Sept. 8, 2009 

Robert Weissman, Longtime Corporate Accountability Expert and Activist, Is Public Citizen’s New President

Harvard-Trained Lawyer and Essential Action Director Helped Lower Cost of HIV/AIDS Drugs in Developing Countries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Robert Weissman, longtime director of the corporate accountability organization Essential Action, editor of the Multinational Monitor, a magazine that tracks corporate actors worldwide, and an attorney with the Center for Study of Responsive Law, is Public Citizen’s new president, the organization announced today.

Weissman, 43, is a staunch public interest advocate and activist who takes the helm of the organization as the nation wrestles with critical choices that pit the public interest against the corporate interest.

Weissman’s top priorities are climate change (“the defining issue of the next 50 years, and the world right now is on a terribly worrisome trajectory”), health care reform (“the Obama administration and congressional leaders have refused to consider the only approach – a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system – that can cure the system’s ills”) and financial regulation (“through avarice and recklessness, Wall Street has sunk us into the worst recession of the past 70 years, yet rather than express shame, these institutions continue to dominate the policymaking debate”) as well as campaign finance reform.

“Public Citizen will do everything it has done so well for nearly 40 years – and more,” Weissman said “We are going to continue to work in all branches of government and address a broad spectrum of issues. We also will develop new ways to work with our members and allies, so that together we build new forms of citizen power. And we will invest more in organizing people, both virtually and through traditional, on-the-ground means. I am proud to follow in the footsteps of Public Citizen’s first president and founder – Ralph Nader – and Joan Claybrook, who served as Public Citizen’s president for 27 years.” 

Bob Fellmeth, chairman of Public Citizen Foundation, said Weissman was selected because of his exceptional background and ability to effect change.

“We chose Rob because of his unique combination of traits: a brilliant mind and fierce independence,” Fellmeth said. “He is capable of mastering the most complex public issues. At the same time, he is plugged into the real world, as demonstrated by his crucial and inspiring work to lower pharmacy prices for AIDS victims and others in the developing world. Rob can master patent law and economic theory and apply that knowledge politically for real-world outcomes.”

“Robert Weissman is an extraordinarily talented person who is steeped in the policy issues we pursue,” said Claybrook, who will remain on Public Citizen’s board. “He cares deeply about this organization and its public advocacy achievements. With the opportunities and challenges presented by the Obama administration and the Congress, his leadership will be crucial to the advancement of so many needed reforms.” 

Weissman was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. After graduating from Shaker Heights High School, he headed to Harvard University. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1989, earning a B.A. in social studies, and got his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1995, graduating magna cum laude. He remains a member of the Ohio bar.

In 1989, Weissman began editing the Multinational Monitor, a magazine that tracks multinational corporations and reports on the global economy, with a focus on labor, the environment, indigenous rights, public health and consumer protection.

Essential Information (the umbrella organization for Essential Action and the Multinational Monitor) and the Center for Study of Responsive Law (a research and advocacy organization) were founded by Nader. Essential Action was formed to provide a way to redress the injustices reported in the Multinational Monitor magazine. Weissman has directed the organization since 1995.

Weissman  was a leader in organizing the 2000 International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests in Washington D.C., helped make HIV drugs available to the developing world and has provided assistance to numerous governments on intellectual property and access to medicine issues.

“Public Citizen is unique for its record of advancing the public interest across a broad issue spectrum, its commitment to principle, its tenacity and its insistence on focusing on root problems and solutions,” Weissman said. “Public Citizen stands out in Washington for its tremendously accomplished and committed staff, with deep expertise in a wide set of issues. I’m very excited to join this team.”

READ a welcome message from Weissman.

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