-fashioned democracy — someone like Alvin Greene, an unemployed veteran, can literally come out of nowhere and be the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina.

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If Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and their “competing” Washington D.C. rallies don’t have your attention by now, you  a) have just woken up from a 25-year coma b) live in a shack in Montana where you are working on your great anti-technology manifesto, or c) are among the 4 percent of the population who truly believes President Obama might actually have been born in the Alpha Centauri solar system.

When both Big Os — Oprah and Obama — endorse your Rally to Restore Sanity, you know you might be on to something. Since Sept. 16, when Stewart announced his Oct. 30 rally, along with Stephen Colbert’s satirical March to Keep Fear Alive, 180,000 people on Facebook have said they plan to attend the event, while another 100,000 have said they might.

Public Citizen plans to be there, and we’ve been encouraging people to submit ideas for signs that we’ll hand out at the rally on the National Mall. We plan to pick the slogan that we think best sums up the message we want to share with the throngs of people who will be packed in front of the Lincoln Memorial. So far, more than 3,000 slogans have been entered in our “What Sign Should I Bring to Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ ” contest. Another 1,000 people have joined the accompanying Facebook page, and hundreds more are spreading the word on Twitter with the hashtag #signs4sanity.

Picking the best one is going to be difficult. We’ll be asking our Facebook fans to help, but in the end,  we may have to resort to the old picking a slogan out of a hat method. You can read the thousands of sign suggestions and enter your own at www.citizen.org/jon-stewart-sanity-rally-signs.

Generally, the sign suggestions fall into five categories: (more…)

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Corporate lobbyists and government watchdog groups are combining efforts to put an end to the corruption associated with congressional earmarks. The coalition hopes to limit campaign contributions from earmark beneficiaries and ban congressional aides from attending campaign fundraisers, according to the New York Times.

Public Citizen has joined the coalition and Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, has drafted legislation to limit campaign contributions from earmark recipients based on a New Jersey state law.

This is not a campaign finance reform measure,” Holman told the Hill. “This is a policy to ensure integrity in the earmarking process, just like it has ensured integrity in the government contracting process in New Jersey.”

Lawmakers have tried to impose some restrictions but (more…)

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With several pieces of high-stakes legislation before Congress during this brief session, Public Citizen activists are pulling out all the stops with emails and calls urging their public servants to pass critical good government and worker safety laws.

Activists turned up the pressure on moderate Republican senators to vote for the DISCLOSE Act, a bill designed to combat some effects of Citizens United v. FEC.

The activists left dozens of comments to report back after calling Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The Supreme Court decision gave corporations the power to spend as much as they want to influence elections, and most of this money undisclosed. Instead, it’s being funneled through groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. (Our new report details this alarming lack of transparency.)

The DISCLOSE Act – which we believe is just one vote short of the 60 needed to break the Republican filibuster – would provide full disclosure of corporate, union and wealthy funding sources behind political advertising, extends the disclosure window to cover most of an election period, and tightens restrictions on political ads by government contractors and foreign entities.

The Fair Elections Now Act, another bill that would seriously mitigate the effects of Citizens United v. FEC, is coming up for a vote tomorrow by the House Administration Committee.

Ahead of this vote, activists called and emailed their Representatives in the House, urging them to fix the our system of financing congressional elections so that public servants answer to the people, not corporations and other wealthy special interests alone. (more…)

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Flickr photo by isafmedia

A daily look at news from the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal that caught our eye:

Elections and Campaign Finance
  • Tight Campaign Budgets May Hinder G.O.P (NYT)
  • U.S. Joins Pfizer Suit Over Drug’s Marketing (NYT)
  • Warning labels on cellphones proposed (WP)
  • Itching for a bite of bedbug trade (WSJ)
  • Rate increases denied to some private Medicare plans (WSJ)
Financial Reform
  • Fed sets stage for action, waits to take it (WP)
  • Summers to step down (WSJ)
  • Obama, Warren and the imperial presidency (WSJ opinion)
  • A settlement for Lehman and SocGen (WSJ)
  • CFTC says new rules will get vote next week (WSJ)
Workplace Safety
  • Report Blasts OSHA Efforts to Protect Whistleblowers (WP)
  • Merit Systems Protection Board Weighs National Security Powers Against Employee Rights (WP)
  • Bell tolls for officials in California pay scandal (WSJ)
Energy and Enviroment
  • Kerr-McGee loses royalties ruling (WSJ)
  • Solar-subsidy spat flares between companies (WSJ)

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A Snapshot of Sea Ice. Flickr Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video.

A daily look at news from the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal that caught our eye:

Energy and Climate Change
  • In California, a showdown on emissions (NYT)
  • Report says drilling ban has little effect (NYT)
  • Refiners fight emissions law (WSJ)
  • Total sees delays after BP (WSJ)
  • FDA panel urges denial of diet drug (NYT)
  • Carter: Ted Kennedy set back health reform (WP)
  • Recession swells number of uninsured to 50.7 million (WSJ)
  • Impeachment trial begins for Louisiana federal judge (WP)
Financial Reform
  • Capitol Hill divided on Obama plan to bypass approval of Elizabeth Warren (WP)
  • SEC chief defends agency’s FOIA exemption (AP)
  • Ohio bank to back off overdraft charges (WSJ)
  • CFTC details oversight on swaps (WSJ)
  • Riskiest trading would require more from banks (WSJ)
Workplace Safety
  • Massey warns of loss after mine disaster (AP)

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Former president of Botswana Festus Mogae. Flickr photo by World Trade Organization.

A daily look at news from the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal that caught our eye:

  • In the form of a study, a salvo from the left questions Obama’s trade goals (NYT)
Energy and Environment
  • New ruling on claims for spill damage (WP)
  • Ocean energy director outlines the task ahead (WP)
  • U-Turn on Global Warming? Hardly (WSJ)
  • A first step in health-care suit (WP)
  • Diet Drugs Face FDA Scrutiny (WSJ)
  • Herbal Supplements Get New Scrutiny (WSJ)
  • Despite ethics cloud, Rangel easily wins primary (WP)
Financial Reform
  • Bank regulators once bamboozled, now emboldened (WP)
  • Consumer bureau conundrum (WP)
  • How a Street Watchdog Got its Bite (WSJ)
  • Bill to Aid Small Businesses Advances in Senate (WSJ)
  • The Case for an Infrastructure Bank (WSJ)
  • New Bank Rules Good for Everything Except Bankers’ Bonuses (WSJ)

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the anti-regulation mega lobby that plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to support corporate candidates in the coming election, has been accused of tax fraud, according to a complaint filed with the IRS on Friday.

The complaint alleges that the Chamber abused the tax-exempt status of its 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the National Chamber Foundation (NCF), by directing NCF funds to the Chamber for prohibited political activities. Further, the complaint alleges, the NCF money was originally a donation from the Starr Foundation, another 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity led by the former chair of A.I.G., Maurice Greenberg. The complaint charges that the A.I.G.-affiliated Starr Foundation donated $18 million to the NCF, which was then “loaned” to the Chamber for non-charitable purposes, such as training staff and lobbying for legislation that would benefit A.I.G.

The complaint was filed by U.S. Chamber Watch, whose mission is to “promote greater transparency and accountability in American political processes by shedding light on the funding and practices of the largest special interest lobbyist in America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” The complaint requests that the IRS assess the proper taxes on NCF and the Starr Foundation for the $18 million in expenditures, and revoke the NCF’s tax-exempt status. You can view U.S. Chamber Watch’s complaint here.

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