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Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

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:

  • 69: Number of preliminary reviews conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics over the past two years
  • 11: Number of disciplinary actions meted out by the House ethics committee during that time
  • 10: Number of disciplinary actions meted out by the House ethics committee between 1997 and 2008, before the Office of Congressional Ethics was created

U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at Arizona clean elections law
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging Arizona’s clean elections law. Under the system, if candidates forgo private fundraising and adhere to spending limits, they can receive public money after raising a set number of $5 donations. The law permits candidates to receive extra money if their opponent spends more than a certain amount. Good government advocates worry that the Supreme Court is gearing up to once again erode laws designed to curb corporate influence of elections.

U.S. Chamber’s election spending raises eyebrows among shareholders
Investors in four corporations that sit on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – IBM, Pfizer, Pepsi and Accenture – are raising concerns about the Chamber’s political spending and agenda. Through the shareholder resolutions, investors challenged their corporate boards to review their policies relating to political expenditures. One of the resolution’s filers said in a press release that “[t]he Chamber of Commerce is an aggressively (more…)

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Corporate America is raking in higher profits than ever before.

On Capitol Hill, lobbyists are calling for cuts to line the pockets of the super-rich while gouging holes in the safety net for those hit hardest by the Great Recession.

And in January, a new Congress will arrive — a Congress stacked with members whose campaigns reaped the benefits of the limitless corporate money unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s time for We, the People to take a stand.

Join us next month in demonstrations against Corporate America on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. To stay in the loop on planning and preparations, sign up at www.citizen.org/i-will-stand-up-to-corporate-america.
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The U.S. Supreme Court, which hasn’t had the best year when it comes to looking out for the rights of average citizens, heard arguments this morning in another case that has huge implications for everyone reading this post. The case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, puts the rights of consumers to band together in class-action lawsuits at risk. If the court rules in favor of AT&T, corporations could put clauses in their consumer contracts prohibiting class-actions. David Lazarus wrote about the potential fallout in a recent L.A. Times column:

Consumer advocates say that without the threat of class-action lawsuits, many businesses would be free to engage in unfair or deceptive practices. Few people would litigate on their own to resolve a case involving, say, a hundred bucks.

“The marketplace is fairer for consumers and workers because there’s a deterrent out there,” said Deepak Gupta, an attorney for the advocacy group Public Citizen who will argue on consumers’ behalf before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“Companies are afraid of class actions,” he said. “This helps keep them honest.”

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If you don’t know anything about AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, you should. The case, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 9, has frightening implications for consumers.

Basically, the court will decide whether companies can deny consumers and employees the right to band together through class actions to fight fraud, discrimination and other illegal practices. AT&T argues that the courts must enforce the fine print of its contracts that ban class actions. Public Citizen attorney Deepak Gupta will argue before the court on behalf of consumers, claiming that the contracts are unconscionable and unenforceable.

When a large number of consumers have claims for small amounts, it is not feasible to pursue the claims without a class action. Concepcion is exactly that kind of case. The Concepcions allege that AT&T illegally charged them $30.11. Multiplied by the number of AT&T’s California customers alone, the allegations implicate ill-gotten gains in the millions of dollars. But if consumers can litigate the claims only one by one, no one will do so, and AT&T will keep the proceeds of its illegal activity.

In the video above, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman and Gupta give a telephone press briefing on the case.

If AT&T wins, not only will it be difficult for AT&T’s customers to hold that company accountable for its actions, but also for people with civil rights, labor, consumer and other kinds of claims that stem from corporate wrongdoing. Dozens of organizations, including leading civil rights and consumer groups, have filed briefs asking the court not to allow corporations to ban class actions. The briefs and other information about the case are available at the Consumer Law & Policy Blog.

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Today’s Flickr Photo

Flickr photo by gradualepiphany.

If you read one thing today . . .

Are the feds serious about investigating banks for their shady foreclosures? One D.C.  insider told the Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb that, if nothing else, they’re putting on a nice show of force. “In more than 25 years dealing with major financial crisis issues, I have never seen this many agencies focused on a single issue,” said Andrew Sandler, a lawyer who works on government investigations. Goldfarb writes:

After reports surfaced in recent weeks that large banks filed court documents across the country that had not been properly prepared or reviewed, federal investigators want to determine whether similar paperwork was submitted to housing agencies to get insurance payouts, the source said.

In some cases, bank employees have acknowledged signing documents without reviewing them. If similar filings were made to housing agencies, this could violate federal law, which makes it a crime to lie about substantive matters to the federal government.

Overheard

File this one under the stranger than fiction folder. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia, called up Anita Hill over the weekend to offer an “olive branch,” of sorts. Mrs. Thomas was willing to let bygones be bygones if Hill, now a Brandeis law professor, would simply apologize for being so mean at Justice Thomas’ confirmation hearings so many years ago. Remember that Hill testified about sexual harassment that she says happened while she worked for Thomas at the EEOC. According to CNN, the voicemail left on Hill’s answering machine by Mrs. Thomas said:

“Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day.”

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is going to have a big say in who represents you in Congress next year. How big? Well, the corporate lobby group has a goal of spending $75 million on the midterm elections in some of the country’s most competitive races. The vast majority of its money will go toward helping Republican candidates who have pledged to roll back the reforms passed this year in Congress.

Some of that money may or may not be coming from foreign corporations — a possibility raised this week by Think Progress, the blog run by the Center for American Progress. Who’s to say how much of the money behind the Chamber’s ads  is coming from foreign corporations because the Federal Election Commission is not forcing the Chamber and other outside groups to disclose their donors.

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said the Chamber “is hijacking our democracy and they are mocking all of us.” Weissman spoke at a Moveon.org rally Thursday in front of the Chamber’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. He said the Chamber’s political spending hammers home the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling, which opened the door for unlimited corporate spending on elections.

Learn more about Public Citizen’s efforts to overturn Citizens United at www.DontGetRolled.org.

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