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

Big Money Playing an Outsized Role in Primary Elections

In congressional primaries, bigger wallets give a small set of mega-donors an outsized voice, according to new information released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos. Just 5,485 donors who gave $1,000 or more to candidates in the primaries outspent the at least 440,362 small donors who gave less than $200, and 65 percent of all candidate contributions came from donors giving chunks of $1,000 or more.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Today’s announcement of steps to improve credit and debit card security:

U.S. PIRG commends the President for using the government’s buying power to accelerate improvements in credit and debit security that are critically needed by American consumers and businesses.

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

New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

The 2000s saw a marked decrease in the average number of miles traveled by young Americans, and that trend appears likely to continue even as the economy improves, due to the consistency of Millennials’ surveyed preferences, a continued reduction of Millennials driving to work, and the continued decreases in per-capita driving among all Americans.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Extendicare, in $38 Million Elderly Mistreatment Settlement, Gets Go Ahead from Justice Department to Claim Payment as "Ordinary Business Expense"

Today’s Justice Department settlement with Extendicare allows the company to deduct the $38 million payment from its taxes as an “ordinary business expense,” leaving the door open for Extendicare to take a tax windfall of $13.3 million.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Statement of Mike Russo, Federal Program Director with U.S. PIRG, on today’s Senate vote on the constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United

Amending the Constitution was never meant to be easy, but we know that the public overwhelmingly supports getting big money out of politics. Today’s vote is just the beginning, and marks a big step forward in the movement to reclaim our democracy.

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With Apple Pay, the tech leader takes its shot at replacing the wallet

We comment in a Washington Post story describing Apple's big product announcements Tuesday. We don't talk about the two new iPhones or even the totally new and much ballyhooed Apple Watch. We talk about Apple Pay, a digital wallet. What are its implications for consumer data security, convenience and choice?

Excerpt: Yet Apple Pay could prove the bigger bet, given its potential to shake up two industries — retail and finance. [...] “Apple’s claiming it’s more secure. We’ll have to see,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

BP Could Take $6.3 Billion Tax Deduction For Gross Negligence In Deepwater Horizon Spill

BP could claim a $6.3 billion tax windfall from settling charges of its gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster unless the EPA prevents it

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Last week’s other big bank settlement also shifts burden to taxpayers

Goldman Sachs will be able to take a $420 million tax write off on the bank's FHFA settlement for its mortgage misdeeds. A similar settlement paid in 2010 to the SEC specifically prohibited such tax deductions.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bank of America settlement loophole creates at least $4 billion burden for taxpayers

 The Justice Department allows Bank of America to write off most of its legal settlement for mortgage abuses as a tax deduction, shifting at least $4 billion back onto taxpayers.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Direction

The Driving Boom—a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over. The time has come for America to hit the “reset” button on transportation policy—replacing the policy infrastructure of the Driving Boom years with a more efficient, flexible and nimble system that is better able to meet the transportation  needs of the 21st century. 

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Report | PennPIRG, PennEnvironment | Democracy

Elections for Shale

Fracking corporation EQT and the rest of the industry spend millions on electoral politics at the state and federal level, elevating their interests and making it more difficult for ordinary citizens to have their voices heard. Concurrently, the industry exploits loopholes to pay extremely low taxes, receives thousands of permits to drill on public lands, and is exempted from many basic environmental standards.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Issue Brief: Don't Double Our Rates

Congress should be helping to keep college affordable, not making it more expensive for student loan borrowers to pay for college.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2013

Tax haven abuse costs the United States approximately $150 billion in tax revenues every year. Even when tax haven abusers act perfectly legally, they force other Americans to shoulder their tax burden. The average U.S. tax filer would need to pay $1,026 in additional taxes to make up for lost revenue from tax havens. To pick up the tab for the taxes avoided by multinational corporations, the average small business in the United States would need to pay an average of $3,067 each in additional taxes.

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

Following the Money 2013

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts with private entities for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, grants, and other forms of spending. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Ed Mierzwinski

Target is now saying that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December. Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen included email addresses and phone numbers, which leaves consumers vulnerable to phishing attacks that could lead to identity theft, as if fraud on existing accounts wasn't enough. Here are some tips.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new CFPB mortgage rules and tools available | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Rich Cordray appears on The Daily Show tonight Wednesday to talk about CFPB's new mortgage lending and servicing rules that take effect Friday, 10 January. Read on to find out more about the rules and also about the many self-help tools the CFPB has created to help homebuyers and homeowners protect themselves.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Retailers appeal swipe fee settlement with Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, big retailers filed an appeal of last month's announced final settlement order in an antitrust case involving price-fixing by Visa and Mastercard. PIRG backs the merchants because non-negotiable swipe fees force all consumers, including cash customers, to pay more at the store and more at the pump.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Gets Results for Consumers In December | Ed Mierzwinski

It's been a good month for consumers and a bad month for corporate crime, as the CFPB continued to hold financial firms accountable for unfair marketplace practices. Let's hope that in the New Year, banks and other financial companies get the message that cheating their customers is a bad business model.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB getting results for consumers this week | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, a senior bank industry lawyer said he was "amazed" at the amount of work the CFPB had accomplished "in such a short amount of time." This week, the CFPB stepped up its game another notch, when it returned $34 million to consumers who'd been deceived by a medical debt credit card pitched by their doctors and dentists and their receptionists and also took a big step toward ending forced arbitration in consumer contracts. Had any victims of the medical credit card wanted to go to court because they'd been ripped off, they couldn't, since the small print on that card, like the small print on most others, would send them instead to arbitration, no better than a kangaroo court.

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Priority Action

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

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