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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 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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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Washington Post: Government doing more to prevent corporations from deducting settlements

Federal agencies are taking greater steps to prevent companies from claiming tax deductions on settlements reached with the government, though loopholes in the tax code persist, according to a new study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Does UBS Settlement Include $245 Million “Hidden Bank Fee” for Taxpayers?

The following is a statement of Ryan Pierannunzi, Tax and Budget Associate with U.S. PIRG, on the settlement announced today  between UBS and government regulators over the Libor scandal in which UBS and other financial institutions are accused of unlawfully tampering with interest rates. Along with agreeing to this settlement, UBS admitted to charges of fraud. The total settlement amount is $1.5 billion, of which $1.2 billion will be paid to U.S. agencies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

UBS Libor Scandal: Should Taxpayers Have to Pay for Bank Wrongdoing?

The following is a statement of Ryan Pierannunzi, Tax and Budget Associate with U.S. PIRG, on the anticipated upcoming settlement between UBS and government regulators over the Libor scandal in which UBS and other financial institutions are accused of unlawfully tampering with interest rates.

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

Irresponsible Care

This report analyzes accident data compiled by the National Response Center, the sole national point of contact for reporting oil and chemical discharges into the environment in the United States, for 1990 through 2003.

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

The Truth About Toxic Waste Cleanups

The Bush administration has failed to include reinstatement of the polluter pays fees in its budget proposals, and Superfund’s trust fund is now bankrupt. The Bush administration also has under-funded the program, cleaned up fewer toxic waste sites, and forced taxpayers to pick up more of the bill for the cleanups that are happening. In order to deflect criticism of the administration's record on toxic waste cleanups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided confusing, misleading, and even false information to the news media.

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

Body of Evidence

New evidence indicates that the chemical flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca) may threaten the health of Americans. Unfortunately, the story of Deca is not unique. Deca is one of many potentially hazardous chemicals that are in widespread use, due to a failed national policy that presumes chemicals are safe until proven beyond a doubt to cause harm.

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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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Watch for fake 5.0 user ratings on merchant sites; and watch out for efforts by doctors, others to block real ratings, too | Ed Mierzwinski

Some user reviews on the Internet are written by sockpuppets paid by the website; in other cases, consumers are given inducements to write good reviews (New York Times). Meanwhile, doctors, especially, are trying to use copyright law to "squelch" valid reviews from patients (Washington Post). Either way, watch out.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Supreme Court Puts Sick Cows Back on the Menu

On Monday the Supreme Court overturned a California law that required the euthanization of downed livestock at federally inspected slaughterhouses to keep this meat out of the nation’s food system.

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Blog Post | Tax

What Do Jon Stewart, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama Have In Common? | Dan Smith

All three of them spoke out this week against corporate tax dodging.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for an economy where “everyone plays by the same set of rules” and where companies can’t avoid taxes by shifting profits overseas. That same night, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren went on the Daily Show and called out 30 corporations that a recent U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice study found paid more to lobby Congress than they did in federal income taxes. When Warren told this to John Stewart on the Daily Show, it made the usually unflappable comedian’s jaw drop.

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Blog Post | Tax

The "Dirty Thirty" Corporations that Spend More on Lobbying than Taxes | Phineas Baxandall

Two years ago the Supreme Court's misguided Citizens United decision struck down long-standing Congressional limits on the political power of large corporations by vastly expanding the legal metaphor that "corporations are people." Now there is fresh evidence that corporate influence over Congress makes it easy for those same corporations to avoid their civic duty of paying taxes.

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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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