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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 | Budget, Tax

Do New Mortgage Settlements Contain a Hidden $7 Billion Tax Subsidy for Banks?

Unless federal agencies prevent it, the banks in yesterday's settlement announcements will likely write off the penalties on their taxes, effectively forcing ordinary taxpayer to provide $7 billion in tax subsidies for their wrongdoing.

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Mortgage settlement will send billions to struggling homeowners

Almost 4 million homeowners might receive cash compensation and mortgage relief in a multi-billion-dollar settlement with 10 major banks, government regulators announced Monday. [...] “The money is grossly inadequate for homeowners, and the program will require careful oversight to ensure that all homeowners harmed get a fair chance at benefits,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director for U.S. PIRG, a nonprofit advocacy group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

With Fiscal Cliff Deal Finalized, Congress Should Close Costly Corporate Tax Loopholes and End Special Interest Handouts

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate Dan Smith on the fiscal cliff deal and the continuing need for tax and budget reforms.

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

Report Exposes How Taxpayers Bear Cost of Corporate Settlements

A report released today spotlights a common practice where corporations that commit wrongdoing and agree to financial settlements with the federal government, go on to claim such settlement payments as tax-deductible business expenses. The new study, released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), follows a record year of corporate settlements, while many more settlements relating to banking, environmental, and consumer safety issues are expected.

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Wall Street Journal: Consumer Watchdog Readies to Bare Its Teeth

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is entering 2013 poised to flex its muscles more vigorously than ever before. [...] The CFPB is "going to be more confident and more aggressive," said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-advocacy organization.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Toward a Small Donor Democracy

Long before voters register their preferences on Election Day, the flow of political money determines which candidates are able to mount viable campaigns for federal office. Providing public incentives for small political contributions could help average Americans play a more meaningful role in influencing who has the resources to run effective campaigns and win public office.

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

Duty To Disclose

Scientists in the United States and abroad continue to raise serious concerns about the environmental and human health risks associated with growing and consuming genetically engineered crops. As a result, genetically engineered foods may pose financial risks to the food companies buying and selling genetically engineered crops.

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

Voters in Seven California Counties Consider Banning Genetically Engineered Agriculture

In March 2004, despite industry spending $700,000 in opposition, Mendocino County passed Measure H, which makes it unlawful to cultivate or raise any genetically engineered crops or animals. As a result of Mendocino County’s success, seven other counties in California are poised to make decisions to also prohibit genetically engineered agriculture this fall.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Mistakes Do Happen

Several studies since the early 1990s have documented sloppy credit bureau practices that lead to mistakes on credit reports—for which consumers pay the price. Consumers with serious errors in their credit reports can be denied credit, home loans, apartment rentals, auto insurance, or even medical coverage and the right to open a bank account or use a debit card. We asked adults in 30 states to order their credit reports and complete a survey on the reports’ accuracy.

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

Dangerous Dozen

Across the United States, thousands of industrial facilities use and store hazardous chemicals in large quantities that pose major risks to their neighbors. More than 100 of these facilities would each put at least one million people at risk of injury or death in the event of a chemical accident or terrorist attack.

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Blog Post | Transportation

House Transportation Bills Strikes First as Tragedy, Then as Dangerous Farce | Phineas Baxandall

The House introduced additional legislation proposing that new revenue for the Transportation Fund would come through increased volumes of oil drilling and that public transit would be kicked out of the transportation fund. This breaks with three decades of public transit being supported by a small portion of the federal gas tax. The House measure would instead funnel all these funds to highways, and leave mass transit to search for new money from Congress at a time when debt reduction rules require massive cuts to the general budget. If you were trying to make America as addicted to oil as possible, you might design legislation like this.

 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus? | Ed Mierzwinski

In a series of joint privacy petitions to the Federal Trade Commission beginning in 2006 and extended more recently to include behavioral targeting, as well as medical and mobile marketing, U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy (sometimes with allies) have argued for greater scrutiny and regulation of the online digital marketing and behavioral targeting ecosystem that involves companies you do business with, social networking tools, third-party advertisers and other players. Today, in the New York Times, Professor Lori Andrews says that "Facebook is Using You."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Some Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It | Ed Mierzwinski

It's hard to keep up, so here are some key consumer news stories I am following that you may have missed this week. We start with CALPIRG Education Fund's new "Cell Phone Guide," look at the Consumer Federation of America's report on auto insurance discrimination and take you all the way to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey on what's "good, bad and ugly (rats!)" in NYC subway stations.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Toxic Toys Found at Houston Port | Nasima Hossain

An article published in the Houston Chronicle on Monday, January 23rd, revealed that 25,000 children’s toys have been confiscated at the Port of Houston in the past two years, because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found them to be unsafe.

 

 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB's Cordray to Highlight Achievements/Goals Today In Senate | Ed Mierzwinski

The Senate Banking Committee will hold an oversight hearing today at 10 am (live video) on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's semi-annual report to Congress. The witness will be CFPB director Rich Cordray, who received a PIRG-backed recess appointment from the President on January 4th. Expect some CFPB opponents on the committee to boycott; others to show up.

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Priority Action

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

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