A coalition of unions, national and community groups managed to hit the trifecta--beating ALEC-backed deregulation bills in three states.
Fighting bills backed by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been, at times, like a giant game of whack-a-mole.
The entire strategy of the corporate front group is to push its “model” legislation in as many states as possible at once, feeding its member legislators—mostly Republicans, but some Democrats as well--ready-made bills that were written (for a fee) with the input of the country's biggest corporations.
After the controversy around Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law and the shooting of Trayvon Martin, ALEC said it was backing off such bills to focus on “business-friendly” legislation, but its business-friendly work does plenty of damage too. ALEC pushes deregulation, union-busting, privatization, and tax loopholes for big businesses, allowing corporations like AT&T, Koch Industries, and Verizon to essentially write the laws that regulate them.
ALEC-backed telecommunications deregulation bills hit New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut recently, in a one-two-three punch combination designed as a quick knockout blow that consumers and workers would be powerless to fight. But a coalition, including the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Working Families party, and the AARP, managed to stop the bills, which would've resulted in cost hikes, lost jobs, and service cut-offs for “less profitable” customers—disproportionately senior, rural, or low-income customers who use basic phone service.
“We're up against quite literally armies of lobbyists from the phone companies,” Matt Wood, a policy expert with Free Press, told AlterNet. “That's the thing about ALEC and their approach, they can push things in so many different states at once, if not with no coverage, certainly with less coverage on the national level.”
Deregulating and Denying Service
Telecom policy is an area in which legislators very often don't have a lot of expertise and are vulnerable to talk of fancy new technologies—and to big money. Politicians from both parties love to boast of their investment in high-tech, after all, and so when lobbyists are telling them about their fancy new service, throwing around terms like VoIP (Voice over IP, essentially phone service over the Internet, which is what you have if you get your home phone through your cable company or Verizon FIOS), it's easy enough to convince even those politicians who aren't predisposed to deregulating everything in sight. Yet deregulating the fancy new technology has an impact even on those who use traditional services.
“Some company comes to you and says this is going to be great for investment. Exactly what will they be investing in?” Bob Master, political and legislative director at CWA District 1, asked. “Being deeply familiar with the industry, there's no job-creating investment that's happening in telecommunications, it's all job-destroying investment. Verizon is contracting out, outsourcing our work, offshoring our work, trying to do everything wirelessly. That's where the investment is going and no wires means no workers.”
But it's not just jobs that the telecoms would like to eliminate—it's service to people who don't choose to use the fancier products or can't afford expensive service, or maybe who live in a rural area. In Connecticut and New Jersey, the deregulation plan would have eliminated “carrier of last resort” protections, which require them to provide service to anyone who reasonably requests it in their coverage area. Matt Wood explained, “Phone companies have always had special rights and privileges granted by the state, so they've been expected to provide service to everybody. They have taken the true statement that broadband service is different to extremes and said that it is so different that you shouldn't regulate it at all.”
When it comes to VoIP, for instance, Wood pointed out that what sounds like an arcane technology is actually commonplace these days—and the claim that it's too new to regulate actually just gives companies like AT&T and Verizon an excuse to deregulate their whole network. “That takes away a a lot of protections on services, the reliability of the network,” he said.
And Lindsay Farrell of the Connecticut Working Families Party noted, “To give [telecoms] the ability to say 'This part of the state isn't as profitable, we don't want to serve them, we want to serve people here where they can afford higher rates,' that leaves a lot of people in silence.”
As always, with ALEC, the narrative behind the push for deregulation is that competition among phone service providers will keep the industry honest and result in benefits for consumers—but like all tall tales about the invisible hand of the marketplace, this one doesn't come true. “We also look to the results,” Wood said. “Say you do have two, three, four, six competitors, is that resulting in lower prices? No. They're not competing on price, they compete on the device or other bells and whistles but don't really feel the need to compete on price.”
Instead, according to a report issued by the nonpartisan think tank Demos [PDF], the bill (specifically in Connecticut, though you can see from the original model bill at ALEC Exposed that they're all much the same) would send phone rates through the roof, as well as destroy consumer protections and transparency in the industry, preemptively deregulate VoIP as more companies are beginning to use the technology, and of course, let corporations who directly benefit from deregulation write the laws regulating them.
Yet politicians continue to push for deregulation that would hurt their own constituents. Master noted that in New York, it only took a little bit of spending to get normally progressive legislators backing the telecoms' pet plan. “In what way would the low-income people you represent benefit from this?” he asked.
Stalling the Deregulation Agenda
“We believe that to the extent that phone companies are required by regulation to provide good service on a universal basis it's good for the consumer and the workers,” Master said, and so when CWA got wind of a deregulation bill in New Jersey in 2011, they moved quickly.
The bill, titled the “Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act” (you can't make this stuff up ) swept through the state assembly in short order, passing 66-7. CWA, the AARP, and other allies put together a campaign, including a website, “Don't Hang Up on New Jersey”, and calls with AARP members—they managed to generate about 20,000 phone calls in two weeks, and even New Jersey's famously right-wing, blustering governor, Chris Christie (who has a pattern of supporting ALEC's pet causes himself), took notice. On a conference call, he told 17,000 AARP members that he had “grave concerns” about the bill. From there, they were able to change enough legislators' minds to keep the bill from moving.
But it's not just Republicans who like deregulation and are vulnerable to some well-placed donations. New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, who values his reputation as a reformer, has also taken a lot of money from telecom companies over his political career. In his race for governor, Cablevision was Cuomo's top contributor, kicking in $125,600 to his campaign, along with $38,800 from Time Warner -- part of $250,516 overall from the industry.
So when VoIP deregulation made it into the governor's budget it shouldn't have been that surprising. Phone companies and cable companies, who both provide broadband internet service and VoIP service, were working together, pressing for New York State to give up its right to regulate VoIP in the future.
“I think there is in the Cuomo administration an inclination to do things that they believe will help to improve the business climate,” Master said. “In this case it was pretty glaring that there's a lack of awareness or understanding of what the impact on the consumer might be.”
Pressure from a similar coalition, including CWA and the AARP, as well as the Working Families party, got the language dropped from the budget, but not before they noticed legislators whose constituents would clearly be harmed by the policy taking the side of the big telecoms , which Master noted are very powerful in Albany. The state senate subsequently passed deregulation as stand-alone legislation, but so far it hasn't moved in the assembly. “We're being vigilant,” Master said.
But just when one bill dies, another appears. In the beginning of April, SB 447 appeared in Connecticut—another bit of deregulation, based on ALEC model legislation. ALEC's co-chair in Connecticut is John Emra, Executive Director of External Affairs for AT&T’s Connecticut operations.
One of the upsides, though, to these model bills being pushed in multiple states is that organizers know what worked and who is willing to join the fight. Again, CWA, AARP and the Working Families Party led the charge, but this time the coalition included groups like the Sierra Club, motivated by a provision in the bill that would allow cell phone towers to be placed in public parks.
Farrell noted that as they knocked on doors and made phone calls about the bill in Connecticut, they found people already wary of companies like AT&T. After Hurricane Irene and this fall's series of storms, utility companies, phone and cable companies took several days to restore service, leading to hearings by the state legislature. Canvassers found that citizens didn't trust utilities to take care of them, and understood the need for regulations to hold them accountable.
The ALEC connection helped in New York and Connecticut—in New York, radio advertising linked telecom deregulation to ALEC, and Farrell noticed a difference with legislators as ALEC's activities were held up to public scrutiny. But, she said, the broad coalition that defeated the bill wasn't solely motivated by beating ALEC. “AARP doesn't care about the ALEC aspect,” she said. “They're just worried about seniors who don't use VoIP, who don't have cell phones that they use frequently or at all, being cut off.”
The biggest lesson, perhaps, from the deregulation fights in these states is that organized people can, in fact, beat big money—that a ground campaign involving phone calls and door-to-door canvassing can actually motivate everyday people to take action on an issue that seems complex and hard to understand. Whether people had heard of ALEC and understand that there's an institution pushing for laws that will benefit big corporations and hurt workers and consumers, or whether they were just tired of watching their phone and cable bills creep upward each month, of having to pay for services they didn't need just to get a basic phone line, people didn't want corporate utilities without government oversight.
Corporations can and will spend millions on lobbyists, blanketing statehouses and capitol buildings with their paid advocates, but in this case, it wasn't enough. Farrell is awaiting information on how much was spent lobbying in Connecticut, to compare with what the coalition was able to accomplish for a fraction of the cost.
Still, ALEC and its corporate backers aren't going to give up easily—AT&T and Verizon, Time Warner and Cablevision and many others still want deregulation and are willing to pay for it. The bills in the three states have stalled, but the fight is on in California right now. Master noted, “These people have infinitely deep pockets and they never stop.”
Link to original article from AlterNet
End Corporate Rule -
A Colorado lawmaker wants to end a long-running practice that fuels mistrust of the federal government.
After retiring from office or losing re-election, many congressional lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — launch lucrative careers as lobbyists at law firms, lobbying shops, business and trade organizations, and other well-heeled interest groups, many of which are located on the infamous K Street.
Sen. Michael Bennet introduced a bill this month to ban that. The bill, which he introduced along with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would prevent former members from lobbying Congress permanently.
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With the recent rulings of this right-wing dominated Supreme Court, it was hard to celebrate our nation's 238th birthday this past July 4th. Indeed, the Hobby Lobby decision delivered a hard blow not just to women in the workplace, but to the basic rights of all Americans. Essentially, the five Roberts Radicals gave corporations the right to refuse to deliver coverage provided in the Affordable Care Act to female employees for contraception and access to reproductive healthcare if it conflicted with the religious beliefs of their employers. One might wonder...
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Constitutional amendments are often proposed but rarely advanced to the stage of serious debate. What moves any meaningful amendment from mere paperwork to serious consideration is the popular will of the great mass of Americans. And the popular will of the great mass of Americans have been abundantly clear since the United States Supreme Court struck down barriers to corporate control of democracy with its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.
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Companies do not have a right to lie to their shareholders, a German judge ruled this week. But sometimes, she added, lies are necessary.
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Think of Dixie, and your mind probably conjures something like "Duck Dynasty" — bearded men bouncing along dirt roads in pickup trucks, raucously waving rebel flags.
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Lynn Stuart Parramore | AlterNet 27 Feb 2014 Hits:547 ECR Articles
Talk about revenge of the C students! The nation’s biggest telecom company, Comcast, which took over NBCUniversal a year ago, wants to buy the second biggest company, Time-Warner Cable, to create an empire of 30-million subscribers. That’s a third of all American homes with cable for its TV, internet service and telephones.
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Sen. Al Franken launched a petition on Tuesday calling for the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, the 2010 ruling that has been widely held responsible for allowing an unprecedented influx of anonymous corporate money into local and national politics.
By Friday, the site-based petition had received nearly 229,000 individually verified signatures on MoveOn.org, including a lengthy list of outraged and pleading comments.
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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
A toxic spill in West Virginia's Elk River has left 300,000 local residents without water for the past week. The leak came from a storage facility for chemicals used to process coal, and it's left many wondering if industry regulations are too lax, especially for the company responsible for the leak, Freedom Industries.
Let's take a look at what the president of the company had to say after being pressed by a local reporter about mapping out a...
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Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, closes on Sundays, costing its owners millions but honoring their Christian faith.
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Hobby Lobby, a corporation, says that forcing it to provide the coverage would violate its religious beliefs. A federal appeals court agreed, and the Supreme Court is set to decide on Tuesday whether it will hear the Obama administration’s appeal from that decision...
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The European Union said it plans to close a loophole in the corporate tax code that allows some companies to pay little or no tax by routing profits abroad, amid a mounting furor over the tax practices of major corporations such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc.
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The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is wading back into election issues, as it considers supporting a bill that would increase the role of state legislatures in the election of U.S. senators, chipping away at the powers vested directly in the people under the 17th Amendment.
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Amanda Terkel The Huffington Post 15 Nov 2013 Hits:680 ECR Articles
The American people created the post office. The American people can still save the post office. But we need to do something right now.
In July 2011 the United States Postal Service (USPS) management announced it would rapidly close 3600 local post offices and eventually as many as 15,000. And shutter half the nation’s mail processing centers.
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Way under the radar screen of Big Media, which is too busy wallowing around in every flaw of the early glitches of healthcare.gov to notice anything else going on no matter how important, is a hugely consequential Senate confirmation fight happening this week. This fight may well have a bigger impact on our economy than any other confirmation this fight. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has not had an official chief for years now, but after too long a delay President Obama nominated a solid, well-respected North Carolina congressman...
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In its landmark 1976 decision Buckley v.Valeo, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of laws aimed at “the prevention of corruption and the appearance of corruption spawned by the real or imagined coercive influence of large financial contributions on candidates’ positions and on their actions if elected to office.”
In that light, let’s take a look at the record of campaign contributions to Spencer Bachus, a Republican congressman from Alabama and a prime example of the interaction between special interest campaign contributions and the legislative process.
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Thomas B Edsall | The New York Times 18 Oct 2013 Hits:689 ECR Articles
As the federal government shutdown continues, Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia for secret talks on a sweeping new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is often referred to by critics as "NAFTA on steroids," and would establish a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompassing 800 million people — about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and, until June, kept secret from...
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Jeff Clements | ACS 08 Oct 2013 Hits:878 ECR Articles
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating. Nominate our next Truthdigger here.
The extreme want of coverage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in even the independent, alternative press is a testament to the near-complete domination of politics and the news media by transnational corporate interests....
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The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.
1. $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies
The Cato Institute estimates that the U.S. federal...
Paul Buchheit | Common Dreams 30 Sep 2013 Hits:1005 ECR Articles
To quote famed short seller David Einhorn: “No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.” On the “corruption among what passes for our elites” front, this story about self-dealing in the privatization of the Postal Service gives an indication of how bad things really are.
By way of backstory: the Postal Service is being plundered through the device of a completely fabricated financial crisis. The mail provider has been widely declared to be broke, but that’s utter hogwash. Congress has created the appearance of financial ill health via a...
Yves Smith | Naked Capitalism 26 Sep 2013 Hits:940 ECR Articles
An amendment dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act," which currently allows large agriculture and biotech corporations to ignore court orders involving the safety of genetically modified seeds, has been stripped from Senate's spending bill that could be voted on as early as Wednesday afternoon.
Following an organized campaign against the provision in recent months, its removal was being cheered by food safety and environmental activists as a victory.
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Jacob Chamberlain | Common Dreams 25 Sep 2013 Hits:708 ECR Articles
Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of the award-winning ALECexposed.org, launched OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org, a web resource devoted to helping taxpayers identify the corporations seeking to privatize public assets and services in their communities: including their schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, court systems, and more.
Once a week for the next several weeks, CMD will unveil corporate profiles of America’s most notorious corporations that are quietly working with state and local lawmakers to take over public services with little accountability, along with in-depth examinations of the CEOs personally profiting from...
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Discussions about removing government management of the U.S. air-traffic control system are the most serious in two decades, prompted by budget cuts and uncertain funding for converting to satellite navigation.
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In a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dated June 27, 2013, US Representative Alan Grayson and three co-signers expressed concern about the expansion of large banks into what have traditionally been non-financial commercial spheres. Specifically:
[W]e are concerned about how large banks have recently expanded their businesses into such fields as electric power production, oil refining and distribution, owning and operating of public assets such as ports and airports, and even uranium mining.
After listing some disturbing examples, they observed:
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Ellen Brown | Common Dreams 31 Aug 2013 Hits:921 ECR Articles
The Center for Media and Democracy filed a letter with the Texas Attorney General on Thursday refuting efforts by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to declare itself immune from the state's open records law. Texas is the first known state where ALEC has formally asked an Attorney General for an exemption from sunshine-in-government laws, and it marks a new low in the organization's attempts to advance its legislative agenda in secret and avoid public accountability for facilitating special interest influence.
“You cannot just create a special private club between lobbyists...
Center for Media and Democracy 19 Aug 2013 Hits:906 ECR Articles
Congressman Darrell Issa really is determined to end the United States Postal Service as Americans know it—indeed, as Americans have known it for more than 200 years.
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John Nichols | The Nation 17 Aug 2013 Hits:1358 ECR Articles
As part of our ongoing focus on the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, we checked in with health insurance executive turned industry whistleblower Wendell Potter to learn about ALEC’s efforts to influence the health care debate and undermine The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).
Lauren Feeney: ALEC turned 40 last week. How long has the organization been involved in trying to influence the health care debate?
Wendell Potter: I don’t know whether insurance companies were part of the initial founding of the organization, but I’m sure they were involved early on. Health insurance is regulated largely...
Lauren Feeney | Bill Moyers.com 14 Aug 2013 Hits:658 ECR Articles
For two weeks, protesters have been living in a tent city outside a post office in Berkeley, California. The participants are staging the sleep-in to save the post office from closing, one of many closures facing post offices all across the country.
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It makes sense that the postal service has proven to be a popular target...
Allison Kilkenny | The Nation 13 Aug 2013 Hits:556 ECR Articles
Student after student on Wednesday took to the podium at a public board meeting of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to deliver a unified message against efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel which they say are systematically dismantling the public education in the city.
Their immediate demand: Listen to us. Their rallying cry: 'Whose Schools? Our Schools!' And their revolutionary threat: Abandon the corporate-fueled model of education reform in Chicago or face a student-led and community-powered revolt.
Led by twenty members of Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, a student-led educational activism...
Jon Queally | Common Dreams 25 Jul 2013 Hits:636 ECR Articles
When I learned last winter that I would have a seat on the Senate Banking Committee, I was very happy because I knew it would give me the opportunity to ask tough questions and push for some accountability from Wall Street and its regulators. In the last six months, that's exactly what I've tried to do.
Again and again, I've been making a simple point to anyone who will listen: we need to learn from the financial crisis of 2008 and, moving forward, to prevent the kinds of high-risk activities that...
Elizabeth Warren | DailyKos 22 Jul 2013 Hits:719 ECR Articles
For Republicans who want to cut the number of food stamp recipients, here’s a helpful suggestion: Support the ordinance passed last week by the D.C. Council, which required big-box stores like Wal-Mart to pay their employees at least $12.50 an hour.
On average, Wal-Mart pays its workers $12.67 an hour — which means that a huge number of its 1.4 million U.S. employees make a good deal less than that. By paying so little, the Bentonville behemoth compels thousands of its employees to use food stamps to feed their families and...
Harold Meyerson | The Washington Post 16 Jul 2013 Hits:438 ECR Articles
The global day of protest against the giant corporation Monsanto was a major success, as two million people showed up in cities around the world.
The global day of protest against the giant corporation Monsanto was a major success. On Saturday, demonstrators took to the streets in more than 50 countries for a “March Against Monsanto.”
The protests were aimed at highlighting Monsanto’s destructive business practices, like the making of genetically-modified seeds. Demonstrators in the U.S. called for the labeling of genetically-modified organisms. Protest organizers say that genetically-modified food can lead to...
Alex Kane | AlterNet 28 May 2013 Hits:669 ECR Articles
A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.
The implications are huge. But the school privatizers, and their lobbyists in the states, have so muddied the waters that the public does not get a clear picture of what is at stake.
So it was fascinating when investigative reporter Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ripped the veil off a secretive organization and its hidden political activities...
Ruth Coniff | The Progressive 12 May 2013 Hits:896 ECR Articles
At the April Conference Call for the End Corporate Rule Issue Team, PDA endorsed the American Anti-corruption Act. I hope you'll go to http://www.represent.us and become a co-sponsor of the…
Failed gun control legislation and a fertilizer plant explosion reveal how poisoned by big money our government is.
If you want to see why the public approval rating of Congress is…
We now have 12 states whose legislatures have formally endorsed an amendment overturning Citizens United v. FEC (four of which have specifically endorsed ending corporate personhood): California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii,…
The banksters are cashing in off their own disaster. The big banks are buying up distressed real estate by the boat load, and renting or selling it back to the…
The deal would include major papers such as the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Baltimore Sun.
The billionaire oil moguls Charles and David Koch are pushing ahead with their…
The U.S. stands out among advanced countries for its highly regressive tax code.
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The deterioration of the nation’s public transportation, like the deterioration of health care, education, social services, public utilities, bridges and roads, is part of the relentless seizing and harvesting of…
Here's an outrage that must be changed: Big Pharma has been systematically price-gouging the Medicare program for seniors and people with disabilities -- and raking in billions in excessive profits.…
In the Nation, Isabel Macdonald has an excellent long read on the history of U.S. drug testing, beginning with a government program to test returning Vietnam War veterans and the…
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PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.
Listen in this month for exciting updates. The Udall Amendment is moving with a companion bill in the House. Postal office facilities are schedule to be closed. We also discussed where to go with the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2013,...
Listen for exciting updates on the Hobby Lobby case, the Udall Amendment's movement, Eric Cantor has stepping down form leadership, where we are going with the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2013, and more, plus what our next steps.
Join us this month as we discuss Hobby Lobby case, the actions we will be taking regarding the Udall amendment, movement on the Equal Rights Amendment, other constitutional amendments, and much more.
Listen to this month's call as the team discusses the new Glass-Steagall bill, constitutional amendments, including the ERA, the newly handed down McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court, as well as the what happened on our Hill Day (incidentally...
Click the link above and listen to End Corporate Rule's monthly call covering the new Glass-Steagall legislation, the Better Off Budget, what to do regarding further attacks on the Post Office, Sen. Sanders' hearing on single payer, the Nolan...
Listen in and find out about "We the People" and their campaign finance disclosure issue, laying the groundwork for a Progressive Caucus in the Senate, an overview of Food Stamps (SNAP) and Agriculture Bill Issues, Trans Pacific Partnership,...