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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 | 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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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2014

Among the toys surveyed this year, we found numerous choking hazards and five toys with concentrations of toxics exceeding federal standards. In addition to reporting on potentially hazardous products found in stores in 2014, this installment of the report describes the potential hazards in toys and children’s products.

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

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Report | PennPIRG and Consumers Union | Public Health

Prescription For Change

Our September 2014 survey of physicians paints a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overwhelming majority of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months. They also expressed concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease.

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News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

Philadelphia Organizations, Citizens, and Elected Officials Hold Press Conference and Rally to Overturn Citizens United

Today at a press conference and rally, a diverse coalition of more than 20 organizations, elected officials, faith groups, and citizens gathered at LOVE Park and braved the cold to mark the third anniversary of the Citizens United court decision and call for the reversal of a big money system that favors powerful special interests over the public interest.

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News Release | PennPIRG | 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.

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News Release | PennPIRG | Tax

First Step to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff: Close Offshore Tax Loopholes

Many of America’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals use accounting gimmicks to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens, where they pay little to no taxes. This tax avoidance costs the federal government $150 billion in tax revenue each year.  PennPIRG released new data illustrating the size of this loss with 16 dramatic ways $150 billion could be spent.

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News Release | PennPIRG | Tax

This Time, BP Settlement Protects Taxpayers

Unlike earlier settlements from the Gulf Oil spill, the settlement the U.S. Justice Department negotiated with BP stipulated that none of the penalties paid are tax-deductible, according to Lanny Breuer, head of the Dept. of Justice's criminal division.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

True Amount of BP Settlement Will Depend on Hidden Tax Giveaways

BP agreed today to a $4.5 billion settlement to resolve felony and misdemeanor charges related to the gulf oil spill, but taxpayers may end up indirectly covering up to 35 percent of the amount if the company is allowed to take the amount as a tax write off. 

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Report | PennPIRG | Democracy

Elections Confidential

“Elections Confidential” describes how secret donors poured hundreds of millions into the 2012 election through “social welfare” non-profits that are really political vehicles and via shell corporations formed as conduits to hide a funder’s identity.

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Report | PennPIRG and the PFAW Foundation | Democracy

Outside Spending, Outsized Influence

The 2012 elections were by far the most expensive in history thanks primarily to the tidal wave of outside, special interest money triggered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The federal Senate and House races in Pennsylvania, where outside groups spent nearly $12 million, were no exception.

 

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Report | PennPIRG and Demos | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines. Demos and the PennPIRG Education Fund's analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission found that our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers: Wealthy Donors Over Average Citizens, Special Interests Over the Public Interest, Incumbents Over Challengers & Grassroots Candidates, Secret Spenders Over Voters Seeking Accountability.

 

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Report | PennPIRG | Tax

Subsidizing Bad Behavior

BP’s recent $4.5 billion legal settlement with the Justice Department for its misdeeds in the Gulf oil spill was historic for being the largest ever criminal settlement. But it was historic for another reason as well—none of it is allowed to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, too many settlements for wrongdoing end up as tax deductions.

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Report | PennPIRG | Tax

What America Could Do With $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens

Many corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—to avoid paying $150 billion in U.S. taxes each year. Americans, who must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public services, more debt, or higher taxes.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Despite toy safety progress, parents need to be aware | Alana Miller

We don't always know if the gifts will be a hit but the one thing we count on is that the toys we purchase are safe.  Thanks to the hard work of agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and consumer advocates like U.S. PIRG that's largely true.  But as our toy shopping researchers have found, that's not always the case.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

If our political leaders REALLY want to help small business… | Alana Miller

Small business owners have big troubles with big banks and credit cards and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) should take a look at the numerous obstacles.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

A fee too far | Alana Miller

We've posted about avoiding bank fees before, but the latest Bank of America shenanigan deserves another word of caution.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Red light camera testimony | Phineas Baxandall

The analysis below discusses four types of public protections that should be included in any enabling legislation for red-light camera programs. We discuss specific recommendations for best practice, as compared to provisions in the Philadelphia Code and Senate Bill 595.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Avoid bank fees | Alana Miller

PennPIRG’s advice to consumers remains simple: shop around (see our banking guide). Big banks can charge increasingly bigger fees and make it harder for customers to avoid them because they know consumers don’t shop around.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving medicines. Call on big restaurants to do their part and stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

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