There are no days off for the people’s lobbyist. Public Citizen’s corporate and government watchdogs, consumer advocates and champions of public interest had another busy week last week and have kept the news media busy too. Here are a few highlights:
On Sept. 27, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group released a study finding that state settlements with drug companies over Medicaid fraud are at record highs, and many states recover more than they spend on enforcement. An AP story about the report ran the day the report was released and was quickly picked up by The Washington Post and other newspapers around the nation. In the story, Public Citizen’s Dr. Sammy Almashat, the researcher who wrote the report, is quoted as saying, “It should come as no surprise that states facing Medicaid budget shortfalls are finally deciding to root out fraud that has likely cost their taxpayers billions of dollars of the years.” Bloomberg wrote its own report on the study, and due to the pervasiveness of prosecutions by state governments, local newspapers were on top of the story as well. They included the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Keys News, The Texas Tribune and the Lexington Herald Leader. Democracy Now! reported on the study, highlighting our contention that increased fees to pharmaceutical companies are still not enough curb their illegal behavior.
Also last week, Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, debated The Cato Institute’s Jerry Taylor on CNBC. Slocum slammed Sen. Ron Paul’s (R-Ky.) proposal to repeal the federal gas tax, calling it a “radical view.” Slocum highlighted the need to reform the tax and proposed a “vehicle miles driven tax,” which would more “evenly distribute the burden” of the tax. He reminded viewers of the country’s “huge infrastructure needs” and concluded that “repealing the gas tax is irresponsible.”
Slocum was busy on another front, promoting the need for strict sanctions, rather than fines, for companies that violate trading rules in the electricity market. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering sanctions against JPMorgan for its abuse of trading rights in Southern California. In the Los Angeles Times, Slocum praised this move, stating “When a company is faced with significant sanctions, not just a financial slap on the wrist, it’s going to take it seriously.”
And last Friday, Ben Protess with The New York Times DealBook quoted Public Citizen in his piece on commodity futures trading, and a recent court decision to strike down a rule designed to stem speculation in the oil market. Our point was clear: “The winners and losers from this ruling are clear: Wall Street win, consumers lose.”
For all of Public Citizen in the news, check out our media page.
Miriam Diemer is @Public_Citizen‘s communications office intern.