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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Deal Passes Senate 81-18, Will Put Students Deeper in Debt

Despite the threat that higher student debt poses to student borrowers, the Senate has twice beaten back attempts to extend the low 3.4 percent interest rate for student loans. Instead, the Senate negotiated a compromise, which passed today, 81-18.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

U.S. PIRG Testifies on “Pay for Delay” Before Senate Subcommittee

Today, Mike Russo, U.S. PIRG's Federal Program Director, testified at a hearing on “Pay-for-Delay Deals: Limiting Competition and Costing Consumers” held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students Call for Senate to Reject Student Loan Deal

Congress should be doing everything they can to make college more accessible. Yet S. 1334, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, would do the exact opposite, by making it harder and more expensive for America's future students to get the education they need.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Strong Road Safety Laws Compel Toyota to Recall One Million Cars

This recall highlights our continued need for strong public health and consumer safety standards and protections. Our car safety protections achieve the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety, and they work for us every day to prevent crashes and their high human and financial cost.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups Call on President and Congress to Pursue Strong Consumer Agenda

In joint letters to President Obama and Congressional leaders, eight of the nation’s leading consumer organizations urged policymakers to pursue a strong, robust agenda of consumer reforms.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

CFPB Announces Further Investigation of Campus Debit Card and Student Loan Disbursement Practices, Asks for Student Stories

Banks and other financial firms contracted to disburse federal financial aid often charge high and unfair debit card fees. U.S. PIRG applauds the CFPB for redoubling its efforts today to protect students from being nickel-and-dimed out of their financial aid money.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: New Fees in the Cards from Credit Companies

Despite some new fees, cardholders are much better off then they were before protections ushered in by the card act, said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington, D.C.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. PIRG Commends President for Renomination of Richard Cordray to Head CFPB

The CFPB is the nation's first financial regulator with only one job — to protect consumers in the marketplace. The Senate should reject demands by opponents of consumer protection to condition Cordray's approval on the gutting of the agency's authority or on the removal of its independent funding.

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Report | OSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Predatory Lending In Lane County

Over the past decade, payday lending has grown from almost nothing to over 25,000 storefronts in most states across the country, including Oregon. This has happened at a time when the majority of mainstream lenders have left the traditional small loan market, and as many consumers have exhausted their credit cards or other types of credit. The growth of the payday lending industry is partly explained by the appeal of quick access to cash with few questions asked.

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

The Food Safety Net

Protecting the safety and integrity of the food supply is one of the oldest functions of government, one that the American people expect their government to perform and perform well. As federal agencies become increasingly under-funded and influenced by powerful corporate interests, the states’ role in maintaining the food safety net grows ever-more important.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Paying Back, Not Giving Back

This report looks at the issue of unmanageable debt as it pertains to college graduates entering two critical public service careers: teaching and social work. Given increasing dependence on student loans, borrowers graduating from four-year schools and working in these two public service careers often carry more debt than they can manage. The prospect of burdensome debt likely deters skilled and dedicated college graduates from entering and staying in important careers educating our nation’s children and helping the country’s most vulnerable populations.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Raising the Limits

Using Federal Election Commission data on federal candidate fundraising from individuals, parties, and political action committees, we found that BCRA’s doubling of contribution limits did not deliver the promised benefit of more competitive elections and may be, in part, responsible for several harmful emerging trends. Races did not become more competitive; in fact, incumbents continued to out-raise challengers and win re-election at high rates.

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

Empty Pockets

After 25 years of experience, the Superfund program has evolved to protect Americans from toxic chemicals released when industry collides with nature, such as hurricanes and floods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now must use this experience to face its biggest challenge yet—cleaning up the toxic pollution left behind after Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls plague the Superfund program and may hinder its ability to respond to Hurricane Katrina and address the thousands of other polluted sites littered across the country.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer fraud summit today will be webcast | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATE: LINK TO C-SPAN WEBCAST ARCHIVE (My PANEL here and entire event here.)

In times of financial calamity, fraudsters come out to take your last dollar. This afternoon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will host a consumer financial fraud summit (agenda) at Georgetown Law School near Union Station bringing together enforcers from the DOJ, FTC, state agencies and consumer groups. I'll be on a panel discussing business opportunity frauds. Other panels will be on elder fraud and tax scams. The event is free and open to the public and will be webcast.

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Blog Post | Public Health

BuckyBall Magnets Still A Danger to Children | Nasima Hossain

Magnets posing as a serious health hazard to children keep appearing in the news. Now with this latest incident in Portland, Oregon, where a three year old girl was rushed into emergency surgery after swallowing 37 tiny magnets, we urge parents if they have had a scary incident with a magnet to alert the Consumer Product Safety Commission through their website.

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Blog Post | Democracy

After Super Pac Tuesday: Dominant Donors, Apathetic Voters

A new WashingtonPost-ABC News poll shows that on Super Tuesday, those going to cast their ballots in the presidential primary are not particularly enthusiastic about any of the candidates. Why? There is a fundamental problem that explains much of the disconnect between the candidates and the rank-and-file voters: the fact is, voters did not choose these candidates -- donors did.

It has become clear over the course of this primary season that a candidate's super PAC's prowess in knocking down the competition is key to staying in the race. Yet a recent U.S.PIRG/Demos study found that of all itemized contributions to super PACs, 96% came in contributions of $10,000 or more from just 1,097 donors.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Has Congress Forgotten Enron, Dutch Tulip Bubble Scandals? | Ed Mierzwinski

A misnamed package of legislation to weaken investor protection laws -- the so-called Jobs Act -- is speeding through the House this week. While some Senators are for parts of the package, the Senate is taking a closer look at whether rolling back the landmark investor protections known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act enacted after the Enron and related accounting scandals is really the way to go.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Some interesting consumer news of the week, in case you missed it | Ed Mierzwinski

An occasional update featuring important consumer stories you may have missed this week. This week, Occupy Wall Street joins clarion call for CFPB to reform the credit bureaus...Leading consumer columnist Michelle Singletary calls Google's practices "creepy"...Massachusetts official says "take state's money out of banks that don't comply with state laws requiring free accounts for young/old...FCC wants comment on cellphone shutdowns that affect First Amendment rights...and more.

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The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Food and Drug Administration to put an end to the worst practices.

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