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

Drug Company’s $193M Settlement for Misconduct May Become Big Tax Write-Off

A new factsheet from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group documents how health care and pharmaceutical corporations are able to write off the payments they make to settle charges of wrongdoing, such as fraud, on their taxes.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy, Tax

Statement of Democracy Associate Emma Boorboor on U.S. PIRG’s comments to the IRS on its proposal on nonprofits’ candidate-related political activities

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, the rules governing nonprofits' participation in political campaigns are more important than ever. We applaud the IRS's decision to address this problem head on, yet the initial proposal made by IRS missed the mark, and could cause real harm to the work of legitimate nonprofit organizations. We hope our comments to the IRS will encourage it to continue its important work to prevent abuse of the tax-exempt system by political operatives, while making improvements in the next round of drafting to encourage appropriate public engagement by nonprofits.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Mistaken Identity Tops Debt Collection Complaints

WASHINGTON –Debt collectors trying to collect debt from the wrong person were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The report also found that debt collection, the newest category in the database, is already a top source of complaints to the CFPB, outpacing common consumer products such as credit cards and bank accounts.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

While CFPB Takes Action To Aid Consumers, U.S. House Acts Against CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the CFPB sued ITT, a for-profit school, for a variety of alleged violations, including pressuring students into high-cost predatory loans with little promise of a future job. This morning, I join CFPB leaders for a panel on how it can help fix the credit reporting system. Yet, this afternoon, the House will probably vote to hobble the CFPB in several ways. Go figure.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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Bounced Checks Could Land You On A Banking Blacklist

"NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bounced checks and forgotten overdraft fees can happen to anybody. But now, some banks are using those money mistakes against customers. [...] Consumer advocates said that some of the people being shut out have records that were dinged accidentally." (Video and print story available)

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

New Study Reveals Driving on the Decline in 46 States

Americans have cut their per-person driving miles in 46 states plus Washington, D.C., since the middle of the last decade. The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

President Makes Commitment to College Access

Students are the future of this country and it is critical that we set them up for success. Today, the president made a serious commitment to increasing access to higher education, and that is a major step in the right direction.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

U.S. PIRG Education Fund Announces “Health Insurance 101” Campus Education Campaign

U.S. PIRG Education Fund celebrated the kick-off of its new health care outreach and education effort focusing on young Americans. The outreach effort comes as the Affordable Care Act’s “health insurance marketplaces” prepare to open in states across the country.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Five Safety Breakthroughs in Five Years

On August 14, 2008, the CPSIA was signed into law after a deliberative process and overwhelming bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate. The law includes strong product safety reforms that revitalized the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Sunshine for California

Corporate tax avoidance leaves taxpaying households to pick up the tab for funding highways, schools, and other public structures. Much of the indirect costs of aggressive tax avoidance are also borne by investors who are unaware of these risky schemes. And everybody suffers when corporate profitability is determined by opportunities for tax evasion rather than efficiency or innovation.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

Student Debt and Consumer Costs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Student loan debt is rising faster than the cost of living or health care costs. Between 1993 and 2004, the average debt for college graduates with loans increased by 107% to $19,200. At the same time, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the cost of living increased by 35%, and health care costs (including insurance, drugs and medical care) increased by 58%.

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

Paying the Price 2006

During the spring of 2006, researchers from the state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) posed as uninsured customers and surveyed by phone hundreds of pharmacies in 35 cities across the country to determine how much uninsured consumers are paying for 10 prescription drugs commonly used by adults under age 65. We then compared these prices with the prices the pharmaceutical companies charge the federal government; with prices at a Canadian pharmacy; and with the results of a similar survey we completed in 2004.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Campaign Contribution Limits: No Harm To Challengers

A new study by political scientists Kihong Eom and Donald A. Gross analyzes contribution data for 57 gubernatorial election cycles from 1990 to 2000 in 41 states that have varying regulations on contributions to political candidates. The central finding is that there is no support for the notion that campaign contribution limits hurt challengers. If anything, contribution limits can work to reduce the financial bias that traditionally works in favor of incumbents.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

Turning Medicine Into Snake Oil

Prescription drug marketers are inundating doctors, and to a lesser extent, the public, with marketing that misrepresents risks, promotes unproven uses, and makes unsubstantiated claims. The false and misleading messages are communicated through conventional advertising, sales representatives, doctors speaking on behalf of drug marketers, and through clinical trial suppression, manipulation and misrepresentation. Sadly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is ineffective at addressing the problems.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House banking committee takes action to aid predatory rent-to-own firms today | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 1 June) This morning the House Financial Services Committee will likely approve HR 1588, legislation designed solely to allow the rent-to-own industry ("for only 104 weekly payments of $10.99, you can own this TV/computer/couch" for 3 or 4 times its total retail price) to preempt or override the laws of the several states that protect its consumers from predatory financial practices. Is that the role of the Congress?

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Blog Post | Tax, Transportation

Senate Transportation Bill Stretches Dollars by Ending Hidden Subsidies and Cracking Down on Tax Dodgers | Phineas Baxandall

The Senate transportation bill doesn't transform the way America invests in transportation, but it finds some good ways to save money and increase performance within an austerity budget

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

NYTimes on growing tax fraud identity theft epidemic | Ed Mierzwinski

The New York Times has a story on the web "With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often" by reporter Lizette Alverez for Sunday's paper. It describes an "epidemic" of tax identity theft. Thieves file fraudulent tax returns and receive a legitimate taxpayer's refund before he or she does, often on a hard-to-trace prepaid card.  Losses are in the billions, losses are increasing and legitimate taxpayers are waiting a long time to get their refund. It's a very good story that explains how the crime works, how it disproportionately harms retirees and how, -- despite massive efforts by agencies from the IRS to the post office -- it's a growing mess. Unfortunately, the reform promoted by some policymakers quoted in the story -- increasing criminal penalties -- has never worked to stop identity theft. Bad guys don't have to carry guns and they rarely get caught, so the crime is booming. Sure, it doesn't hurt to increase penalties, but it is not enough. We need to protect personal data better. Relying on increasing penalties is a feel-good solution that won't work on its own. But the credit bureaus and other powerful special interests have resisted legislation to protect personal information better and spent heavily to convince policymakers that "blaming bad guys" is more important than fixing their own sloppy practices. The credit bureaus, of course, are wrong.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Lets Make Smart Regulations About Protecting Consumers, Not Saving Big Business Money | Nasima Hossain

In Cost/Benefit Chief Cass Sunstein’s recent White House Blog Post, Making Regulation Smarter to Save Lives and Money, Sunstein talks about streamlining regulations as highlighted in the President’s recent Executive Order. What the President and Mr. Sunstein should be talking about is a fast and smart regulatory review process.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Maryland set to sign Strong Law on Arsenic in Chicken | Nasima Hossain

Maryland has decided to sign into law a bill this week, against stiff opposition from the poultry industry, making Maryland the first state to end a practice in existence since 1944.

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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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