Analysis Wed, 29 Jul 2015 06:20:02 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-us Analysis: Republican Attacks on Endangered Species Up 600 Percent Per Year

Unprecedented Assault Undermines Landmark Law Protecting America's Most Vulnerable Animals, Plants

WASHINGTON—(ENEWSPF)--July 28, 2015.  Over the past five years, Republicans in Congress have launched 164 attacks on the Endangered Species Act — a 600 percent increase in the rate of annual attacks over the previous 15 years, according to a new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The report, Politics of Extinction, also identifies five Republicans responsible for nearly a quarter of legislative attacks who have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from special interests opposed to Endangered Species Act protections: Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

“We’re witnessing a war on the Endangered Species Act unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Jamie Pang, an endangered species campaigner with the Center. “If it’s allowed to succeed, this Republican assault will dismantle the world’s most effective law for protecting endangered wildlife and put scores of species on the path to extinction.”

The Center reviewed congressional and legislative records over the past 20 years. Among the findings:

There have been 164 legislative attacks on endangered species since 2011 or an average of 33 attacks per year.

By contrast, from 1996-2010 there were only 69 attacks for an average of five per year.

So far in 2015, there have already been 66 legislative attacks on endangered species, ranging from bills to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves, American burying beetles and other species to bills to weaken the ability of citizens to go to court in defense of species.

All the bills attacking endangered species this year, and 93 percent of those over the past 20 years, have been sponsored by Republicans. 

The increased pace of attacks on endangered species corresponds to a massive increase in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, big agriculture and other industries that oppose endangered species protections. Between 2004 and 2014, for example, campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry increased from roughly $10 million to more than $25 million, according to

“It's no coincidence that the species that are most targeted, from the gray wolf to the sage grouse to the lesser prairie chicken, are those that the oil and gas industry and big agriculture view as standing in the way of their bottom line,” said Pang.   

Many of the attacks on endangered species have come as riders on must-pass spending bills, including three that have passed so far. These include a 2011 rider that stripped protection from wolves in Montana and Idaho; a 2014 rider allowing trophy hunting and importation of scimitar-horned oryx, addax and Dama gazelle from Africa; and another 2014 rider that prohibited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from expending any resources to protect sage grouse.

Overall 54 of the 164 attacks since 2011 have been riders, compared to just two between 1996 and 2010. These riders have no relevance to the spending priorities of Congress, but are added through secretive, closed-door processes as a means to pass controversial provisions that would otherwise not pass as stand-alone bills.

Among the slate of legislative threats that species currently face is a congressional rider in the 2016 Department of the Interior appropriations bill that would strip protections from gray wolves across most of the country. Another rider would delay protection of sage grouse.

An opinion poll released earlier this month shows that more than 90 percent of Americans support the Endangered Species Act.

“Republicans in Congress have essentially taken life-and-death decisions for species away from expert scientists for the benefit of special interests that have no interest in saving species,” said Pang. “That’s not what the American public wants, and it’s certainly not what species at the brink of extinction need.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.



]]> (Press Release) Analysis Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:57:25 -0500
How Big Corporations Cheat Public Education

CHICAGO--(ENEWSPF)--July 27, 2015

But big business apparently views its tax responsibility as a burden to be avoided at the expense of the rest of us. (Photo: Basheer Tome/flickr/cc)

Corporations have reaped trillion-dollar benefits from 60 years of public education in the U.S., but they're skipping out on the taxes meant to sustain the educational system. Children suffer from repeated school cutbacks. And parents subsidize the deadbeat corporations through increases in property taxes and sales taxes.

Big Companies Pay about a Third of their Required State Taxes

An earlier report noted that 25 of our nation's largest corporations paid combined 2013 state taxes at a rate of 2.4%, a little over a third of the average required tax. Many of these companies play one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states.

Without Corporate Taxes, K-12 Public Education Keeps Getting Cut

Overall spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago. The cuts have continued to the present day, with the majority of states spending less per student than before the 2008 recession.

It's Getting Worse

Total corporate profits were about $1.8 trillion in 2013 (with other estimates somewhat higher or lower). The $46 billion in total corporate state income tax in 2013, as reported by both Ernst & Young (Table 3-A) and the Census Bureau, amounts to just 2.55% of the $1.8 trillion in corporate profits, a drop from the 3% paid in the five years ending in 2012.

The Worst Offenders

The most recent Pay Up Now analysis for 2014 shows some of the biggest and the worst offenders among U.S. corporations in 2014. Twenty companies with total U.S. profits of over $150 billion paid just 1.4% in state taxes. Some of the lowlights:

Three of the largest California companies (Google, Intel, Wells Fargo) paid just 1.4% of their profits in state taxes. That's less than 1/6 of the required California rate. Apple, which paid about half of its required state taxes in 2014, shamed itself by claiming residency in tax-free Nevada to avoid California's high rate.

Texas has a modest franchise tax instead of a state tax, but two giant firms (Exxon and AT&T) still managed to claim sizable state tax credits. Exxon, which has almost 80% of its productive oil and gas wells in the U.S., declared only 17% of its income here, while using a theoretical tax to account for 83% of its smallish federal income tax bill. On the state side, the company received hundreds of millions in subsidies for its refineries in Louisiana.

In Illinois, a state beleaguered by pension woes and the nation's worst per-student spending cuts in 2011-12, lost nearly a billion dollars in tax revenue to just six companies (Boeing, Archer Daniels, Walgreen's, Caterpillar, Exelon, Abbott Labs), which paid just 1.9% of their profits in state taxes, about a quarter of the required amount.

New York's most notorious tax avoider is Pfizer, which had nearly half of its sales in the U.S. over the past three years, yet claimed $50 billion in foreign profits and losses in the U.S.

How Taxpayers Subsidize the Tax Avoiders

All of our technology, securities trading, medicine, infrastructure, and national security have their roots in public research and development. The majority (57 percent) of basic research, the essential startup work for products that don't yet yield profits, is paid for by our tax dollars.

But big business apparently views its tax responsibility as a burden to be avoided at the expense of the rest of us.

About the Author:

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at


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]]> (Press Release) Analysis Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:56:25 -0500
Surprise! Pro-GMO Lawmakers Get Big Funds from Agribusiness Lobbies

Reps who voted against mandatory GMO labeling received three times as much money from food and agriculture lobbies

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--July 27, 2015
Demonstrators against Monsanto and GMOs stage a protest in Portland, Maine in May 2014. (Photo: Corey Templeton/flickr/cc)Demonstrators against Monsanto and GMOs stage a protest in Portland, Maine in May 2014. (Photo: Corey Templeton/flickr/cc)

File this under unsurprising, but nefarious nonetheless.

Members of U.S. Congress who vote against mandatory labeling for genetically modified (GMO) products receive three times as much funding from the food and agriculture lobbies as their colleagues, according to new reporting from Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The political finance watchdog group found that the supporters of the anti-labeling bill which passed the House of Representatives last Thursday collectively received $29.9 million from the agribusiness lobby and food and beverage industry during the 2014 election cycle.

At 230 Republicans and 45 Democrats, that averages roughly $108,900 per member to support HR 1599—officially titled the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 but known by its opponents as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. HR 1599 passed with 275 to 150 votes.

Meanwhile, co-sponsors of the anti-labeling bill "received six-figure dollar amounts from providers of agricultural services and products...during the 2014 election cycle. That put them high among the top 20 recipients of funds from the industry," Open Secrets reports.

Among those lawmakers are Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), most of whom also sit on the House Agriculture Committee.

As Common Dreams reported last Thursday, HR1599 "was backed by the food industry, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto Company, which have poured money into defeating GMO labeling initiatives."

Open Secrets continues:

Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), two original sponsors of the legislation, were the top two current House members receiving the most money from the Grocery Manufacturers Association in 2014. The grocery manufacturers — who have spent $4.1 million lobbying on all issues so far this year, almost as much as they spent in all of 2014 — have lobbied on the bill more than any other organization, mentioning the measure on 14 lobbying reports this year.

After the Grocery Manufacturers Association, PepsiCo Inc ($2.5 million in overall lobbying this year) and Monsanto Co ($2.6 million) have mentioned the bill most frequently.

Food and environmental activists called for the Senate to vote down HR 1599 when it reaches the chamber.

"Passage of this bill is an attempt by Monsanto and its agribusiness cronies to crush the democratic decision-making of tens of millions of Americans. Corporate influence has won and the voice of the people has been ignored," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety, said last week.

Added Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, "It’s time to hold every member of Congress accountable. Either they stand with Monsanto and Big Food in support of the DARK Act, or they stand with the overwhelming majority of their constituents for truthful labeling and consumer choice."


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]]> (Press Release) Analysis Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:41:01 -0500
Wide Approval for Pope Francis’ Values of Community and Equality

Photo source:

Washington, DC –-(ENEWSPF)--July 23, 2015 – Today Lake Research Partners released the results of a survey among religious and faith affiliated voters in advance of Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S.  The survey reveals that the Pope’s vision and message of togetherness, community, inclusion and equality have broad reach and acceptance across the American electorate.  These results come in the midst of an important conversation around creating a family-friendly economic agenda.  

The survey shows that religiously affiliated voters strongly support Pope Francis’ message and values that aim to promote a balanced economy that values all people, encourages equality and acceptance, and prioritizes policies that make families stronger.

The poll revealed that religiously affiliated voters support an agenda that fosters a family-friendly economy and support what the Pope has to say on related policies. Voters stated they will give “a great deal of attention” to what Pope Francis has to say on the topics of workers’ rights and income inequality. 61% of voters strongly support taking steps to end racial discrimination and promote racial justice in our society. 51% of those polled strongly support guaranteeing paid sick time for working people and 46% strongly support making major investments in children and poverty including early education and child health care, even if it means increasing their taxes.

To view the complete findings of the poll, click here.




]]> (Press Release) Analysis Thu, 23 Jul 2015 22:09:12 -0500
Center for American Progress Report Outlines Policies to Promote Broad-Based Profit Sharing and Inclusive Capitalism


Source: iStock

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)--July 21, 2015.  A new report from the Center for American Progress explores in-depth ways to encourage more companies to adopt employee ownership programs and other types of broad-based profit sharing policies to help ensure that workers are rewarded for the wealth they generate.

“The economy has bounced back—but those at the very top are doing much better than everyone else. Stagnant wages and declining household incomes have plagued many middle- and working-class households over the past decade. Even before the Great Recession, productivity was growing, but working Americans have seen little benefit in their paychecks,” said Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress. “We need a new approach to ensure that workers can share in the economic success they have helped create. And broad-based profit sharing programs aren’t just good for workers—they are good for business too.”

CAP’s profit sharing proposals offer new ideas and expand on recommendations included in a number of CAP policy papers, most recently its January 2015 report from the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, or IPC. The IPC—a transatlantic board convened by CAP—is composed of high-level American and international policymakers, economists, business leaders, and labor representatives. The report focused on finding ways to expand the middle class through inclusive economic growth, and a key part of the report explored policies—including profit sharing and other strategies to raise wages and incomes—to increase workers’ share of the economic pie.

Broad-based profit sharing programs benefit workers by allowing employees to share in economic growth to which they have contributed, but as CAP’s report notes, strong evidence shows that firms and investors also receive tangible benefits from sharing with their workers. For example, research shows that both public and private companies with broad-based sharing plans are less likely than their counterparts without employee ownership to go bankrupt or disappear for another reason. CAP’s report also notes that companies and investors that adopt partnership approaches make profits over and above the cost of sharing ownership with employees, according to a review of more than 70 empirical studies.

In its report, CAP outlines three primary policies to ensure that more companies and workers are able to participate in inclusive capitalism programs. They are:

The elimination of perverse incentives that encourage companies not to share with their employees: Reforming the tax code so that it no longer subsidizes narrow incentive programs that benefit only top executives is at the heart of this policy. Policymakers should also ensure that employee-owned companies are not barred from participating in contract set-aside programs.

The adoption of policies to incentivize more companies to implement broad-based sharing plans: This approach includes allowing more companies that share with their workers to benefit from loan guarantees through the Small Business Administration. Doing so would help ensure that these small businesses have access to the capital they need to sell to their employees—a good investment as these companies have lower rates of default than comparable companies without sharing programs. Policymakers should also encourage estates to sell to workers by providing partial estate tax relief.

Action from the federal government to bridge information gaps and thereby encourage more companies to adopt broad-based sharing programs for workers by creating an Office of Inclusive Capitalism: This office would promote outreach and provide technical assistance to private sector businesses, unions, and workers and improve government knowledge and support for inclusive capitalism.

Click here to read “Capitalism for Everyone: Encouraging Companies to Adopt Employee Ownership Programs and Broad-Based Profit Sharing,” by Karla Walter, David Madland, and Danielle Corley.




]]> (Press Release) Analysis Tue, 21 Jul 2015 17:16:40 -0500
President Obama’s Africa Record Is a Tough Road to Genuine Progress

Kenya Obama election celebration

Kenyans celebrate the victory of President-elect Barack Obama on November 5, 2008, in Kisumu, Kenya. Source: AP/Riccardo Gangale

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)--July 21, 2015.  On the eve of President Barack Obama’s trip to Africa, the Center for American Progress examined the president’s track record of engagement with the continent. It found that the president has worked through competing strategic demands and significant domestic policy barriers to find a more sophisticated and mature approach to the African continent than the approaches of many of his predecessors.

“As the first African American to hold the office, President Obama faced overly high, and often highly unrealistic, expectations right from the start,” said John Norris, Executive Director of CAP’s Sustainable Security and Peace Building Initiative and author of the piece. “President Obama began his term with the global economy in free fall and fierce opposition in Congress to the kind of big-ticket aid packages that other presidents had provided to Africa. Given that environment, the administration naturally looked to build upon the growing sentiment among Africans themselves that foreign aid is at its best when it helps African countries drive their own lasting economic growth and prosperity.”

The president’s signature initiative on the continent, Power Africa, was developed in large part because of the insistence by African leaders—both in the “Common African Position” and at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.—that electrification and infrastructure needs were a key priority. This new era of patient partnership between Washington and sub-Saharan Africa could serve both partners well.

Read “President Obama’s Africa Record: The Hard Road to a Genuine Partnership.”




]]> (Press Release) Analysis Tue, 21 Jul 2015 17:13:30 -0500
Private Health Care as an Act of Terrorism

CHICAGO--(ENEWSPF)--July 20, 2015

Americans are being cheated by a medical system that favors profits over health and wellbeing. But things are even worse than that. (Photo: MilitaryHealth/flickr/cc)
The FBI defines terrorism as "Acts dangerous to human life...intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." Much of the behavior of our current health care system meets that definition. The facts show intention on the part of corporations to intimidate the population by using market strategies to charge whatever they like for their medical products and services, and an effort to coerce the public into accepting the current system as the only option.

The Average American Family Pays $4,000 for Medical Fraud and Subsidies 

Medical billing fraud is estimated at 10 percent of all health care, or about $270 billion, while patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by another $270 billion a year. Combined, this represents an astonishing annual cost of over $4,000 to an average American household. As The Atlantic puts it, "The people most likely to bilk the system are doctors and medical providers, not 'welfare queens.'"

Intimidation by Outrageous Markups 

In a recent analysis of 50 hospitals (49 for-profit) with the highest charge-to-cost ratios in 2012, the average markup was 1,000 percent, which means that a procedure costing a hospital $100 is marked up to $1,000 for us. 

Some of the markups test the limits of sanity: an 80-cent needle for $143.25 (a 17,000 percent markup). A 25-cent IUD device for $1,000. A blood test that costs $10 in one hospital and $10,000 in another. 

A Johns Hopkins professor explained, "They are marking up the prices because no one is telling them they can’t."

Cheating and Coercion 

Pharmaceutical companies have successfully lobbied Congress to keep Medicare from bargaining for lower drug prices. Americans are further cheated when corporations pay off generic drug manufacturers to delay entry of their products into the market, thereby forcing consumers to pay the highest prices for medicine. 

We're cheated again by certificate-of-need laws, which force many patients to accept established money-making procedures while denying access to modern technologies such as virtual colonoscopies. 

And cheated yet again when the doctors we trust accept payoffs from pharmaceutical companies to promote the most expensive products. 

And, like the hospitals, corporations are fleecing the public with unfathomable markups. After Gilead Sciences was criticized for charging $1,000 for a hepatitis pill that costs $10 in Egypt, the company responded by introducing a new pill that costs $1,350. 

The Terror of Poverty Without Health Care 

Uninsurance can be deadly. Low-income minorities are least likely to have coverage, and the resulting financial stress, as documented by over 200 studies, leads to sickness and early death. Over 40 percent of uninsured adults of color would be eligible for Medicaid if the program were adopted by all states. 

But it's not just the uninsured who feel the terror of unattainable health care. About half of privately insured Americans report experiencing financial hardship as a result of health care costs, and nearly half (43 percent) of sick Americans skipped doctor's visits and/or medication purchases in 2012 because of excessive costs. Even though with Obamacare the uninsured rate has dropped by nearly a third since 2013, the average deductible has more than doubled in just eight years, from under $600 to over $1,200, in large part due to corporate austerity measures. Many Americans can't afford this. A recent Bankrate poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans didn't have savings available to cover a$1,000 emergency room visit. 

The Best Medical Care in the World -- For the Wealthy 

Wealth promotes health. Super wealth buys an emergency room for the mansion or yacht or private plane, equipped with scanners, ultrasounds, x-ray machines, and blood analyzers. Or, if a hospital stay is needed, one fine option is a$2,400 suite with a butler in the hospital's penthouse. 

Not all of "concierge medicine" is so extravagant. Basic signup fees range from $1,500 to $25,000 per year, with premium memberships offering unrestricted online access to a doctor, although with extra charges for face-to-face services. It's out of the question for almost all of us. 

Yet with a farcical display of self-congratulatory capitalist trickle-down rationalization, Forbes proclaims that "these elite concierge medical practices are trailblazing methodologies and technologies that will, in time, be available to everyone." 

Little chance with a privatized system. The reality is that being sick and having nowhere to turn is terrorizing far too many Americans.

About the Author:

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License



]]> (Press Release) Analysis Mon, 20 Jul 2015 16:52:50 -0500
Center for American Progress Papers Call for Measures to Counter Iran’s Destabilizing Actions in the Middle East and Congressional Action to Ensure Effective Implementation of Nuclear Deal

Iran deal negotiators

Negotiators pose for a group photo following talks with Iran on its nuclear program in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015. Source: AP/Ronald Zak

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)--July 17, 2015.  This week, the United States and its partners announced a historic agreement with Iran that would eliminate Tehran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon. The deal provides for unprecedented access to Iran’s known nuclear facilities and its entire supply chain for nuclear weapon components; severely curtails Iran’s ability to create a clandestine weapons program without detection; and provides immediate repercussions should the Iranians not fully honor the deal, including the ability to reimpose international sanctions. It gives the United States more time to respond—including militarily—should Iran renege. In return, Iran will receive relief from economic sanctions imposed by the international community as it reaches the benchmarks stipulated in the agreement.

Today, the Center for American Progress released a pair of papers: one analyzing the deal in light of the alternatives and another looking beyond the nuclear issues to ways the United States and its partners can counter Iran’s support for terrorist organizations that continue to destabilize the region.

“The agreement negotiated by world powers and Iran is the best of any viable alternatives to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon,” said Vikram Singh, Vice President for National Security and International Policy at CAP. “It preserves critical international unity against an Iranian nuclear weapon, which is the only way to accomplish this goal. Inspectors will have 24/7 access and monitoring for every part of Iran’s known nuclear program and an ability to force Iran to open any suspicious sites to inspection if needed. Critically, this deal does not limit U.S. options—including military action—if Iran cheats now or anytime in the future.”

However, as some critics have noted, Iran’s nuclear program is not the only way in which the nation exerts its destabilizing influence across the region. In the second paper released today, CAP experts outline how Tehran uses its financial largesse to support and arm terrorist groups throughout the Middle East, putting U.S. partners and allies in the region at risk. In working together with those partners, however, the United States retains the ability, regardless of the outcome of this deal, to combat state-sponsored support of Iran’s terrorist allies.

“Now that negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program have achieved a deal, the United States should lead efforts with partners in the region to counteract Iran’s destabilizing role,” said Brian Katulis, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of both reports. “There are several active steps on which the United States can lead to address Iran’s destabilizing behavior—including increased security cooperation as outlined in the recent summit between the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, countries and stepped up coordination with Israel to address Iran’s negative actions in the region.”

Click here to read the analysis of the nuclear deal.

Click here to read how the U.S. and its partners can combat Iran’s support of terrorist groups.




]]> (Press Release) Analysis Fri, 17 Jul 2015 21:12:36 -0500
Drug Policy Alliance: President Obama Makes History by Focusing Country’s Attention on Mass Incarceration and Failed Drug War

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—July 17, 2015. President Obama made history this week by focusing our country’s attention on mass incarceration and the failed drug war.

It was incredibly moving to see the President speak out so passionately this week, at a prison yesterday, at the NAACP conference on Tuesday, and when he announced commutations for 46 people on Monday.

This is a remarkable moment and could be a turning point for fixing our criminal justice system. With the pledge of a second-term U.S. president, it really feels like the wind is in our sails.

But it’s still just a pledge. That’s why we’re stepping up pressure to fundamentally fix our broken criminal justice system, and to stop locking up hundreds of thousands of people for nothing more than a drug law violation. 

Below are some powerful clips, including DPA’s Anthony Papa on CNN, DPA’s Sharda Sekaran on the Huffington Post and more.

Another World Is Possible! No More Drug War!

Related Material:  

CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello

President Obama Makes Historic Trip to a Federal Prison, Pushes Criminal Justice Reform

Drug Policy Alliance's Anthony Papa, Manager of Media Relations and author of 15 to Life talks about President Obama's historic prison visit and his recent clemencies granted to 46 non-violent drug offenders, July 16, 2015


New York Times (Front Page)

Obama, in Oklahoma, Takes Reform Message to the Prison Cell Block

Obama Urges Criminal Justice Overhaul, By Peter Baker, July 16, 2015

New York Times Editorial

President Obama Takes On the Prison Crisis, July 16, 2015

Huffington Post

A Long-Awaited Promise: Obama Gets Real About Criminal Justice Reform, By: Sharda Sekaran: Drug Policy Alliance, July 14, 2015

New York Post

DPA’s Anthony Papa Profile: How this ex-con became the poster child for drug reform laws

By: Bob Fredericks, July 16, 2015

Al Jazeera Video

5 Ways President Obama Wants To Overhaul The Criminal Justice System

President Obama calls for major criminal justice reforms in a NAACP speech, July 14, 2015


US News and World Report

Obama's 46 Commutations Barely Scratch the Surface

Thousands more may die in prison for nonviolent crimes, July 13, 2015


Related Article:

President Obama Grants Clemency to 46 People, Will Make Big Push for Criminal Justice Reform This Week


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Fri, 17 Jul 2015 20:13:55 -0500
Lawmakers Introduce Solution to Wall Street Conflicts of Interest; New Public Citizen Report Highlights Extent of Problem

With Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act, Baldwin and Cummings Seek to Close Revolving Door Between Banks and Financial Regulatory Agencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)--July 15, 2015.  In an effort to rein in conflicts of interest and revolving door abuses within financial regulatory agencies, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) today introduced the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act – a desperately needed package of ethics reforms for those who regulate Wall Street.

At a press conference to announce the legislation, Public Citizen released a report (PDF) highlighting the extent of the problem the bill is designed to address. The report contains new data comparing the number of Wall Street and other business executives hired by the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations that created potential conflicts of interest.

“The revolving door phenomenon – in which Wall Street plants its own former executives inside the agencies that oversee the financial services industry and lures regulators with prospects of lucrative employment on Wall Street when they want to leave government service – threatens the very ability of governmental agencies to monitor and regulate financial services in the public’s interest,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen and report author. “Regulatory capture of public agencies by the business interests they are supposed to oversee is particularly acute in financial services because of the vast sums of money involved.”

Other problems the bill addresses include “golden parachutes” of million-dollar bonuses to executives who accept senior-level positions in financial regulatory agencies. Alumni from Citigroup, for example, head the Treasury Department and Office of U.S. Trade Representative, while other former executives and representatives of major banks serve as senior economic policymakers and federal regulators overseeing their former employers. Scores of other federal regulators have left government service to accept lucrative jobs with the banks and firms they used to oversee. Although the Obama administration in January 2009 attempted to stem conflicts with an ethics executive order, it is not enough.

According to data compiled and analyzed by Public Citizen, President Barack Obama has appointed 56 people with potential conflicts of interest between their government positions and the industries they oversee. President Bill Clinton appointed 64 during his two terms; President George W. Bush, 91 in his two terms.

“Revolving door abuses are a major reason that many of the Dodd-Frank legislative reforms have yet to see the light of day,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Many of the legislative reforms have been sidetracked as regulatory agencies like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have fallen far short in promulgating regulations to fully implement the law. And many financial regulators seem shy to enforce the laws that are on the books.”

Other problems Public Citizen documented include conflicts of interest experienced by procurement officers and regulatory capture, which occurs when financial firms place former executives in the regulatory agencies that oversee them.

The Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would go a long way toward enhancing the integrity of financial regulatory agencies by reducing conflicts of interest and managing revolving door abuses. Among other things, the act would:

•    Prohibit Wall Street firms from offering “golden parachutes” to employees who join the government;

•    Prevent new regulatory officials from taking official actions that directly and substantially benefit former employers and clients;

•    Prohibit financial regulatory officials who leave public service from lobbying or helping others lobby the government for two years; and

•    Prohibit former bank examiners and their supervisors from taking employment with any bank they oversaw for at least two years after leaving government service.

“The financial crash of 2008 was caused by widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision,” said Bart Naylor, financial policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “If we again fail to protect against regulatory capture by Wall Street, our fragile economic recovery will remain at dire risk.”

The Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would establish clearer boundaries between the government and the financial services industry and would help rebuild the public’s trust in our financial regulatory system.

Public Citizen’s report is available here.



]]> (Press Release) Analysis Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:14:39 -0500