Public Citizen Expands to the West Coast

Oct. 11, 2001

Public Citizen Expands to the West Coast

New California Office to Focus on Trade, Energy, Environment Issues and More

OAKLAND, Calif. — Thirty years after its founding in Washington, D.C., the national consumer advocacy group Public Citizen has opened a field office in California. In the new Oakland location, Public Citizen will work on national and state issues, placing a special emphasis on connecting with local advocacy groups and activists.

“What happens in Washington has a profound impact on the rest of the country, and what happens in California often signals emerging policy issues,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen since 1982. “Our new office will help us interact with many important allies and members across the country.”

The California field office will expand the reach of the organization?s work on its core issues, which include campaign finance reform, food and automobile safety, prescription drug pricing and corporate responsibility. The West Coast office also puts Public Citizen in a prime location for its work on international trade and energy policy. Public Citizen has already done significant research on California?s struggles with a deregulated electricity system, and the California office will enable the organization to increase that focus.

Public Citizen was founded in 1971 by consumer advocate Ralph Nader to fight for consumer interests in the legislatures, courts and regulatory agencies. Nader left the organization in 1980. The organization now has five policy groups: Congress Watch, which tracks congressional actions on health policy and campaign finance reform and monitors attacks on the civil justice and regulatory systems; the Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, devoted to studying nuclear safety, food irradiation and energy issues; Global Trade Watch, which campaigns for social and economic justice in international trade agreements; the Health Research Group, which works for prescription drug safety and healthcare delivery; and the Litigation Group, which fights in the courts for corporate and government responsibility. Public Citizen also does a significant amount of work on auto and truck safety.

Public Citizen has a Texas field office, which opened in 1984. Like the Texas satellite, the California office will work on issues from all of the policy groups. In total, the organization has roughly 90 employees.

California was a natural candidate for a field office because almost a fifth of Public Citizen?s membership of 150,000 lives in California. Jane Kelly, director of the new office, said that she hopes to tap these members? energy and involve them as activists.

“Public Citizen does a lot of important work on critical issues facing this country, and we want to engage Californians in those efforts,” she said. “We want to provide people with an opportunity to be involved and change the balance of power through citizen activism, and California is the natural place to do that.”

Kelly will run the office with Michael Dolan, deputy director of Global Trade Watch, and office manager Julie Chi.

Kelly previously worked for two years as a consultant to nonprofit organizations. Before that, she spent seven years with the Union of Concerned Scientists, where she led California campaigns promoting renewable energy and energy-efficient vehicles and fought against electricity deregulation.

The office held an opening event on Friday, Sept. 14. To contact the office, located at 1615 Broadway, Ninth Floor, in Oakland, call (510) 663-0888, or fax (510) 663-8569.

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