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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.

 

 

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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.

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

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.

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.

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.

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

The newly Presidentially-confirmed director of the CFPB, the nation's first financial regulator with just one job -- protecting consumers -- goes before a House Oversight and Government Affairs subcommittee today at 1:30 pm (live video).

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

Today's unanimous Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones (docket 10-1259), read most narrowly, merely says: "We hold that the Government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a “search.” That means the government should be careful to obtain valid warrants and comply with the Constitution's 4th Amendment limits on "unreasonable searches and seizures. But the Court offered tantalizing clues to its thinking that, in the modern electronic age, reasonable expectations of privacy warrant a review of Government -- and even third party -- collection of information.

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

Yesterday, U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a report identifying a "Dirty Thirty" of Fortune 500 companies that paid more to lobby Congress than they did in Federal Income Taxes. Here is the release.

 | by
Ed Mierzwinski
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and powerful music, film and publishing titans have gone too far in demanding that the Internet as we know it -- an engine of innovation, freedom, democracy, commerce, idea-sharing and entrepreneurship -- be throttled down so that their legitimate problems with offshore pirates can supposedly be solved. They think every problem is a nail but their only tool is a hammer, a sledgehammer. Their bills won't hammer the nail, but they will hammer you, me and the Internet.

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.