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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Volkswagen’s $1000 Gift Cards Fall Short

Statement by Mike Litt, National Consumer Advocate with U.S. PIRG, on Volkswagen’s offer of $1,000 in gift cards to customers affected by its emission scandal.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Communities Roaring for More TIGER Grants | Sean Doyle

Across the country, municipalities are looking for more transportation funding, particularly for public transportation. A recent poll from Politico magazine found that among mayors, aging and deteriorating transportation infrastructure was the most often cited concern. Enter TIGER grants.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Voters in Maine, Seattle Approve Initiatives to Fight Big Money in Elections

On Tuesday, clean election ballot initiatives in Maine and Seattle passed by referendum, putting both localities at the forefront of a nationwide movement to empower regular voters and reduce the influence of special interests and mega-donors in elections. U.S. PIRG aided the passage of both ballot initiatives, mobilizing canvassers and organizers in Maine and Seattle to increase voter turnout.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Saving your bacon: takeaways from the W.H.O. announcement on the dangers of processed meat | Anna Low-Beer

When the World Health Organization announced last week that processed meat is linked to cancer, the world went wild. But we can all agree: we have the right to know about these dangers. So what about the thousands of dangerous invisible chemicals that saturate our daily products? Surely, we have the right to know about them too.

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Media Hit | Public Health

October Saw Two Important Actions to Reduce the Overuse of Antibiotics on Livestock

October was a big month: a new policy in California restricts antibiotic overuse on livestock, and Subway announced that it will phase out the sale of meat raised with antibiotics.

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

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to our 29th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for toxic chemicals, including lead, chromium and phthalates, all of which can have serious, adverse health impacts on a child’s development. The survey also found examples of small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and powerful toy magnets that can cause serious injury if swallowed.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Forex settlements prevent banks from writing off multi-billion dollar payments as tax deductions

The six banks that today announced out-of-court settlements with federal agencies to atone for manipulating foreign exchange markets won't be able to write off those payments as a tax-deductible business expense. Why isn't that always the case?

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

US regulators to strike forex settlement, but will they strike out tax deductions from the deal?

Federal agencies are preparing to settle with several big banks to resolve charges that they manipulated foreign currency exchange rates. Will those banks be allowed to write off the settlement payments as a tax deduction? If so, much of the costs of the payment will be shifted back onto taxpayers.

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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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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Funding Clean Elections

The spiraling cost of campaigns, high-profile scandals and voter distrust of Congress have fueled an effort for fundamental reform of the way we fund congressional campaigns. As a result, many federal decision-makers have been working on proposals to create a Clean Elections model for publicly financing congressional campaigns. As a part of the effort to build support both within the Democratic caucus and across party lines, it is important to know how much the program will cost and options to pay for that cost.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Breaking Free With Fair Elections

Fair Elections – systems with full public financing of elections – would help improve the openness, honesty, and accountability of government. They would also free public officials to respond to the interests of voters without worrying about hurting their ability to raise money from deep-pocketed donors. If we want to protect the environment, design a better health care system or improve our energy policy, we need a political system that encourages lawmakers to listen more to voters than to oil and gas companies, pharmaceutical giants and other industries.

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

Toxic Pollution And Health

Using the latest available TRI data, we examined releases of chemicals known or suspected to cause serious health problems and identified states and localities that are bearing the brunt of this pollution. Specifically, we looked at releases of substances recognized by the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive problems; we also looked at releases of substances suspected by scientists to damage the neurological or respiratory systems.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Honest Enforcement

Some argue that last year’s scandals, which lead to the conviction of two congressmen and several top aides, are evidence that ethics enforcement in Congress works. The actual facts leading up to the convictions, however, are more an indictment of the current process than a testament to its success.

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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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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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Priority Action

We're teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Call on KFC to stop selling meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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