Updates

As web giants amass more and more information about consumers for behavioral targeting and even "social discrimination" -- which can include differential pricing for the same product or the use of web tracking data and falsely-flagged websites to promote certain brandname drug use -- the White House has called for a privacy bill of rights. Companies and powerful industry lobbies seeking to keep those rights weak have rolled out their own "Do Not Track Sometimes" button. Meanwhile bi-partisan groups of Congressional privacy hawks and, now, state attorneys general have demanded information from Google about its slippery, ever-changing privacy policies and whether Googleis in compliance with settlements it has already agreed to.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

White House Plan to Close Special Interest Tax Loopholes Is the Right Approach to Reform, But Details Matter

The President has put forward the beginnings of a tax reform plan that takes the right approach, but is still missing critical details. America needs a level playing field where businesses succeed by being more productive and innovative, not by hiding profits in the Cayman Islands or other tax havens. By ending special-interest tax preferences, the administration plan could help the economy and reduce debt, while addressing public outrage about large companies dodging their taxes.

Media Hit | Public Health

Asbury Park Press: Pallone calls for regulation of lead, arsenic in apple juices

Pallone joined with Karina Wilkinson of the Food & Water Watch, Gideon Weissman of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, Chuck Bell from Consumers Union and concerned New Jersey parents to demand action to prevent high toxin levels in drinks, and now food, primarily consumed by children.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

White House Plan to Close Special Interest Tax Loopholes Is the Right Approach to Reform, But Details Matter

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, Senior Tax and Budget Analyst for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in response to the White House announcement today proposing to eliminate tax loopholes and preferences.

At a news conference in NYC today, Director Richard Cordray of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will announce a major investigation of bank overdraft fee practices and propose a model "penalty box" disclosure to appear on bank statements. The investigation could end the $39 latte-- $4 bucks for the coffee, $35 for the debit card overdraft fee.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Demos | Democracy

Business Contributions to Super PACs

Contrary to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, for-profit businesses should not be permitted to spend treasury funds to influence elections. First, most businesses are constrained to participate only to maximize private profit, rather than out of regard for the public good. More important, this spending undermines political equality by allowing wealthy institutions to translate economic success into political power.

Yet, Super PACs have provided a convenient avenue through which more than 500 for-profit businesses have contributed $31 million, accounting for 17% of total itemized Super PAC fundraising since their inception. For the year 2011, businesses contributed $17 million, for 18% of total itemized Super PAC fundraising.

This appendix provides a detailed look at business funding for Super PACs: top business donors, Super PACs which received the most business money, and amount and number of contributions by state.

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Just a summary of some of what I think are the important consumer news stories of the last week or so, in case you missed any of them.

Rep. Keith Ellison: Opposing the CFPB is "nonsense"

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

In less than two minutes, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison gives a detailed history of the financial crisis and an impassioned defense of the CFPB, calling claims of its Congressional detractors "nonsense." Youtube excerpt from his opening statement at yesterday's House Financial Services Committee's oversight subcommittee hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's budget. Ellison: "If your business model is not about bilking consumers,  you have nothing to worry about from the CFPB. But..."

Food Scare from Eggs Continues

By | Nasima Hossain
Public Health Advocate

A similar recall of over 2,800 chicken salad sandwiches in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia may also be contaminated with listeria from eggs.

CFPB's Cordray testifies today in House FSC

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Rich Cordray -- recess appointed by the president on January 4, continues his regular appearances before the Congress by testifying on the CFPB's budget (his written testimony (88 pages))  today before the House Financial Services Committee's oversight subcommittee at 10am Eastern. It should be webcast live at that link. Nearly all majority members of FSC oppose the CFPB's independent budget, even though all other bank regulators also have an independent budget, so we will see how it goes today.

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