|Subject:||The way forward|
|Date:||Thu, 21 Dec 2017 16:52:12 -0500 (EST)|
|From:||Robert Weissman, Public Citizen <email@example.com>|
What can you do in the face of the most reckless and lawless administration in American history?
You can fight back.
And no one has been fighting back harder or more strategically than Public Citizen.
Fighting back is vital. But it’s not enough.
>From the moment we woke up with a sick feeling in our stomach on November 9, 2016 — the day after Trump won the election — we put in place a strategy not just to fight back … but to fight back and make a difference.
This is the strategy:
- Shine a light on the corruption in everything Donald Trump does.
- Call out Trump’s wholesale handover of our government to Big Business and expose the complete and utter betrayal of the populist promises Trump made as a candidate.
- Organize around the country and work with allies in the U.S. Senate to block passage of Trump’s extremist corporate agenda, which would sacrifice hard-won health and safety protections, basic norms of justice and equality, and our planet’s sustainability in order to further enrich the corporate class.
- Whenever we can, sue to block Trump’s unconstitutional power grabs.
- And, mobilize like never before for our democracy and for the kind of country we know we should have.
We field tested this plan in 2017.
We know it works.
Of course, we can’t stop every one of Trump’s schemes. But we’ve darn sure shown we can make a difference.
Now it’s time to do more, faster.
Read on for much more about what we’ve done — and, more importantly, what we plan on doing in the year ahead.
Fair warning: This is an unusually long email. But there’s no way to give you even a flavor of what we’re up to without using a lot of words.
EXPOSING TRUMP’S CORRUPTION AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
>From the day Trump was elected, we have led the call for him to divest his business interests.
And, we have been a singular voice in identifying and denouncing the conflicts of interest that practically define this administration.
Trump is a walking, talking violation of basic standards of ethics and morality.
But our emphasis is not just on his ethical transgressions — we are showing why they matter.
The reason is simple: Trump’s conflicts are driving policy — in ways that benefit superrich people like him, and that devastate regular Americans.
Our detailed reports have shown how the Trump tax plan will save him hundreds of millions or billions.
We have documented how his deregulation obsession would directly benefit his businesses, as he rolls back protections for workers, consumers and the environment.
And we’re using all available tools to pressure Trump and family on their conflicts:
- We worked with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, which would require Trump to divest his business interests, and we helped drive grassroots and lobbying efforts to build congressional support for the bill.
- We worked with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden on legislation that would require Trump to disclose his business interests in a country before embarking on trade negotiations with that nation.
- We filed a complaint with the Office of Government Ethics calling for an investigation into White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway’s on-air advertisement for Ivanka Trump’s product line.
We got results: The ethics office supported our allegation of wrongdoing.
- We filed a request for investigation into the apparent lobbying activities of Trump confidante Corey Lewandowski.
We got results: This led directly to Lewandowski removing himself from a lobbying firm.
- We spearheaded a coalition demanding Ivanka Trump ask China to drop the pending charges against investigators examining working conditions at facilities making products for IvankaTrump.com.
- We documented Trump’s regulatory conflicts of interest, highlighting how his business interests are affected by a striking number of live regulatory issues. Simultaneously, we worked on legislation that would require disclosure of Trump’s relevant conflicts before deregulatory moves could proceed (a “Trump Impact Statement”).
Our objective is to illustrate, again and again, that President Trump’s conflicts mock Candidate Trump’s promises to rid Washington of corruption, cronyism and insider-dealing.
America has never seen presidential self-dealing and self-enrichment like this.
The idea is, over time, to break through to Americans attracted to Trump’s populist pretensions and make clear that he is deepening and personally benefiting from the very abuses he campaigned against.
Going forward, we will:
- Continue to investigate and uncover Trump and Trump administration conflicts of interest, with a major emphasis on how these conflicts are affecting policy decisions.
- File multiple ethics complaints or requests for investigation related to emerging ethics and corruption scandals.
- Scale up even further our capacity for rapid response to the daily stream of corruption emanating from the White House.
UNMASKING THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER
Donald Trump has ushered in a wholesale corporate takeover of our government.
He has literally placed ex-corporate executives in charge of agencies that regulate their previous employers.
Our cutting-edge researchers have driven home this point again and again —
- Showing that, in his first seven months, Trump had met with more than 300 CEOs — more than triple the number Barack Obama met with during his entire presidency.
- Identifying more than 100 lobbyists working in the Trump administration, and more than three dozen working on issues directly related to their previous lobbying work, a direct violation of Trump’s much touted ethics executive order.
- Profiling Trump’s Corporate Cabinet, which spans the spectrum from Goldman Sachs to World Wrestling Entertainment.
- Demonstrating that almost three-quarters of the administration’s second-tier appointments (e.g., deputy secretaries) have corporate ties, meaning industry insiders are in charge of overseeing and regulating the very corporations for which they previously toiled.
As the saying in Washington goes, personnel is policy.
These corporate insiders are delivering for their old employers.
And from corporate tax cuts to deregulation, and a thousand points in between, Trump and his corporate minions are pushing the Big Business agenda.
We have revealed how:
- The Trump-Republican deregulation agenda is a direct payback to corporate donors.
- The U.S. Department of Education — staffed by former executives from the for-profit college industry — is rolling back protections against rip-offs of students by for-profit colleges.
- A former top lobbyist for pharmaceutical giant Gilead is coordinating the administration’s working group on medication affordability. Various leaked materials show clearly that the group aims to do nothing on affordability, but is instead seeking to weaken safety standards and pursue some measures — especially internationally — that will raise drug prices.
- More than half of all Washington, D.C. lobbyists worked on the monstrous tax cut.
We also launched a CorporatePresidency.org website to pull together these and many other strands.
Of course, we’re not just documenting the problem, we’re pushing for action:
- We helped lead campaigns against the nomination of Exxon’s former CEO as Secretary of State, a Big Pharma-allied member of Congress as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a Koch Brother-affiliated lawmaker as head of the president’s budget office.
- We are opposing the nominee to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which houses the National Weather Service. The nominee was the founder of AccuWeather and favors partial privatization of the weather service!
- We filed a request for investigation into the maneuverings of Carl Icahn, the financial mogul who inspired the Gordon Gekko character in the movie “Wall Street.” Icahn responded within hours of our filing with a furious retort demanding to know the “dark forces” behind Public Citizen’s “witch hunt.”
We got results: The attention on Icahn’s unprecedented conflict of interest helped block him from achieving a regulatory change worth hundreds of millions to him personally. And it prompted his decision to resign his position with the White House.
- We filed a formal bid protest against an Environmental Protection Agency contract, awarded on a no-bid basis to a Republican-affiliated, dirty energy-funded public relations firm.
We got results: The firm pulled out of the contract.
- We have worked closely with congressional allies to infuse the corporate themes into the appointments process, and use the narrative to oppose bad policies being pushed on health care, taxes, and in the budget, among other places.
And we’re just getting started.
Going forward, we will scale up these efforts, including by:
- Continuing to unmask the corporate connections of subcabinet appointees.
- Conducting investigative research deep dives into industry influence at specific agencies, including: for-profit prison companies at the Department of Justice, Big Pharma at the Food and Drug Administration, and Big Tobacco throughout government.
- Scrutinizing the revolving door between regulators and regulated industries.
- Leading the charge against the nomination of Alex Azar — a former executive of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly — to run the Department of Health and Human Services.
Our objective is to illustrate, again and again, that Trump’s corporate insider-dominated government betrays his pledge to stand up for the “forgotten” men and women.
We aim to break through both to those who were deceived into believing that Trump would help regular people and nonvoters who stayed home in 2016 out of frustration.
THWARTING THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER
We’re using all of our advocacy skills and resources to block countless bad proposals that Big Business thought it could rush through a Republican-dominated Congress.
In the tax fight and a few other instances, corporations and their cronies have been able to use special procedures to circumvent regular order and win favored policies.
But we have been able to stop a great deal of what they expected to achieve.
Example #1: Big Business thought it would be able to ram through legislation making it virtually impossible for future presidents to adopt strong regulatory protections.
That would have meant no new rules to stop bank rip offs, make medicines affordable or protect our air and water.
We organized, lobbied and mobilized. And we stopped them.
Example #2: Republicans maneuvered to use the tax overhaul to sneak through a measure that would have amounted to Citizens United 2.0.
It would have permitted churches and charities to engage in electoral activity.
Had it become law, churches and charities would have become the new Dark Money organizations — funneling hundreds of millions in new secret money into elections.
We mobilized thousands of faith and nonprofit groups that did not want their missions compromised, and tens of thousands of citizens who didn’t want to see their elections (further) compromised.
Against that backdrop, an obscure congressional rule was invoked that forced the Citizens United 2.0 provision out of the tax bill.
Example #3: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Big Business allies have been trying for years to use the budget process to slip in extraneous measures that would enable them to pollute, rip off the public, endanger consumers and otherwise operate recklessly.
They thought things were lined up to finally succeed.
But the Clean Budget Coalition — a grouping of hundreds of organizations that we coordinate — stopped them.
That’s just a sampling of what we’ve done.
Of course, there’s even more to do.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan has already said that he plans to use the deficits attributable to the tax cut as an excuse for cuts in food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare.
But guess what?
That’s not going to happen.
They want “welfare reform?”
We’re going to supercharge the discussion about corporate welfare reform.
And we’re going to help mobilize an American public that is very clear about its opposition to healthcare cuts.
If the Republicans are audaciously stupid enough to pursue that agenda, it will dominate next year’s policy fights.
But it won’t be all we’re on top of:
- The coal and nuclear power industries are aiming to orchestrate a $2.9 billion/year bailout.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains intent on stripping away people’s right to sue corporations for wrongdoing.
- Tough Guy Jeff Sessions — the same Jeff Sessions who wants to impose the harshest penalties possible on low-level offenders — is aiming to scale back dramatically corporate criminal prosecution.
In these cases and many more, we’re going to combine our technical and legal expertise, lobbying acumen, mass communications capacity and grassroots organizing to offset corporations’ power and influence.
And we’re going to win.
Facing an administration that daily expresses casual disrespect for the law, we’re heading to the courts in a way we’ve never done before.
Since Trump took office just eight months ago, we’ve sued him and his administration more than 10 times.
We’ve sued over illegal executive orders, delays and rollbacks of crucial regulatory protections, impermissible secrecy and unconstitutional disregard for the rule of law.
We are going to hold them to account.
- Ten days after he took office, we sued Trump in Public Citizen v. Donald J. Trump, to block Trump’s anti-regulatory executive order.
- We sued Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her effort to roll back protections for students victimized by the fraud of for-profit colleges.
- We sued Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson over his department’s suspension of a rule that would have assisted low-income families in securing affordable housing.
- We helped force the Justice Department to back down from a frightening plan to create a Trump enemies list.
- Representing 17 members of Congress, we sued under a government accountability law to gain access to information about the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. — a property that the president leases from the U.S. government, despite a specific contract term prohibiting such an arrangement.
- We sued the Trump administration to force it to release the names of people visiting key White House offices.
- We filed lawsuits under open records laws to obtain and make public Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency data, crucial chemical plant safety information, Ben Carson’s travel records, and more.
- On behalf of immigrant and civil rights groups, we sued to obtain a Homeland Security memo that urged the shutdown of a still-operating immigrant detention center subject to widespread complaints of abuse.
- We filed an amicus brief on behalf of 10 consumer and civil rights groups concerned that Trump has installed an acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who thinks the agency is a “sick joke.”
Each of these lawsuits aims to defend important and very specific rules, obtain specific documents, or block dangerous action.
Each of them also aims to advance an overarching objective: respect for the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.
The mere act of filing these cases, of forcing the administration to defend and justify its often lawless activity, helps to curb their reckless disregard for the law.
If we’ve been suing Trump again and again, what are our plans going forward?
To sue again and again and again and again.
As I write, we’re preparing a series of new cases, and there will be many more to come in response to Trump administration illegalities.
MOBILIZING FOR DEMOCRACY AND A BETTER COUNTRY
The public mobilization against the repeal of Medicaid expansion and the protections of the Affordable Care Act showed how coming together makes a difference.
The Republicans failed not because of an outburst of conscience, but because people across the country called and e-mailed and demonstrated and got arrested and turned out in town hall meetings.
The people — all of us together — won that victory.
To protect our democracy, nothing is more important than mobilizing the public.
We have plans in place for mass mobilizations across the country if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller or interferes in Mueller’s investigation.
With MoveOn.org and others, we have pre-organized a nationwide network of activists ready to hit the streets immediately in the event of Mueller’s firing or a comparable event.
More than 600 events in every state, involving more than 130,000 people, are ready to launch if needed.
But we know as well that, for all the threats we face, we can’t only be defensive.
We have to organize and mobilize now for the aggressive, progressive agenda that is in fact favored by the overwhelming number of Americans.
We know that doing so will inspire people to engage, renew their sense of hope and set the stage for big wins in the not-so-distant future.
Single Payer, Medicare-for-All: When the public mobilized against repeal of Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act, it wasn’t because Americans thought the Affordable Care Act was the best we could do.
They mobilized around the idea that health care is a right.
As a direct result, we now have more support and momentum in Congress for single-payer, Medicare-for-All than any time in the past 40 years.
In the coming year and beyond, we’re going to build the power, from the grassroots up, to win Medicare-for-All.
Affordable Medicines: Americans of all political stripes rate outlandish medication prices atop their priority list.
One in six Americans skip their prescriptions because costs are too high.
The more aggressive the policy reform in response, the more Americans support it.
But the political power of Big Pharma has blocked even modest solutions.
That’s going to change as we mobilize people across the country to turn their outrage into action.
We’re going to win Medicare price negotiation, curbs on Big Pharma’s monopoly power and prohibitions on price spikes.
A Robust Democracy: Thanks in large part to Citizens United, our democracy was in profound crisis even before Donald Trump.
Trump has just layered on a whole new set of problems that we never anticipated — shocking disregard for facts and truth, unprecedented attacks on the media and intensified efforts to exclude people of color and new Americans from the political process.
So long as we’re in the mode of surviving Trump, much of our democracy work will have to be defensive, to limit the damage he inflicts.
But we’re also launching a major, long-term initiative to do deep organizing for fundamental democratic reform, up to and including full restoration of voting rights and overturning Citizens United.
It is highly likely that in the near or medium-term future we will face a rupture from the grim status quo.
The predicate might be a scandal. It might be an electoral realignment. Or it might be something we don’t anticipate.
What’s important is that we act now to ready ourselves for that moment.
That means winning broad national consensus now for bold reforms, organizing diverse constituencies across the country, and being ready to pounce when the opportunity arrives.
We’re putting that plan in place right now.
Look, there’s no point in sugar-coating how bad things are with Trump.
But nor should we allow frustration, anger or sadness to depress or disarm us.
When we come together as Public Citizen, we make a difference.
We’re going to do everything in our considerable power to limit the damage inflicted by the Trump administration.
And we are also going to make sure that we are prepared to slingshot forward when he is finally shunted aside, so we can be the country we ought to be.
That’s our plan.
In scale and scope, it’s as ambitious as anything we’ve ever proposed.
It’s doable, if we all pitch in.
President, Public Citizen
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