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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

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

New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

The 2000s saw a marked decrease in the average number of miles traveled by young Americans, and that trend appears likely to continue even as the economy improves, due to the consistency of Millennials’ surveyed preferences, a continued reduction of Millennials driving to work, and the continued decreases in per-capita driving among all Americans.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Extendicare, in $38 Million Elderly Mistreatment Settlement, Gets Go Ahead from Justice Department to Claim Payment as "Ordinary Business Expense"

Today’s Justice Department settlement with Extendicare allows the company to deduct the $38 million payment from its taxes as an “ordinary business expense,” leaving the door open for Extendicare to take a tax windfall of $13.3 million.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Why Didn't Chase Tell Customers About Breach, Before It Told Investors? | Ed Mierzwinski

News stories indicate that while JPM Chase, the nation's biggest bank, informed investors of the breach of up to 83 million customer records, it didn't, and won't, affirmatively reach out to warn actual customers. That's how the big banks roll, but it isn't good for consumer confidence. We discuss data security on NPR's Diane Rehm Show today at 10am ET.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

BNP Paribas Settlement Subsidy Could Cost Taxpayers $3 Billion

The giant bank will soon agree to a multi-billion-dollar payment to resolve charges that it hid $30 billion in wire transfers to terror countries, but the amount will depend on whether the Justice Department allows the bank to use the settlement as a huge tax break. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Ed Fund & Citizens for Tax Justice | Budget, Tax

Study: 70% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2013

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

New Federal Bills Would Protect Students From High-Cost Campus Bank Accounts

Yesterday, House and Senate lawmakers introduced bills that would protect college students from being needlessly steered into campus bank accounts — accounts that often drive up students’ costs and deplete their financial aid. U.S. PIRG warned that if we the Department of Education can't protect students from high campus debit card fees, then we will "pursue this strong alternative approach put forth from the Hill.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Saves Consumers $12.6 Billion Annually

Thursday, May 22 is the fifth anniversary of the successful Credit CARD Act, which has saved consumers billions of dollars in unfair credit card fees and interest that were collected based on tricks and traps. U.S. PIRG, and a broad coalition, urge policymakers to extend similar protections to debit and prepaid cards.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

The WISPIRG Foundation report examines whether Millennials might be leaving Wisconsin partly because the state continues to prioritize extravagant highway expansion projects while neglecting other means of travel that are so important to young people.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2012

This report is U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s third annual ranking of states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. The past year has seen continued progress, with new states providing online access to government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to further expand citizens’ access to spending information and engagement with government.

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Report | WISPIRG | Budget

WISPIRG Report: Outsourcing Outrages

State leaders have proposed to end the existing requirement for proposals that privatize public functions to show cost-benefit advantages and report on results for Department of Transportation projects over $25,000.  Privatization in other states has sometimes saved the public money, but has often led to huge losses and other problems. Politicians may be enticed by the short-term cash offered by privatization, but citizens of Wisconsin deserve to know that there will not be larger long-term losses.

 

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

Business Contributions to Super PACs

Contrary to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, for-profit businesses should not be permitted to spend treasury funds to influence elections. First, most businesses are constrained to participate only to maximize private profit, rather than out of regard for the public good. More important, this spending undermines political equality by allowing wealthy institutions to translate economic success into political power.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Auctioning Democracy

A new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos shows an analysis of the funding sources for the campaign finance behemoths, Super PACs. The findings confirmed what many have predicted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s damaging Citizens United decision: since their inception in 2010, Super PACs have been primarily funded by a small segment of very wealthy individuals and business interests, with a small but significant amount of funds coming from secret sources.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Safe Energy

Too Close to Home

 Among the risks demonstrated by the Fukushima crisis is the threat of water contamination – including contamination of drinking water supplies by radioactive material. In the United States, 49 million Americans receive their drinking water from surface sources located within 50 miles of an active nuclear power plant – inside the boundary the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses to assess risk to food and water supplies.

 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fed Doubles Down On Bet To Raise Swipe Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board told a U.S. judge it would appeal his decision that the Fed's 2012 rule raising the swipe fees merchants pay to accept debit cards blatantly ignored Congressional intent to lower them. The Fed's rule harms small businesses, who pay the highest swipe fees in the world, as well as their customers, who pay more at the store and more at the pump, even if they pay with cash. But it helps the Fed's big bank patrons.

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Blog Post | Democracy

In the Aftermath of VRA Ruling, a Wave of Voter Suppression Laws

It has been barely a month since the Supreme Court issued its controversial Voting Rights Act (VRA) ruling — yet already, in states across the country, laws are being implemented and proposed that are designed to severely limit voting access, and that will ultimately harm American democracy.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Celebrating the mandatory toy safety standard—An important provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

These days, we can mostly expect that toys sold on store shelves are tested to meet adequately strict safety standards — but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2007, toys with beloved childhood icons like Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo were recalled because they contained excessive levels of lead. Another toy, when swallowed, created a toxic drug; yet another posed serious hazards due to strong magnets that could tear a child’s stomach lining if two or more pieces were swallowed.

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Blog Post | Democracy

New Wisconsin Bill Would Let the People Decide On Citizens United

Two state legislators have introduced legislation that, when passed, will bring a question to the 2014 ballot on overturning Citizens United and eliminating big money in elections.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Weird Big Bank Trick Raises Price of Beer and Soda | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: August 8. Many of Enron's schemes involved sham transactions with itself that the SEC alleged had "no economic substance."  Taking a page from Enron's book, mega-bank Goldman Sachs is now moving tons of aluminum around and around its Detroit warehouses in similar transactions without apparent economic substance except to increase Goldman profits while raising costs of beer, soda and other goods relying on aluminum, delaying deliveries and disrupting aluminum markets. At a Senate hearing on the practice, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) said: "This movie will not end well."

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Obama administration to put an end to the worst practices. 

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