Boards of Directors
Our boards of directors work in tandem to plan Public Citizen's future and adjust to the ever-changing present. Public Citizen Foundation board members focus on research and public education, while Public Citizen Inc. board members focus on lobbying and organizing.
Public Citizen Foundation
Mark A. Chavez, Chair
Mark Chavez received his Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School in 1979. During law school he served as a judicial extern for the Hon. Mathew O. Tobriner of the California Supreme Court, was a co-founder and the first managing editor of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal and a founding member of the Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation.
Mr. Chavez joined the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., after graduating from law school. He spent three years representing executive branch agencies and the U.S. in labor, employment, housing and national security cases filed in federal courts around the country. In 1983, Mr. Chavez entered private practice working first at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in San Francisco, Calif. and subsequently at Farrow, Bramson, Chavez & Baskin in Walnut Creek, Calif. In 1994, Mr. Chavez and Jonathan E. Gertler founded the law firm of Chavez & Gertler LLP. The firm's attorneys represent plaintiffs in consumer, employment, and civil rights class actions. Mr. Chavez is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell and has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer eight times.
Mr. Chavez has represented plaintiffs in a wide variety of class actions, private attorney general cases and other complex civil litigation matters involving financial services, lending practices and insurance charges.
He has served or is currently serving as lead or co-lead counsel in more than 110 class actions filed in federal and state courts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington. These cases have resulted in some of the largest recoveries ever achieved in consumer class actions.
Mr. Chavez was one of the eight founders of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and is its former co-chair. He is a former board member of the National Consumer Law Center, Disability Rights Advocates, Public Justice, Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation and Consumer Attorneys of California.
Jim Bildner is managing director of the Center for Applied Philanthropy and The Fund for Sustainability. He is chairman of the Literary Ventures Fund and general partner of New Horizons Partners, LLC. He is a trustee of The Kresge Foundation, Case Western Reserve University, Lesley University, The Non Profit Finance Fund, The National Public Radio Foundation and The Trustees of Reservations. He is on the board of The Lizard Island Research Foundation in Australia, The Good Deed Foundation and the McCue Corporation. He is an overseer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a member of the executive council of WBUR (Boston Public Radio), chairman of WBUR's Board of Overseers and an overseer of WGBH Public TV and Radio. He is also a member of the National Council of Environmental Defense, chairman of the Coral Reef Science Foundation and on the editorial board of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.
A frequent lecturer and speaker on venture philanthropy and literature, he is also an adjunct professor of law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and is the Humanities and Literature Departments' entrepreneur in residence at Clark University. In his board service, Mr. Bildner serves on the investment committees of boards with aggregate endowments in excess of $6 billion and serves as chair or a member of the finance and audit committees of three boards.
Mr. Bildner earned his A.B. from Dartmouth College, his J.D. from Case Western Reserve School of Law and his M.F.A. from Lesley University. Mr. Bildner has written numerous articles, op-ed pieces and commentaries for newspapers, magazines and radio including National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hampshire Daily Gazette and Inc.Magazine. His most recent book, "A Visual Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast," was published by McGraw Hill in May of 2006. He is a candidate for an M.S. in journalism at Boston University, a member of the Writers Room of Boston, Inc. and a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Robert C. Fellmeth
Robert C. Fellmeth is Price Professor of Public Interest Law University of San Diego School of Law and director of its Center for Public Interest Law. He joined the faculty in 1977 after a career in public interest law. Professor Fellmeth graduated from Stanford University (AB 1967) and Harvard University School of Law (J.D. 1970). From 1968 to 1973, he was an attorney with the Center for the Study of Responsive Law and was one of the original "Nader's Raiders." He has also served as deputy district attorney for San Diego County and assistant U.S. attorney for the Department of Justice in San Diego, specializing in antitrust prosecutions. He is the co-author of the treatise "California White Collar Crime" (w/ Papageorge, Lexis, 2003).
Professor Fellmeth founded the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) in 1979. It teaches law students the skills of public interest law, offers clinics and publishes the California Regulatory Law Reporter. Professor Fellmeth served as the California State Bar Discipline Monitor from 1987 to 1991, helping to create an independent State Bar Court. He founded the Children's Advocacy Institute (CAI) in 1990, which trains law students as child advocates and operates a clinic representing abused children in juvenile dependency court. It also functions as a statewide law firm on behalf of children. Both CPIL and CAI pursue litigation and legislative projects, and have sponsored over thirty enacted statutes relevant to public transparency, ethics, consumer rights, and child health, safety and welfare. Professor Fellmeth has argued 40 published appellate cases in the consumer and child rights subject areas. He is the author of the graduate text, "Child Rights and Remedies" (Clarity, 2003, 2006). He serves on the board of the Maternal and Child Health Access Foundation and the First Star Foundation; is Vice Chair of the Board of the National Association of Counsel for Children; and is counsel to the Board of Voices for America's Children.
David Halperin engages in public policy advocacy; advises organizations on strategy, policy, politics, communications and legal matters; and writes at RepublicReport.org. He has advised groups including Greenpeace, Democracy for America, Public.Resource.Org, and, in the 1990s, Public Citizen.
Mr. Halperin was previously: founding director of Campus Progress and senior vice president at the Center for American Progress; senior policy adviser for Howard Dean's presidential campaign; founding executive director of the American Constitution Society; White House speechwriter and special assistant for national security affairs to President Clinton; a fellow of the Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet & Society; co-founder of the Internet company RealNetworks; and counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Annie Leonard is the executive director of Greenpeace USA and a longtime environmental activist. She is author of the book, "The Story of Stuff" and the creator of "The Story of Stuff" documentary, which has been viewed more than 40 million times online. "The Story of Stuff" explores the often hidden environmental, health and social impacts of production and consumption. The Story of Stuff Project has since produced eight more films.
Ms. Leonard began her career as an activist at Greenpeace International in 1988, where she spent eight years as an international toxics campaigner working to prevent international waste exports. She is an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues. In 2008, she was named one of Time magazine's environmental heroes. She has worked for Health Care Without Harm and Essential Action.
In addition to serving on the board for Public Citizen, she also serves on the boards of the Wallace Global Fund and the Social Mission Board of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. She previously served on the boards of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Grassroots Recycling Network, the Environmental Health Fund, Global Greengrants India, Greenpeace India and the International Forum on Globalization.
She did her undergraduate studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, and she has a masters degree in city and regional planning from Cornell University. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and leads Greenpeace USA from its San Francisco office.
Cynthia Renfro is the principal and CEO at Civis Consulting LLC in Seattle, Washington, a consulting firm launched in 2012 to support philanthropic institutions and community-based organizations in developing and implementing strategic and intentional programs. Civis Consulting has expertise in grant-making, organizational development, comprehensive human resources development and program implementation at local, state and national levels.
Until November 2012, Ms. Renfro was the director of programs and evaluation for the Marguerite Casey Foundation, where she was responsible for overseeing the foundation's core grant-making activities and evaluation strategy. Prior to joining the foundation, Ms. Renfro served as a program officer at the Beldon Fund and a consultant to the Iraq Peace Fund of the Tides Foundation. Before joining the Beldon Fund, she worked at the Turner Foundation in Atlanta as a program officer and then program director, where she helped manage approximately $25 million in payouts to more than 400 environmental organizations each year.
Ms. Renfro started her nonprofit career working for the Multinational Monitor, a magazine that tracks multinational corporations and is part of Essential Information, founded by Ralph Nader. There, she championed corporate accountability, human rights and a clean environment both domestically and internationally. Ms. Renfro also serves on the board of directors of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and is on the Capital Campaign Advisory Committee at the Highlander Research & Education Center. She has served on the boards of the National Network of Grant-Makers, the Environmental Leadership Program and the Neighborhood Funders Group.
Cynthia Renfro is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, and went on to become a Rackham Merit Fellow PhD student of American History at the University of Michigan.
Steve Skrovan grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated from Yale University in 1979 with a degree in English and began his career as a stand-up comedian. He wrote for television shows, including "Seinfeld," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Til Death." Mr. Skrovan co-wrote, produced and directed "An Unreasonable Man," the documentary about the life and career of Ralph Nader.
Gerson Smoger has represented a wide range of clients in consumer and personal injury litigation. His special emphasis in personal injury has been in birth and early childhood injuries, injuries related to the brain and neurological system, and injuries caused by errant pharmaceuticals or environmental exposure, including their carcinogenic and adverse immunological properties.
In 2012, Mr. Smoger was named Public Justice's national "Trial Lawyer of the Year" after his success in trying the case of Alexander v. Fluor for more than three months against a lead smelter that had poisoned young children. He was previously named a finalist for Public Justice's "Trial Lawyer of the Year" award for his role in the trial of Price v. Philip Morris, involving the fraud of "light" cigarettes. He has served as lead counsel in a number of other significant cases, such as the representation of the people of Times Beach in Missouri, groundwater contamination by Teledyne, Fairchild, and IBM in Silicon Valley, chlorine gas exposure in Alberton, Montana, childhood lead contamination in Herculaneum, Missouri, and numerous consumer class actions. He successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court the right of Vietnam veterans to bring suit for Agent Orange exposure. Always on a pro bono basis, he has represented many amici before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Medical Association, the Center for Auto Safety, the American Legion, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and Public Citizen.
Mr. Smoger currently serves on the board of Public Justice (as a past president), as secretary of the Board of Physicians for Human Rights, as a trustee of the Pound Civil Justice Institute and as chair of legal affairs for the American Association for Justice (AAJ), a position he also held from 2009 to 2012. Previously, he served on the Board of Governors of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) (1996 - 2006) and as a vice chair of the American Bar Association's Toxic Torts, Hazardous Substances and Environmental Law committee (1993-2001). He is a co-sponsor of a national law school competition under the auspices of Public Citizen (the "Hogan/Smoger Access to Justice Essay Contest"). In 2012, he was named Missouri's Environmentalist of the Year. He has been acknowledged every year as a "SuperLawyer" since that program began in 2003. He has also co-written the musical play, "Some People Hear Thunder."
Mr. Smoger earned his bachelor's degree from Lycoming College (Summa Cum Laude) before he undertook graduate studies at Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he passed his orals with distinction at the age of 21 and subsequently was awarded his Ph.D. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the bars of California, Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Robert Weissman, Ex-Officio
Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen. He also serves on the board of Public Citizen Inc.
Public Citizen Inc.
Jason B. Adkins, Chair
Jason Adkins co-founded and is an attorney for the national litigation firm Adkins, Kelston & Zavez. A consumer attorney and alum of Public Citizen, Mr. Adkins has been litigating to rein in and reform the insurance industry. He also founded and served as executive director of the Center for Insurance Research, a leading non-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on behalf of insurance policyholders nationwide. He worked for Public Citizen from 1984 to 1988, when he directed Buyers Up, a grassroots consumer energy and advocacy program.
Among his accomplishments at Adkins, Kelston & Zavez was his successful leadership of a national effort to prevent unfair mutual-to-stock (demutualizations) of major life insurance companies employing regulatory, public policy, media and litigation strategies, which resulted in the preservation of and/or fair distribution of over $200 billion for policyholders.
He has actively investigated and litigated major class action cases on behalf of consumers around the country involving a broad array of alleged misconduct by insurers. He also has litigated on behalf of non-insurance classes of consumers against pharmaceutical companies, banks, and property owners harmed by a coastal oil spill.
Mr. Adkins has represented clients before the U.S. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Massachusetts Board of Medicine, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection, numerous state insurance and other agencies, and professional groups.
A graduate of Harvard Law school, Mr. Adkins also worked against "tort reform" in the early 1980s for the Center for the Study of Responsive Law.
Joan Claybrook was president of Public Citizen from 1982 to January 2009. During that time she oversaw many successful advocacy campaigns, including playing a key role in persuading Congress to mandate air bags, as well as pushing measures to improve fuel economy and truck safety. Prior to becoming president of Public Citizen, Ms. Claybrook was head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1981. Before serving as NHTSA administrator, Ms. Claybrook founded and ran Public Citizen's Congress Watch division and worked for the Public Interest Research Group, the National Traffic Safety Bureau, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Among her many honors is honorary doctor of law, Goucher College, 1980; honorary doctor of public service, University of Maryland, 1981; Philip Hart Distinguished Consumer Service Award, Consumer Federation of America, 1986; Excellence in Public Service Award, Georgetown Law Center, 1990; honorary doctor of law, Georgetown University, 1993.
Andrew S. Friedman is an attorney at Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint, P.C. in Phoenix, Ariz. His practice is devoted primarily to litigation of major class action cases in federal and state courts throughout the United States.
Mr. Friedman received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Rochester in 1975 and his Law Degree from Duke University School of Law in 1978. He is a member of the trial sections of the American Bar Association and the Arizona State Bar Association. He also is a Board Member of Public Justice.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Friedman has represented plaintiff classes in major consumer, securities fraud, anti-trust, civil rights and insurance sales practices cases. Mr. Friedman has played a lead role in many landmark cases, including:
· Class actions against major life insurance companies challenging the deceptive manner in which life insurance products were marketed to consumers during the 1980s. These cases returned hundreds of millions of dollars to policy owners and resulted in regulatory reforms of the life insurance industry.
· Class actions on behalf of African-American policy holders against life insurance companies seeking relief under the Federal Civil Rights Act for racial discrimination in the sale and administration of life insurance policies.
· Class proceedings on behalf of African-American and Latino borrowers asserting claims against mortgage lenders for racial discrimination in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Housing Act.
· Class actions against insurance companies challenging the sale of deferred annuities to senior citizens. These cases allege RICO claims and other theories to obtain redress for allegedly false and misleading representations inducing elderly purchasers to invest their life savings in illiquid and poorly performing annuity products.
· Class action proceedings on behalf of health-care providers and medical associations against major managed care companies seeking recovery for allegedly improper claims payment practices and use of the Ingenix database to improperly reduce payments to patients, physicians and other providers.
· Class actions on behalf of investors, including elderly investors who purchased debentures and/or stock in American Continental Corp., the parent company of the now-infamous Lincoln Savings & Loan. The suit charged Charles Keating, Jr., other corporate insiders, three major accounting firms, law firms and others with racketeering and violations of the securities laws.
Mr. Friedman has lectured at numerous continuing legal education programs and has testified before the U.S. Congress in connection with proposed legislation to limit the rights of consumers in class action cases. He also has testified before the Arizona Legislature in connection with legislation on the Arizona Anti-Racketeering Act and the Arizona Securities Fraud Act.
Danny Goldberg is the president of Goldve Entertainment (GVE), an entertainment company representing artists in music, touring, books, films and other media. GVE manages the careers of Steve Earle, Dolores O'Riordan (The Cranberries) and Martha Wainwright, among others. He is a periodic writer for The Nation, Dissent and Alternet.org. He is also a member of the boards of The Nation Institute, Americans for Peace Now, Brave New Films and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.
Previously, Mr. Goldberg has worked in the music business as a personal manager, record company president, public relations man and journalist since the late 1960s. He wrote "Bumping Into Geniuses" (Gotham Books, 2008) and "How the Left Lost Teen Spirit" (Akashic Books, 2005), which appeared in a shorter form as "Dispatches From the Culture Wars" (Miramax Books, 2003). Mr. Goldberg was CEO of Air America Radio from 2005 until mid-2006; chairman and CEO of Mercury Records, a division of Polygram from 1995 to 1998; chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Records in 1995; president of Atlantic Records from 1993 to 1994; and founder and president of Gold Mountain Entertainment, whose clients included Nirvana, Hole, Sonic Youth, Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers and Rickie Lee Jones from 1983 to 1992. He began his career as a music journalist at the age of 18, writing for Rolling Stone, Billboard and The Village Voice.
Mr. Goldberg has received the ACLU of Southern California Torch of Liberty Award in 1998, the PEN Center USA First Amendment Award in 2003, the Americans for Peace Now Yitzhak Rabin Peace Award with Victor Goldberg in 2005 and was the LAANE City of Justice honoree in 2012.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, "Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow" who has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be -- consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
Each month, he publishes a populist political newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown," which has received both the Alternative Press Award and the Independent Press Association Award for best national newsletter.
He is a New York Times best-selling author, and has written seven books including, "Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back;" "If the Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates;" and "There's Nothing In the Middle Of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos." His newspaper column is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate.
Mr. Hightower has spent his life battling for the rights of consumers, working families, environmentalists and small businesses. A graduate of the University of North Texas, he worked in Washington, D.C., as legislative aide to Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas; he then co-founded the Agribusiness Accountability Project, a public interest project that focused on corporate power in the food economy; and he was national coordinator of the 1976 "Fred Harris for President" campaign. Mr. Hightower then returned to his home state, where he became editor of the feisty biweekly, The Texas Observer. He served as director of the Texas Consumer Association before running for statewide office and being elected to two terms as Texas Agriculture Commissioner (1983-1991).
Joy Howell is a managing partner of Cambridge Strategic Partners, a public affairs and public relations consulting firm. Prior to founding CSP, she directed the Office of Public Affairs of the Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C. There, she served on the Chairman's senior management team and managed 70 employees. She also served as one of the communications directors on the Gore Lieberman Presidential Campaign in 2000.
Previously, she was communications director to U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) As president of Howell Communications Group, Washington, D.C./Los Angeles, she represented over 100 Fortune 1000 corporations and their trade associations. She developed public policy strategies in the 1980s for General Motors, Subaru and Dart/Kraft Industries. In the 1990s she implemented marketing plans for companies such as AT&T, Aetna, Frito Lay and Pacific Gas and Electric.
After completing her MBA at the University of Redlands, Ms. Howell studied public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and business at Harvard Business School. She earned a Master in Public Administration (MPA) with a focus on international business and policy, including telecommunications convergence, corporate strategy, international marketing, corporate governance, and change management. Studies in international business at Cambridge University, England, inspired her MBA thesis on the European Monetary Union. She has been an instructor and guest lecturer at the Kennedy School at Harvard, George Washington University, and the University of Texas.
A partial list of awards, honors and elected positions includes: past board member, University of Texas at Austin, College of Communications; Chairman's Award, Federal Communications Commission, Outstanding Alumni Award, University of Redlands; Distinguished Service Award, Austin City Council; executive vice president, Student Government, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; president, Foggy Bottom Association.
John Richard is president of Essential Information, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging citizens to become active and engaged in their communities. He also supervises staff at The Center for Study of Responsive Law, the hub of Ralph Nader's public interest activities in Washington.
Dr. Anthony So is a professor and director of the IDEA Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. He also leads the Strategic Policy Program of ReAct - Action on Antibiotic Resistance, a global network dedicated to meeting the challenge of antibiotic resistance, with regional nodes in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Previously, he was a professor of the practice of public policy and director of the Program on Global Health and Technology Access at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. Dr. So also served as associate director of the Rockefeller Foundation's Health Equity Division where his grant-making programs ranged from helping to ensure more affordable access to AIDS medicines to enabling tobacco control efforts in Southeast Asia. Overseeing the Liaison Office for Quality as senior advisor to the administrator at the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. So coordinated departmental input to the President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry and its Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. He served as Secretary Donna Shalala's White House Fellow, when he launched the department's first electronic public service announcement featuring the "Smoke-Free Kids and Soccer" campaign. In the past, he has served on a variety of national, nonprofit boards including Echoing Green, Clean Water Fund, Grantmakers in Health, the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum, and the Open Society Institute's Information Program Sub-board.
Dr. So also has served in various advisory capacities from the Advisory Council of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Accelerating Rare Diseases Research and Orphan Product Development. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Community Catalyst and the Advisory Board for Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. He was also part of the Antibiotic Resistance Working Group of the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology.
He received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and biomedical sciences and his M.D. at the University of Michigan. He earned his Master in Public Affairs from Princeton University as a Woodrow Wilson Scholar. Dr. So completed his residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and his fellowship in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of California, San Francisco/Stanford.
Robert Weissman, Ex-Officio
Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen. He also serves on the board of Public Citizen Foundation.