Posts Tagged ‘lobbying and government ethics’

Robert Weissman speaks about oil companies' influence in Congress at a demonstration on Capitol Hill July 20.

We just got back from Capitol Hill where Public Citizen President Robert Weissman spoke about the powers of corporations in Congress and about shifting our economies to sustainable forms of energy.

Weissman noted:

The first step is to get the oil money out of Congress. We’ve got to clean up Congress. We need clean money in our elections.

The demonstration marked not just the three-month “anniversary” of the BP oil spill but also the 41st anniversary of the moon landing. Echoing similar speeches by former Vice President Al Gore, activist Ted Glick called for the United States to use the same motivating energy that (more…)


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We’ve written about the dangers of the diabetes drug Avandia and have told Congress about an unethical international clinical trial, requested by the FDA, being performed by Avandia’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.

Now Public Citizen and Canadian researcher/physician David Juurlink go straight to the source, sending a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking her to halt the study, which pits Avandia against its competitor, Actos.

From the Reuters story:

“A wealth of data now suggests” that Avandia carries greater risks than Actos, the researchers said. Patients are also not adequately informed about the safety differences between the two medicines when deciding whether to participate in the trial, they added.

But FDA officials, who have said they are already taking a closer look at Avandia, are not likely to act so quickly.

And the Los Angeles Times:

In act, both drugs [Avandia and Actos] have been tagged with safety issues: In addition to raising rates of cardiovascular events, the class of Type 2 diabetes drugs known as thiazolidinediones (or TZDs) have been linked in studies to higher rates of edema, macular edema, bony fractures, anemia and acute liver injury. Older diabetes medicine such as metformin and sulfonylurea are widely believed to be safer alternatives.

But to no avail — the FDA likely won’t examine the study until July, FiercePharma reports.

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If you missed “Building Transparency,” the live online forum last Friday about how the Obama administration is doing in terms of transparency and open government, you can watch the entire two-hour program online. (more…)

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Want an in-depth look at the legislative struggle for financial reform in Congress? Read this excellent article from the Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett, Jeff Muskus and Elyse Siegel. It’s chock full of revealing eye-openers that show why passing strong financial regulation to rein in Wall Street is so difficult. 

The authors show that the revolving door between the lobbying industry and Congress sustains a culture of pandering to big business interests that at the same time marginalizes the progressives who fight for stronger reforms.

It’s a must-read for all who care about financial reform, and it provides an insightful case study for why we need campaign finance reform to prevent our elected representatives from being bought and sold. (And it’s sure to provide some lessons we’ll need to apply in the fast-approaching fight for strong financial reform legislation in the Senate).

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Everybody knows that insider trading is illegal. Wall Street big wigs who get caught giving their cronies valuable information before it’s made public go to jail. Yet, those same rules don’t apply in the halls of Congress where members, their staffs and other federal officials can use the inside information they gather about upcoming legislation for their own financial gain.

Studies show that Congressional insiders do far better with their stock trades than you and I (See our earlier blog post) . A 2004 study found that investment returns for senators were 25 percent higher than for average investors. In a more recent study, Alan Ziobrowski, a business professor at Georgia State University, analyzed more than 6,000 stock transactions by members of Congress over a six year period and found that members outperformed the market by 1 percent a month and 12 percent a year, which Ziobrowski said was “way outside any random variation.” He and Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s expert on ethics and lobbying, talked about the issue on CNBC’s Street Signs and NPR’s Marketplace. (more…)

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As the debates surrounding health care reform and climate change legislation continue to heat up, Public Citizen has been in the thick of things, standing up for policies that will truly benefit the public and getting the media’s attention:

Today, Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, was quoted in a Washington Times story about the House-passed climate bill. He notes,

You have to ask yourself if it is wise policy to create a new derivatives market on the heels of the collapse of derivatives markets, and I don’t think it is.

And those aren’t the only questions Public Citizen is asking. We’ve all seen the recent images of irate constituents yelling at their representatives during town hall debates on health care reform. But is this anger home-grown or organized by businesses and interest groups whose bottom line could be hurt by reform?

That is the question The Hill asks and our Craig Holman,  answers. Though lobbyists must register their activities and expenses with Congress (thanks to reforms Public Citizen helped push through, grassroots firms do not. This means that “hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to influence the political process goes unreported.” Or as Craig put it:

This goes below the radar. We don’t know who is behind it or who pays for it. We don’t know how much of it is happening.

And then MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow digs deeper.


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stock tradingYes, it seems amazing on its face. Under current laws (or lack thereof), members of Congress and high-powered executive branch appointees can exploit “insider” knowledge of the financial industry  to turn personal profit.

Basically, had Martha Stewart been a member of Congress, she wouldn’t have been sent to the slammer for five months and ordered to wear an ankle bracelet for another five for convictions related to insider trading .

If this all sounds a little hard to believe, you’re not the only one. The St. Petersburg Times (Fla.) didn’t believe it either, so the newspaper set about investigating our assertion that the potential exists for lawmakers to legally engage in insider trading, and that the situation must be addressed. Its conclusion? “Public Citizen Gets It Right About Insider Trading Rules.”


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We all know that money talks to lawmakers and helps gets things done for those who fork over the cash to bolster congressional campaigns.

But this quote in today’s Washington Post really drove it home. It came from from a donor attending a chicken cordon bleu dinner with Sen. Max Baucus to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“Most people there had an agenda; they wanted the ear of a senator, and they got it. Money gets you in the door. The only thing the other side can do is march around and protest outside.”  – Aaron Roland, San Francisco health care activist

Ouch. Roland, by the way, paid half the $10,000 price to sit at the table with Baucus, who is spearheading the Senate health care reform effort.


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mccainThat’s how Public Citizen’s Craig Holman characterized the push back against President Obama’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) pick by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) in a Politico story today. “[I]t’s good to see McCain and Feingold working together again on the campaign finance front,” said Holman in the story.

Politico reports:

[Holman] and other campaign finance reformers had worked closely for years with McCain on campaign finance matters until the senator began distancing himself from them in the run-up to his presidential campaign as he courted the GOP base. It considers restrictions on political spending to be a violation of free speech. (more…)

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