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Blog Post | Public Health

House's New Target: All Health, Safety, Financial Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Following their embarrassment a few weeks ago when a vote on Wall Street rollbacks using "name that post office" procedures failed, the good news is that House leaders are taking a hiatus from attacking financial reform directly this week. The bad news: instead, the House plans to move two proposals placing roadblocks in front of any agency -- from FDA and EPA to the CFPB -- seeking to establish public health, safety or financial safeguards. We're on the case.

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Media Hit | Tax

How Much of Its Record Settlement Will S&P Write Off at Tax Time?

First comes the settlement. Next comes the tax write-off?

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Tuesday announced a record $1.5 billion payout to resolve crisis-era lawsuits with the Justice Department, states and a pension fund over inflated residential mortgage deals. Collectively, the settlement total is 10 times larger than any other previously involving a credit-rating firm.

But how much of the unprecedented round of settlements could end up being written off?

Michelle Surka, a program associate with the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said she thinks she has an answer based on an early analysis: about $290 million.

That’s about a $50 million break on state taxes but also the potential to write down $240 million of federal taxes owed in the more than dozen states involved in the settlement, Ms. Surka said.

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Media Hit | Tax

When Company Is Fined, Taxpayers Often Share Bill

U.S. PIRG analysis and quotes featured in the New York Times Business Day section.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Ranks 70 Major American Cities’ Tech Transportation Options

A new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group shows how well American cities are using technology-enabled services and tools for their transportation needs. It ranks major American cities on the number of different types of new transportation technology options in the city.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax, Transportation

Obama Budget Closes Tax Loopholes, Cuts Wasteful Spending, but Falls Short of Ending Offshore Tax Dodging

"President Obama’s budget deserves praise for closing egregious offshore tax loopholes and preventing companies with enough lawyers from using tax havens to get their tax bill down to zero. Unfortunately it fails to end the incentive for wealthy multinationals to take advantage of tax havens, and would fall short of putting an end to offshore tax dodging.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Statement from U.S. PIRG about agency attempts to toughen up bank settlements

Statement regarding indications some federal agencies may reopen old banking settlements, as reported in yesterday’s New York Times. The SEC is similarly reportedly delaying the final execution of August’s announced $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America while deliberating about issuing waivers that would soften regulatory repercussions of the deal.

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Media Hit | Tax

Too Big to Tax: Settlements Are Tax Write-Offs for Banks

“When people hear that this stuff is deductible, it just feels like adding insult to injury,” says Phineas Baxandall, a senior policy analyst and tax specialist at U.S. PIRG, a left-leaning consumer protection research group that has written reports on the tax deductions. “And when it’s not transparent, it’s shady.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Poll Reveals Overwhelming Majority of Doctors Concerned About Antibiotics Use on Healthy Food Animals

The overwhelming majority of doctors -- a total of 93 percent -- are concerned about the common meat industry practice of using antibiotics on healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention, according to a new poll released today commissioned by Consumer Reports and released by Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Playing an Outsized Role in Primary Elections

In congressional primaries, bigger wallets give a small set of mega-donors an outsized voice, according to new information released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos. Just 5,485 donors who gave $1,000 or more to candidates in the primaries outspent the at least 440,362 small donors who gave less than $200, and 65 percent of all candidate contributions came from donors giving chunks of $1,000 or more.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Today’s announcement of steps to improve credit and debit card security:

U.S. PIRG commends the President for using the government’s buying power to accelerate improvements in credit and debit security that are critically needed by American consumers and businesses.

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Report | Ohio PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Eight Questions about the Future of the Ohio Turnpike

Ohio Governor John Kasich has touted privatization plans for the Ohio Turnpike as a possible way to fund roadway projects around the state that have been stalled by deep budget cutbacks he signed to highway and bridge construction. Ohioans must make sure that eight basic questions have been fully addressed to ensure that fair comparisons are made and hidden costs are considered.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Big Banks, Bigger Fees

Over the last six months, state PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 250 bank and 116 credit union branches in 17 states and the District of Columbia and reviewed bank fees online in these and 7 other states. They found that free checking remains available at more than 6 out of 10 small banks and credit unions but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks (those with over $10 billion in deposits).

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Demos | Democracy

Distorted Democracy: Post-Election Spending Analysis

A new analysis of data through Election Day from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by U.S. PIRG and Demos shows how big outside spenders drowned out small contributions in 2012: just 61 large donors to Super PACs giving an average of $4.7 million each matched the $285.2 million in grassroots contributions from more than 1,425,500 small donors to the major party presidential candidates. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Total Food Recall

This report is a snapshot look, from January 2011 to September 2012, at recalls that were directly linked to identified incidents of foodborne illness.  Failures in the rules and processes that protect our food supply have led to numerous high-volume recalls over the past two years that left many Americans sickened and at least 37 dead.  And the economic costs of the illnesses caused by food products recalled over the past 21 months come to over $225 million.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Million-Dollar Megaphones

Although each major party presidential candidate will likely break previous fundraising records, the big story of the 2012 election has been the role of Super PACs, nonprofits and outside spending generally. Demos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund analyzed Federal Election Commission (FEC) data and secondary sources on outside spending and Super PAC fundraising for the first two quarters of the 2012 election cycle.

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Blog Post | Democracy

The End of Net Neutrality As We Know It? | Ed Mierzwinski

On Thursday, 5/15 the FCC meets to propose new rules "to protect and promote the open Internet," after a court threw out parts of its current rules. The problem, however, is that some of the FCC Chairman's preliminary comments suggest he's for killing the core feature of the open Internet, Net Neutrality, in order to save it.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Airlines Pushing Bill To Hide True Cost of Airfare | Ed Mierzwinski

After losing its court case to overturn new pro-consumer, pro-competition airfare price disclosure rules, the airline lobby has flown into Congress. Just before the spring recess, a House committee approved a so-called Transparent Airfares Act without benefit of a public hearing. It's a bad idea.

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Blog Post | Tax

CFPB Gets Results for Consumers...And Taxpayers, Too | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB's latest enforcement action against Bank of America resulted in $727 million of consumer refunds for unfair credit card practices. But taxpayers also benefited, since CFPB told BofA it could not take a tax writeoff on the $25 million civil penalty fine it also was required to pay.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join FTC Event on Big Data E-Scores | Ed Mierzwinski

Companies on the Internet are tracking you with vastly powerful Big Data algorithms to determine what to sell you and for how much and what financial opportunities to offer you. Today at 10am, I join an FTC workshop on Alternative Scoring Products to debate the transparency and fairness of the system with privacy and technology experts from industry, academia and the public interest. You can attend or watch online.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We testify on data breaches again | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, I testify in the House Financial Services Committee in the latest hearing on the Target data breach. As I did in the Senate last month, I will try to shift the debate from the supposed need for a "uniform national data breach notification standard" to more important issues, such as improving consumer rights when they use unsafe debit cards to ensuring that standards for payment card and card network security are set in an open, fair way that holds banks and card networks accountable for forcing merchants and consumers to rely on inherently unsafe, obsolete magnetic stripe cards.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving medicines. Call on big restaurants to do their part and stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

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