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Blog Post | Democracy

Three ways you can join the fight against big-money politics

We're still a year away from the 2016 presidential election, but we've already seen massive fundraising numbers coming from Super PACs and outside groups. Here are a few ways you can fight big money politics right now.

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Report | US PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Settling for a Lack of Accountability?

When large companies harm the public through fraud, financial scams, chemical spills, dangerous products or other misdeeds, they almost never just pay a fine or penalty, as ordinary people would. Instead, these companies negotiate out-of-court settlements that resolve the charges in return for stipulated payments or promised remedies. These agreements, made on behalf of the American people, are not subject to any transparency standards and companies often write them off as tax deductions claimed as necessary and ordinary costs of doing business.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

D.C. Council Introduces Fair Elections Legislation

At a press conference this Tuesday, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso introduced fair elections legislation to empower small donors and reduce the influence of special interest groups in D.C. elections. Grosso was joined by the D.C. Fair Elections coalition, including DC for Democracy, D.C. Working Families, U.S. PIRG, Public Citizen, Every Voice, Communication Workers of America, and the D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club. The bill’s introduction comes after major victories in Maine and Seattle, where residents voted to create and strengthen fair election initiatives this November.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Not-so-secret-Santas in Congress Using Spending Bill To Roll Back Health, Safety, Wallet Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

With spending authorization for the federal government set to end on December 11, Congressional leaders are working with powerful special interests on their not-so-Secret-Santa lists to use spending bills as vehicles to gut health, safety and wallet protections popular with the general public but not with Wall Street or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They know they cannot win a fair fight. So they’re loading up the must-pass funding bill with so-called “riders,” which are unrelated policies that couldn’t get passed on their own. Everything we fought for in Wall Street reform, including the CFPB, is on the chopping block. So are many other PIRG health, safety, wallet and democracy priorities.

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30 years of toy safety

For the past thirty years, our sister organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold in stores. Their reports have led to more than 150 regulatory actions. In November 2015, they released our 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Zombie Expressway-What Will it Take to Kill the Illiana Toll Road Once and for All?

Statement by Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr on Today’s News that Indiana has Frozen Plans for the Iliana Expressway.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG PRAISES BIPARTISAN BILL REINTRODUCTION PROHIBITING TAX WRITE-OFFS FOR WRONGDOING

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) reintroduced The Government Settlement Transparency and Reform Act, which would restrict the ability for corporations to reap massive tax write-offs from payments made to settle allegations of misconduct or criminal wrongdoing.  

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News Release | US PIRG | Budget

U.S.PIRG advises for stronger standards to track state and local economic subsidies

The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) called for public comment on proposed rules for reporting on tax abatements that could require states and localities to achieve new levels of checkbook level transparency around economic development programs. Across the U.S. these programs represent tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, often granted with little transparency or accountability for results. In our comment letter to GASB, US PIRG made a few suggestions for amendments that would further strengthen the proposed GASB standards.

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Media Hit | Tax

How Much of Its Record Settlement Will S&P Write Off at Tax Time?

First comes the settlement. Next comes the tax write-off?

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Tuesday announced a record $1.5 billion payout to resolve crisis-era lawsuits with the Justice Department, states and a pension fund over inflated residential mortgage deals. Collectively, the settlement total is 10 times larger than any other previously involving a credit-rating firm.

But how much of the unprecedented round of settlements could end up being written off?

Michelle Surka, a program associate with the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said she thinks she has an answer based on an early analysis: about $290 million.

That’s about a $50 million break on state taxes but also the potential to write down $240 million of federal taxes owed in the more than dozen states involved in the settlement, Ms. Surka said.

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Media Hit | Tax

When Company Is Fined, Taxpayers Often Share Bill

U.S. PIRG analysis and quotes featured in the New York Times Business Day section.

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

Health Care in Crisis

Unless the new Congress and Administration act to reduce health care costs, the yearly cost of the average employer-paid family health policy in America is projected to more than double from $11,381 in 2006 to $24,291 by 2016 even after adjusting for inflation. If recent trends continue, wages and household incomes will simply not keep up with these high costs.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Transportation

Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending?

President-elect Obama has declared that the next recovery plan must do more than just pump money into the economy. It will also create the infrastructure that America needs for the 21st century. This fall, Congress asked states to submit lists of “ready-to-go” transportation infrastructure projects that could be funded by the stimulus package.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency.gov 2.0

This report makes the case that in the course of upgrading government IT systems we must seize the opportunity to catch up with a nationwide movement of state and local government to en­hance budget transparency and thereby increase efficiency, accountability, and public trust.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency.gov 2.0

The ability to see how government uses the pub­lic purse is fundamental to democracy. Budget transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility. Massachusetts, consistently ranked as a top state for technology industries, should be a natural leader of the Transparency 2.0 movement. But as more and more states upgrade their trans­parency systems, Massachusetts has fallen be­hind the emerging set of best practices.

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

Trouble in Toyland

The 2008 "Trouble in Toyland" report is the 23rd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused specifically on toys that contain lead and phthalates in our research.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

President Issues Privacy Platform | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the President announced support for a variety of privacy protections, most of which are laudable. However, it remains our view that Congressional consideration of a "uniform national breach notification standard" is unnecessary and, worse, will give powerful special interests an opportunity to use the proposal as a Trojan Horse to enact sweeping preemptive limits on state privacy protections.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street Gets Rare House Floor Defeat | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 12 Jan 2015 (adding opposition to Regulatory Accountability Act): House leaders miscalculated today when they attempted to pass a sweeping rollback of Wall Street reforms under a suspension of the rules procedure usually limited to bills naming Post Offices and praising Cub Scouts and Little League teams. Faced with strong opposition led by Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), the proposal failed to get the necessary 2/3rds vote in favor to pass, but unfortunately it is expected to be back.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Floor Vote on Budget Delayed over Special Interest "Riders" From Wall Street, Other Powerful Interests | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: Opposition to a controversial provision authored by Citibank forced House leaders to delay consideration of the "CRomnibus" appropriations package just hours before funding for the federal government expired at midnight Thursday. Eventually the bill passed narrowly with the Wall Street provision intact. Action now shifts to the Senate, which has a 48-hour window to pass the bill, but any one Senator can block it under Senate rules. The provision would again allow Wall Street banks to place risky bets with taxpayer-backed funds, and require taxpayers to bail them out if the bets fail, repealing a key protection added in the 2010 Wall Street reform law. 

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

The Country Has Spoken | Jaimie Woo

While the dust is still settling from the mid-term elections and the pundits are trying to figure out what it all means, the American people have made their collective voices heard and delivered a message that they do not like the country's direction. Exit polling data from Election Day showed clear majorities in against growing corporate influence on the political process and in favor of greater corporate accountability. The message is clear: inversions must stop, corporate tax avoidance must end, and special corporate loopholes must close.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Data Breaches | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Saturday, 11/29, I'll discuss data breaches and card security on C-Span Washington Journal at 8:40 AM Eastern. It's the biggest shopping weekend of the year, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday bracketing 2 more shopping days. If I shop, it'll be online, with credit, not debit, cards.

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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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