THIS WEEK: Public Citizen celebrates Sunshine Week by pulling back curtains on travel junkets, trade, the FDA and more!
This week in Washington, D.C., we are celebrating the best disinfectant — sunshine! This morning our President Robert Weissman spoke at a press conference of organizations that share in our horror when they contemplate the flood of undisclosed campaign donations that the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed with Citizens United vs. Federal Election Committee ruling. One need only take a look at the Super PAC spending map, to see that we are looking at a democracy for sale. Now, there’s a bounty for the first employee to step forward with information on their employers trying to funnel corporate cash to influence elections. Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, the deep-pockets of the world are more empowered than ever. However, Public Citizen and allies are more committed than ever to pulling back the curtain on campaign finance and a number of other issue areas, committees and agencies where the connections between corporate interests, politics and policy-making desperately need to be exposed.
Case and point: Travel junkets. Public Citizen is disgusted to see the House Committee on Ethics again giving approval for “travel junkets,” against which our government reform expert Craig Holman successfully waged war back in 2007 in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. Picking up the tab for members of Congress’ stays at the Four Seasons is now apparently perfectly OK because such tabs are paid for by the Heritage Foundation, as opposed to the lobbying wing of the conservative think tank, “Heritage Action for America” (absolutely NO affiliation or conflict of interest here, of course)! The Greenbay Press Gazette quoted Holman this weekend on the matter:
‘What’s troubling is these are junkets sponsored by people who have business pending before Congress,’ said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, who was instrumental in amending the travel rules in 2007. ‘This is what we worked so hard against after the Jack Abramoff scandal.’
Meanwhile, the Greenbay Press Gazette reports: “The ethics committee declined to comment.” Cough, cough. Someone didn’t get the memo that it’s Sunshine Week!
While the House ethics committee is keeping quiet, the lips of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group Deputy Director, Dr. Michael Carome, are not sealed. Carome is testifying before the Food and Drug Administration’s Arthritis Advisory Committee, which is discussing safety issues regarding anti-nerve growth factor drugs, a class of drugs being developed for a the treatment of a variety of chronic pain conditions.
Tomorrow, as part of Sunshine Week, we will be joining with our fellow government watchdogs to challenge Republican presidential candidates to step up to the plate and be more transparent about a certain practice we have never been too fond of. Keep your eyes peeled for the release!
On Wednesday, longtime Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy will be talking about the Indiana Dendrite case at the D.C. Media Law Committee’s lunch meeting. Levy successfully argued this case in 2001 and, in so doing, helped shape jurisprudence, as the Dendrite case has become a touchstone that has guided countless Internet freedom of speech case rulings since then.
Also in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, is the hilariously-named “Sunrise at Sundown.” (Who says policy wonks can’t have a sense of humor?) If you will be in the D.C. area, we hope you will plan to swing by the National Press Club to check out this happy hour/networking event, hosted by our pals at the Sunlight Foundation and featuring a host of organizations fighting for a more open government — Public Citizen included, of course! The event starts at 6 p.m. and anyone interested in attending should RSVP here.
Thursday, at the request of the New York City Public Library System, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman will speak about the Freedom of Information Action in honor of Freedom of Information Day. Thursday also marks the beginning of the implementation of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), meanwhile the Melbourne round of the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement negotiations are just wrapping up. For more on these matters, make sure to check out our www.EyesOnTrade.org blog and bookmark this page.
And, the week will round out with the launch of our latest campaign to put some sunshine on corporations that are trying to undermine your access to justice through the use of forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of contracts we now see just about every day. Additionally, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s Sammy Almashat will be speaking on a panel at the Left Forum in New York City on unethical clinical trials in developing countries.
Of course, these are just the things we know are going to be happening. Our experts always have their sleeves rolled up and ears to the ground. Why? Because we know when there’s more sunshine, there are better outcomes for consumers.
Rachel Lewis is @Public_Citizen‘s new media strategy & online outreach coordinator from sunrise to sundown, and beyond! Follow her @citvox for the latest from this blog and other happenings.