The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!

The law has never caught up with Trump. In his bullying and bankrupting business career, he laughed at the law – hiding behind corporations, tying up plaintiffs – workers, creditors, consumers, and shareholders – with court battles of attrition. His snarling lawyers either wore down Trump’s pursuers or settled disputes for less than the legitimate claims by those harmed. Trump’s lawyers pushed for gag orders to hide the settlements.

Trump always emerged with the gold by profiting at the expense of those around him. Trump made a profit out of the ruins of his companies, flouted the law by hiring undocumented Polish workers, cheated the students who were lured into the Donald Trump University, and often failed to pay his contractors..

Now, a different kind of law is closing in on the cheating Donald. As the Mueller investigation into Russian or related connections to the Trump campaign advances, Mr. Trump may be wondering what it means to be an unindicted co-conspirator (Justice Department rules prohibit indicting a sitting president). Or, more likely, the Mueller Special Counsel team is reviewing the case for an “obstruction of justice” charge against Trump, who has all but openly admitted that he can obstruct justice, though he would characterize his actions as justified.

Predictions in politics dominate the political discourse. But the proximity of a major constitutional crisis may be only a few months away. Here is why the Mueller team is not going away. They may subpoena Trump – either for documents, or for his deposition under oath, or both. Mr. Trump’s lawyers know the peril of perjury presented by Donald’s lying, cheating M.O.

Several times since last year, Trump, under pressure from Mueller regarding Trump’s associates and dealmakers, has slanderously and publicly lashed out against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He regularly declares he could fire these government officials.

On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Trump believes, as president, he can fire anybody and pardon anyone, including himself. Bolstered by an ideologically aligned five-judge Supreme Court majority, it is unlikely he is going to accept a dribbling out role as a defendant, especially on the serious charge of obstruction of justice, the charge that led to Richard Nixon’s downfall.

Indeed, Trump could take a chapter right out of Nixon’s playbook to fire the Justice Department officials, and dare this “witch hunt” to use the courts to bring him down, Trump is counting on the Republican-dominated Congress to block any impeachment trial.

Richard Nixon, as you may recall, got embroiled in what he called a “third-rate burglary” in 1972 by Republican operatives at the Democratic Party headquarters inside the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. There was a lot of interference and intrigue by Nixon and his associates to obstruct the efforts of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, working, like Mueller, out of the Justice Department.

As Cox started to subpoena the production of White House documents, Nixon reacted by ordering then-Attorney General Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson, unwilling to comply, resigned, then Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus followed suit. Robert Bork, then solicitor general, was willing to fire Cox. The resultant uproar led to an impeachment investigation by the House of Representatives.

Nixon, abandoned by many Republicans, resigned before the House of Representatives could vote for impeachment, believing he was doomed in both the House and the Senate. (Three members of Congress and I had already won a lawsuit against Nixon, with Federal Judge Gesell declaring his firing of Cox unlawful).

Firing Mueller and his superiors, replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Rudy Giuliani, and abolishing Mueller’s office would be uproariously dramatic theater. With his adversaries in divided disarray, Trump can dominate the mass media with hourly tweets to his 50 million followers and distract attention with foreign skirmishes and belligerent threats.

Sure, Mueller could name Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator and lawfully take his files to Congressional committees. The ensuing judicial process could drag on for months.

That said Trump is no Nixon. And today’s cowardly Republicans are not as independent as former Republican Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee. Today’s Congress has abdicated its responsibilities to be a co-equal branch of government.

The moody Nixon hunkered down in the White House in his final months in office, calling the “liberal” press his enemy and wondering how his “base” had dissipated. By contrast, Trump has his own huge social media following and would be all over the country at mass rallies goading his full-throated followers into the streets.

It is conceivable that the open investigations could continue in the criminal division of the Justice Department, as pointed out by Alan Morrison, our counsel in the Watergate era case against Nixon (see: Nader v. Bork). Trump would be clever to let the legal process drag out interminably. For if he tried to shut down the entire investigation, then that would be “the nuclear option,” in Morrison’s words (see: “Firing Mueller Is Only the First Step” ).

But why would Trump have to go that far, already thinking he wields the unlimited presidential pardon power for any contingencies?

Throughout his career, Trump has beaten the law and survived to further enrich himself. He did this as a brazen, foul-mouthed businessman. Imagine, in his mind, now as President and Commander in Chief, with his cowed party holding a veto on any impeachment drive, derisively stomping on the rule of law (see: “Land of the Lawless” ). The towering Trump believes he can defy the law, put toadies in high offices, and rid himself of the Lawman as the needs arise. For, as King Louis XIV said: “L’etat, c’est moi.”

Remember the vestigial Electoral College that selected Trump against the popular voter’s verdict.

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Slogan Voters: The Road to Political Masochism

Nearly a year and a half into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to hold his base and maintain an approval rating of around 40% – close to the same percentage he polled at just after his inauguration. Let’s try to figure out why.

It can’t be because he lies as a matter of daily routine. It can’t be because he’s giving away our store to big business – engaging in crony capitalism, creating more tax loopholes for corporations, shredding corporate crime enforcement, knowingly exposing Americans to more toxic pollution, committing more business fraud, adding more hazards to the workplace, cutting access to health insurance, and thereby making America dread again.

It can’t be because he’s taking your tax dollars away from repairing your infrastructure back home – schools, public transit, bridges, highways, airports, power grids, drinking water systems, etc., and pouring money into the bloated Pentagon budget beyond what even the Generals requested. (The huge “infrastructure project” he promised has yet to be proposed to Congress.)

It can’t be because he is soiling our society’s moral and ethical fabric and breaking the Golden Rule. (Trump is a peerless Oval Office bully, lashing out against the weak, powerless and defenseless.)

It can’t be because he is openly holding onto his business interests and enriching himself from foreign vendors in unconstitutional ways, violating the Emoluments Clause (cases challenging his personal gains while in office are now in federal court).

Maybe it is because he is expediently against a woman’s right to choose and common-sense gun regulation, selects corporatist judges, and keeps saying he loves his country (what politician doesn’t?).

President Trump’s words and deeds have not changed the minds of 40 percent of people polled. What else is going on here?

One answer is Slogan Voters. I’ve spoken to many people who are still for Trump despite all of his lies and misdeeds. They don’t pay much attention to politics. When they do, they reveal themselves as Slogan Voters. They are content with Trump’s rhetoric and rarely look beneath the surface at the details. That is, they are not bothered by being fact-deprived in political matters.

Here is what they tell me: They hate Hillary. They like Trump. They repeat the three slogans: Make America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, and Lock Her Up! Over and over again.

When I politely ask whether they are specifically aware of what Trump and his heads of departments and agencies are doing, they draw a blank. They explain that President Trump is shaking up Washington and draining the swamp. They believe that’s the reason why he generates such an uproar from the swamp-dwellers. In a bizarre way, the more outrageously false and nutty Trump’s tweets and actions are, the more these people feel that all the outrage is because he is draining the swamp and the swamp is lashing back at him.

Slogan Voters stress their belief in self-made men and women. They are often college-educated. They are not seen as bigots by their co-workers. They believe if you fail at something, it’s your own fault.

They agree there are bad things going on in government, but it’s not Trump’s fault. Their reaction to bad things that are openly, brazenly, and admittedly Trump’s fault – such as shutting down a consumer agency designed to stop Wall Street and the financial/credit industry from cheating you, crashing the economy, or crippling environmental health protections — is: It’s all part of draining the swamp.

Trump has become homeostatic — whatever goes around, comes around to his advantage for the Slogan Voters. Evidence against Trump is turned around to justify Trump. More than anyone else, Trump has understood this and fed these strange conclusions by inattentive minds.

What would the eminent philosopher of science, Aldous Huxley, think now? He said in 1927: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” But they do for Trump and his Slogan Voters. He creates his own web of delusion, and his supporters say he is draining the swamp and making America great again.

It wouldn’t matter a whit were they to receive critical articles, books, DVDs, or even Trump’s own self-contradictory words and record through the years. Recall his boastful sugarcoating as his giant casinos went bankrupt while he profitably escaped their draining impacts on others (e.g. the employees and unpaid contractors he hired to build them).

Unless someone comes up with a secret key to awaken the minds of Trump’s Slogan Voters, the best response is to draw some of the more than 100 million eligible non-voters to the polls for the crucial November elections. There are far more than enough votes to surpass the choices of the Trump Slogan Voters for the Congressional races.

One thing you have to credit these Slogan Voters for: THEY VOTE!!

Yeah, “Making America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, and Lock Her Up!”

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Professional Societies: Corporate Service, or Public Services for You!

They call themselves non-profit professional societies, but they often act as enabling trade associations for the companies and businesspeople who fund them. At their worst, they serve their paymasters and remain in the shadows, avoiding publicity and visibility. When guided by their better angels, professional societies can be authoritative tribunes for a more healthy and safe society.

I am referring to the organizations that stand for their respective professions – automotive, electrical, chemical and mechanical engineers; physicians; architects; scientists; and accountants. The people working in these occupations all want to be members of a “professional” association, not a “trade” association.

So let’s start by distinguishing how a “profession” is supposed to differ from a “trade.” First, profit is not to be the end-all of a profession and its practitioners. Moral and public interest codes of ethics are supposed to be paramount when they conflict with maximizing sales and income.

The National Society of Professional Engineers’ code of ethics stipulates that an engineer has a professional duty to go to the appropriate authorities should the engineer be rebuffed by employer or client who was notified of a dangerous situation or product.

Physicians have a duty to prevent the trauma or disease which they are trained to treat. A half-dozen physicians in the 1960s aggressively pressed the auto industry to build more crash-protective vehicles to prevent trauma casualties they had to treat regularly.

A profession has three basic characteristics. First is a learned tradition – otherwise known as going deep and keeping up with a profession’s literature and practices. Second is to continue a tradition of public service. Third is to maintain the independence of the profession.

How do professional societies measure up? Not that well. They are too monetized to fulfill their public service obligations and retain their independence. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has had a notorious history of following the technological stagnation of the auto companies. Their standards almost never diverge from what is permitted by GM, Ford et al. Indeed, the SAE’s standards committees are mostly composed of company engineers whose employers provide funding and facilities for any testing.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is waist-deep in the automation and artificial intelligence drive. You’ll not hear from that Society about the downsides, collateral risks and undisclosed data by the companies in this portentous area.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has not distinguished itself regarding the safety of gas and oil pipelines, allowing industry lobbyists to take over the federal regulator without as much as a warning whistle. This history was exposed years ago by a retired DuPont engineer, Fred Lang.

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) knows about the scores of vulnerable plants resisting regulatory efforts to safeguard their premises from sabotage that could destroy a nearby town or city. Ask Rick Hind, former legislative director for Greenpeace, about this evasion (See: “Chemical Security Testimony by Greenpeace’s Rick Hind”).

The American Medical Association (AMA) received peer-reviewed studies by Harvard and Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine pointing to at least 5,000 patient deaths per week from preventable problems in hospitals – from malpractice to hospital-induced infections. Despite this clear medical emergency, the AMA refuses to move into high drive against this epidemic. Mum’s the word. Where the AMA shouts out is against the law of torts and the civil justice system that, every once in a rare while, hold negligent or criminally behaved physicians accountable to their victims.

Possibly the most complicit profession facilitating, covering for, and explaining away corporate greed and deception is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Too many corporate accountants specialize in complex cooking of the books for their corporate clients. The Wall Street crash in 2008-2009 is a major case in point. Donald Trump knows about such accountants from his business career of obfuscation.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), after a long period of submissiveness, woke up to the energy waste/pollution crisis of modern buildings and developed standards with labels to give builders incentives toward more responsible construction. But by and large, it remains a profession, apart from modern technologies, which has left its best days back in the 18th and 19th centuries (e.g., the classic cities of Europe).

Now what about the scientific societies? The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) has led the way for nuclear arms control and other weaponized discoveries of the warfare state. On the other hand, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — by far the largest membership organization and publisher of Science magazine — has been utterly timid in putting muscle behind its fine pronouncements.

The large street protests by scientists in Washington, after the Electoral College selected Donald Trump, were started by young social and physical scientists. They stood up for scientific integrity and conscience and opposed Trump’s defunding of such governmental organizations as the National Science Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These scientists’ efforts have been met with some success.

What most Americans do not know is that many of the state and federal safety/health standards are taken in considerable measure from the weak “consensus” standards advanced by professional societies. These societies, so heavily marinated with their respective industries, see their important role of feeding their industry standards into state, national, and international standards which are enforceable under domestic law or treaty.

Maybe these societies continue a learned tradition at their annual meetings, workshops, and in their publications. But they far too often fail to maintain their profession’s standards of independence (from commercial supremacy) and commitment to public service.

These professional societies, and other associations not mentioned here, need to be brought out of their convenient shadows into the spotlight of public scrutiny, higher expectation, and broader participation.

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Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities

Top military, diplomatic, and political leaders have exposed, warned of, and condemned our runaway, unaudited military budgets for decades, to no avail.  (For many examples, see America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts by James McCartney, with Molly Sinclair McCartney.)  They usually come to the same desperate conclusion: that only organized citizens back in their Congressional Districts can make Congress stop this spending spree. Only us, Americans!

From 1953, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his “Cross of Iron” speech before the Convention of Newspaper Editors, to full-length addresses by President Obama’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, the warnings about unrestrained military spending have not been addressed. The military budget—now at about a trillion dollars when you add up all costs—is spiraling out of control and draining the public budgets for rebuilding America’s public infrastructure and services. Now both major parties go along with uncritical rubber-stamping.

Even the strict Pentagon budget of about $700 billion is now over fifty percent of the entire federal government’s operational budget for the other departments and agencies.

President Eisenhower said:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The oft-repeated phrase of “waste, fraud, and abuse” describing the Pentagon’s contracts with the giant defense industry rarely quantifies the toll of the outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars.  Too many way-over-budget weapons systems that are not needed, such as the F-35 boondoggle. Too many nuclear-equipped missiles, submarines, and bombers (referred to as the nuclear triad) are maintained at too-expensive levels.

Former generals, such as Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush’s national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, have called for scrapping two of the triad. Doing so would still leave plenty of dispersed, globally destructive power to act as a sufficient nuclear deterrent. But the war machine of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, and other big corporations is forever hungry for more and ever-bigger contracts.  While warmongering neocons and so-called think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute keep looking for enemies to exaggerate, the weapons industry lobbyists swarm over Capitol Hill demanding new military spending. The Trump administration is pushing a new arms race calling for spending at least $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years to allegedly upgrade existing nuclear weapons (see The Project on Government Oversight, “New Documents Raise Questions about Increased Nuclear Spending”).

Former Secretary of Defense Gates made pointed reference to the vastly excessive firepower of our too-many submarines and other delivery systems compared to all other countries in the world combined.

With Trump throwing more money at the DoD, the excessive Pentagon spending Gates described is much worse today. What to do?  Start with requiring a fully and authentically audited military budget, a provision already required by federal law since 1992.

The Pentagon has been in violation of that Congressional directive since 1992 but keeps promising that an audit is coming, to Congress’s Government Accountability Office (GAO).

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing in January, DoD Comptroller David Norquist promised an audit later this year. To illustrate his sincerity, Norquist said his office had already discovered two stunning situations: “The Army found 39 Black Hawk helicopters that had not been properly recorded in its property system. The Air Force identified 478 buildings and structures at 12 installations that were not in its real property system.”

The Comptroller did not go into the fraud and waste minefield that has lost taxpayers trillions of dollars since 1992. Not all this comes from the Pentagon. For years, the DoD has wanted to close dozens of costly, obsolete military bases in the U.S.  Various members of Congress, who view the military budget as a jobs program, have blocked these closures.

There is some light. Fifty-three members of the House of Representatives have signed on to H.R. 3079, which would reduce the budget of the Department (subject to emergency presidential waivers) by one-half of one percent if the Pentagon’s financial statements do not receive an audit OK by the GAO. H.R. 3079 is a stirring in the body politic, however weak the pulse.

Obtain a copy of H.R. 3079 and its named sponsors to see whether your Representative is on board. If not, demand to know why. All of Connecticut’s Representatives have ducked co-sponsoring this bill.

No such bill has been introduced in the Senate.

What more support do they need from the Pentagon than its own specialized audits, the GAO’s famous investigations, and a quote from Secretary Gates right inserted Sec. 3 (10) of H.R. 3079 from a speech given on May 24, 2011:

The current apparatus for managing people and money across the DOD enterprise is woefully inadequate. The agencies, field activities, joint headquarters, and support staff function of the department operate as a semi-feudal system—an amalgam of fiefdoms without centralized mechanisms to allocate resources, track expenditures and measure results relative to the department’s overall priorities.

This legislation needs immediate public hearings in Congress. Full annual audits will reveal the costs of Empire. This is your money that could be used in your own community for jobs to repair and upgrade your public transit, roads, bridges, schools, drinking water/sewage systems, and other crumbling infrastructure and facilities.

At a recent gathering focused on auditing the annual military budget, citizens from 16 Congressional Districts agreed to organize that pressure to make Congress work for us. Stay tuned.

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Trump: Making America Dread Again

Donald Trump is a well-known, self-described germaphobe. Unfortunately, he is not concerned about other Americans’ exposure to germs and disease. With leading infectious disease scientists from the Centers for Disease Control to the University of Minnesota warning about a global influenza pandemic (“not if, when”), Trump’s warmongering madman, John Bolton, has closed down a seasoned two-man global health security team.

The Washington Post reported last week about “the abrupt departure of Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, a respected scientist from the National Security Council,” who was “the top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic.”

At the time of Admiral Ziemer’s expulsion, a new Ebola outbreak in the Congo had just been reported.

Trump’s flagrant disregard for the safety of the American people has been punctuated by the proposed elimination of the budget reserved for containing an Ebola epidemic. Earlier this year, Trump pushed through Congress an additional $84 billion for the bloated, unauditable military budget—more than the Pentagon had requested.

Callous Donald is determined to enable and even abet companies that are spewing dangerous toxics into our air, water, and food-growing areas. Many of these companies have contributed to his campaign. This serial failed gambling czar’s coldblooded personality is anti-law. President Trump and his agency chiefs are violating federal statutory mandates to protect the health and safety of Americans.

Trump’s drive to take the federal cops off the corporate crime beats started early and recklessly. On the day he took office, Trump ordered an “immediate regulatory freeze” on the entire federal government. This stopped federal lifesavers in their rescues of endangered American workers, patients, travelers, vulnerable children, and frail, impoverished elderly.

He went from recklessness to ignorant idiocy by ordering all regulatory agencies to repeal two regulations for every one they were going to issue in the future. Business lobbyists were so delighted that they rushed to celebrate at Trump’s hotel just a few blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, spending money to make Trump richer—sometimes huddling with Trump’s regulators.

Wholesale shutting down of law enforcement, putting corporate operatives from the companies being investigated or overseen in charge of closing overdue government safety initiatives, and demanding huge budget cuts in agencies such as the EPA and FAA exceeds the broad “prosecutorial discretion” allowed by the federal courts.

Trump’s marauders are raging through one agency after another, revoking, freezing, or suspending lifesaving health/safety protections. Weaker job safety, auto safety, air and water pollution standards, and pesticide protections spell death, sickness, and illnesses with their attendant family anguish and costs, including to taxpayers.

The Trumpsters are destroying federal protections from the corporate fraudsters who have been caught cheating, lying, and stealing from savers, investors, patients, student loan borrowers, travelers, and insurance policy-holders. Renegade public criminals such as EPA boss, Scott Pruitt, and head of both the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Mick Mulvaney, are openly brazen and contemptuous of the agencies they run, despite their oath of office to uphold the law.

Pruitt, the subject of 12 ongoing federal investigations for spending tax money on himself, is probably on his way out. But Mulvaney, who recently bragged before 1500 bankers that, as a Congressman from South Carolina, he wouldn’t talk to lobbyists unless they had given him campaign money. He is one massive wrecking Goliath driven to leave consumers defenseless.

Mulvaney is bullying civil and criminal investigators fighting the corporate crime wave, from culpable Wall Streeters to payday loan sharks, and literally shutting down one enforcement action after another. Mulvaney even grotesquely restated the CFPB’s mission to include “the protection of Wall Street.”

You may remember news reports in early 2017 about Mulvaney wanting to save tax dollars by cutting the Meals on Wheels program, The Children’s Health Insurance Program, and by slashing the small law enforcement budgets of the health and safety agencies. What you may not know is that Mulvaney is a coward, running away from going after the vastly larger documented waste, fraud, and abuse in military contracting, and corporate welfare giveaways. He has not said a word about the $60 billion yearly fraud on Medicare committed by commercial crooks. He is a corporate crime aider and abettor.

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is pushing the same dissolution of law enforcement actions against the crimes and frauds of for-profit universities against unaware students, especially veterans. She too is placing people associated with these scams in charge of these despicable companies.

Trump wants to take America back to the days of “caveat emptor,” “let the buyer beware,” to the days of horrifying influenza epidemics, to the days of giving corporate crooks— that liberals and conservative Americans want prosecuted and jailed – a “get-out-of-jail-free” card.

Public interest lawyers alert! In the Supreme Court opinion of Heckler v. Chaney, shielding the agency’s enforcement policies from court challenge, it added a warning where the agency has “consciously and expressly adopted a general policy that is so extreme as to amount to an abdication of its statutory responsibilities.”

Are Senators or Representatives, who surely should have standing, ready to take the rampaging Pruitt, Mulvaney, or DeVos to federal court?

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An Open Letter to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc.

Tim Cook, CEO
Apple, Inc.
One Apple Park Way
Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Mr. Cook:

Last week, you announced the largest single stock buyback in corporate history, amounting to $100 billion.  Probably no more than you and two other Apple executives made this decision prior to receiving the expected rubber stamp from your congenial board of directors.  Your company’s owners – Apple stockholders– were neither consulted nor asked for their approval.

Executive compensation packages rely on stock buybacks.  (See The CEO Pay Machine by Steve Clifford, a former CEO who has served on corporate compensation committees.)  From 2005 to 2016, stock buybacks by the S&P 500 totaled $5 trillion – equal to half of net income and twice as much as paid to shareholders in dividends.  By the end of 2018, this figure will grow to well over $6 trillion.  The owners of these companies – the shareholders – were not asked by management for their approval.  After all, it is their big money, notwithstanding the out-of-control reliance on the “business judgment rule.”  Were they given the clear choice between stock buybacks or dividends, most shareholders would have preferred receiving this surplus in cash dividends now.

With your $100 billion announcement, you are telling shareholders, your company’s owners, without a detailed explanation regarding other options, that this is the best you can do to advance their interests.  This is short-term nonsense, except for its positive impact on executive compensation metrics.

Studies have shown that stock buybacks are just one variable in a large matrix of variables – internal and external to the company – that shape stock price and they are a weak variable at that.  (See attached list of studies).  You can examine major company stock buybacks for yourself (e.g., Cisco and Walmart) and see the accuracy of that observation.  Cisco, after huge buybacks and much greater profits and size, has its stock about one-half of its March 2000 value.

It is the better part of prudence and foresight for you to pursue two courses of action.  First, suspend the $100 billion decision or its implementation.  Second, enter into a professional, detailed exchange with your shareholders – institutional and individual – explaining why you do not think there are better uses long term and short term for their $100 billion. Receive their considered feedback all in public for other interested parties to be informed and educated.

You also owe it to less-favored taxpayers in America who don’t have the offshore repatriation tax reduction demands that Apple and other companies regularly pursue.  As Larry Fink, Chairman of the giant Blackrock investment firm wrote in his February 2018 letter to CEOs, “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.  Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”  (See attached).

In that context of proper expectations, here are some issues you can address in ways that would receive positive public reactions:

  1. For less than 2 percent of your $100 billion buyback, or $2 billion, you could award a full year’s pay bonus to the 350,000 Foxconn workers who build your iPhones.  Think of the economic relief and happiness that gesture would produce.  These workers sweat for your immense wealth in difficult workplace conditions, unable to afford the Apple phones they manufacture for your company’s massive profits.
  2. You can invest in research and development on ways you can diminish the effects of your company’s toxic supply chain that stretches from the dangerous mines in Africa to the hazardous solid waste disposal when users discard them.  Many serious illnesses, fatalities, and injuries associated with manufacturing your products can be prevented.
  3. With your reported reflective bent, you can make the case for reducing some of the collateral damage from excessive iPhone use by youngsters that comes with a sedentary life of obesity – now at risk-laden epidemic levels. Apple could invest in needed neighborhood recreational facilities all over the country.
  4. Of course, you could always cut your prices for consumers. In the 1960s and ‘70s, such profit margins as Apple’s would have been an antitrust signal of possible monopolistic practices or market collusion.
  5. Then there are the conventional applications of a cash-rich company to consider: productive new investments, raising employee salaries and pensions, improving hiring practices, and workforce training and consumer services.

Finally, it is unconscionable that the federal government decided to give Apple a huge tax windfall for repatriating its cash from abroad, while it refused to adequately fund the annual budgets of four critical agencies. The egregious examples of these budget inadequacies are the Center for Disease Control ($7 billion), the World Health Organization ($4.4 billion), the Environmental Protection Agency ($8 billion), and the IRS,  whose strapped budget made it unable to attempt to collect $450 billion in uncollected taxes (it currently has a budget of only $11.5 billion).

Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith called attention to the problems associated with concentration of private wealth and public deprivation over 60 years ago. 

The concentration of corporate power in ever-fewer hands, with expanding immunities and privileges denied “real persons,” continues to rise on matters of gravity to the American people.  Conservatives call these privileges “Statism,” or “crony capitalism,” that has enormous influence over government dispensations.  Mr. Fink’s cautions are worth pondering in more reflective formal settings.

The undersigned is not the only Apple shareholder who believes that stock buybacks, in contrast with other superior options, should be fully discussed with shareholders and then submitted to a binding shareholders’ vote.  You will be hearing from others.  Put your $100 billion stock buyback decision on hold.

I look forward to your thoughtful response.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

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Wake Up to Trump, Distraction and War with Iran

In mid-May, super-war hawks Donald J. Trump (worried about the Mueller investigation), John Bolton, Trump’s new unconfirmed national security advisor, and new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are likely to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord. This would open the way for Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Congressional allies to push for armed conflict with Iran.

“Don’t do it,” declare our allies, Britain, France, and Germany—signatories to the Iran accord along with China and Russia. “Don’t do it,” say former secretaries of state and secretaries of defense from both Republican and Democratic administrations. “Don’t do it,” says Trump’s own Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, and Trump’s chief of staff, General John Kelly.

“Don’t do it,” say outspoken former top Israeli national security and intelligence officials berating Netanyahu.

All of the above say Iran is in compliance with the accord’s demand to stop its nuclear arms program and allows thorough inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. All parties agree that if Trump disrupts this accord, even more havoc will break loose in that volatile region. This is what both Israel and some Persian Gulf nations may desire, as long as the U.S. bears the burden of this reckless action and plunges into another deep quagmire to add to those in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

You’d think that the Israeli government couldn’t play Uncle Sam a sucker to fight yet another war—this one against Iran with American soldiers and money. But the three warmongers, named above, are driving U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Congress regularly disregards its constitutional duties and follows the lead of AIPAC lobbyists.

Both Trump and Netanyahu paint Iran as the most dangerous terrorist state in the world. Really? It wasn’t the Iranian regime that illegally cost over one million Iraqi civilian lives and blew that country apart. It was George W. Bush and Dick Cheney becoming major war criminals whose actions cost the lives of over 5,000 American soldiers, injured or made sick well over 100,000 more, and wasted trillions of dollars continuing to this day.

Iran wants its sphere of influence.  The country has memories. For example, in 1953, the U.S. overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister and reinstalled the dictatorial Shah who ruled despotically for the next 26 years. In 2002, George W. Bush targeted Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, referring to them as the “axis of evil.”  Iran saw what he did to Iraq and didn’t want to take chances by surrendering its security perimeter.

The U.S. has Iran militarily surrounded on its eastern, western, and southern borders.  Israel has working spies in Iran, creating secret sabotage and mayhem.  Israel, which has illegally bombed civil war-wracked Syria (no threat to Israel) dozens of times, has recently hit locations known to have Iranian advisors to Bashar Assad, Syria’s ruler, while fighting ISIS, along with U.S. forces there.  Iranians have been killed in these raids.

So who is the aggressor here?  Unlike Israel’s many invasions and military incursions, Iran, a poor country, has not invaded any country for over 250 years. Iraq’s dictator invaded Iran in 1980, with U.S. backing, costing Iran an estimated 500,000 lives.

No country, save the U.S. Empire, has the chutzpah that Netanyahu possesses because he knows the U.S. government and the mass media will embrace his expanding push for U.S. militarism in the Middle East.

Note the interview by NPR’s Steve Inskeep of Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, on May 1, 2018.  Inskeep was trying to be firm with Mr. Dermer, who was going beyond any evidence that Iran possesses a nuclear weapons program.

The ambassador was showcasing the theft of old Iranian documents from an Israeli nighttime raid on an Iranian warehouse.  (The New York Times called these documents about a long-suspended program “Mr. Netanyahu’s Flimflam on Iran”).  When that ploy didn’t work, he tried to tell Inskeep that Iran will get to a nuclear bomb by staying with the deal because existing restrictions will be removed someday and the existing inspections are “a joke.”  He also condemned Iran for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The ambassador’s flailing accusations could have, but did not, set the stage for Inskeep to ask the following obvious question:

“Mr. Ambassador, Israel has long had a nuclear weapons program, with an estimated 150 or more nuclear bombs at the ready.  Also, your country has rejected belonging to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so you can avoid any international inspectors provided by this global agreement. Your critics would say, ‘Who are you to complain about Iran, which is afraid of not only your bombers made in America, but also your large nuclear bombs and warheads?’”

As in years past, the Israeli government won’t tell the globally recognized truth about having nuclear weapons. Instead, the ambassador would have uttered the boilerplate evasive reply that Israel would not be the first to use nuclear weaponry in the region.

For decades, Israeli leaders and emissaries have come to the U.S. for congressional speeches, for interviews on the Sunday network talk shows and in the print media. Questions about Israel’s nuclear bombs have not been juxtaposed with Israel’s desire for the U.S. to overthrow the Iranian regime or bomb Iranian installations. Trump’s war hawk in the White House, John Bolton, wants to go further. In the past, Bolton has urged Israel to militarily annex the Palestinian West Bank, presumably as a twofer.

Will enough American people, including knowledgeable retired national security and military officials, stand up to stop this slide toward another conflagration that will likely produce blowback in the U.S.?

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Letter to Congress re: Airline industry influence

To: Members of Congress
From: Ralph Nader, Consumer Advocate
Paul Hudson, President, FlyersRights.org

We are writing in reference to the airline industry’s influence on members of Congress and how such influence may be manifested through gifts, discounts, perks, and VIP treatment. Such disclosure is critical because Congress wields major authority over the airlines.

According to the Congressional Research Service, approximately 4% of the Members Representational Allowance—totaling about $20 million—was spent on official travel in FY2016. (fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40962.pdf). Chapter 3 of the House Ethics Manual, published by the House Committee on Ethics, addresses much but not all of Congressional travel policy. This document clearly states that government rates for airlines, hotels, and car rental companies are “available ONLY [emphasis ours] for official travel.” (ethics.house.gov/travel-information/official-travel-paid-official-funds)

However, the interpretation of these policies is often left to individual members. For example, the manual further notes: “Free travel, mileage, discounts, upgrades, coupons, etc. awarded at the sole discretion of a company as a promotional award may be used at the discretion of the Member or the Member’s employee.  The Committee [on House Administration] encourages the OFFICIAL [emphasis ours] use of these travel promotional awards wherever practicable.”

Members of Congress are effectively receiving a personal benefit of free air travel of at least 1-2% of the cost of their air travel expense paid for by US taxpayers.  So, for $20 million of government air travel, members receive at least $200,000 worth of tax-free personal air travel. If a government employee were to receive 1% cash for whatever the government paid to a vendor, it would certainly be classified as illegal; but because it’s in-kind, it has escaped ethics and anti-corruption laws.

As most members are weekly flyers, there is a symbiotic relationship they have with airlines that perhaps explains their unwillingness to rein in airline abuses and that gives this particular industry a special relationship with Congress not enjoyed by others.

In 2015, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) introduced H.R. 2210, the Coach-Only Airfare for Capitol Hill Act, which “would prohibit Members of Congress from using official funds from the Member Representational Allowance (MRA) to purchase first-class airline tickets while traveling for official Congressional duties.” (gosar.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=1957) Upon introducing this legislation, Rep. Gosar cited a 2014 Washington Post article titled “First Class Travel for Lawmakers: A Smarmy Tale of Congressional Political Games,” that referenced members of Congress voting in favor of first-class travel at taxpayer expense. (www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/05/15/first-class-travel-for-lawmakers-a-smarmy-tale-of-congressional-political-games/)

In recent years, several conflicts have arisen between the airline industry and elected and senior government officials. Please note the following:

OPERATION OF MONEY-LOSING ROUTES:
In 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey reached a non-prosecution agreement with United Airlines in connection with that carrier’s operation of a money-losing flight between Newark, N.J. and Columbia, S.C. (newsroom.united.com/2016-07-14-United-Airlines-Reaches-Non-Prosecution-Agreement-In-Port-Authority-Investigation) The flight was established to facilitate the private travel plans of the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees United’s dominant hub at Newark Liberty International Airport. (www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/07/14/united-port-scandal/87094180/)

WAIVER OF FEES:
With few exceptions (e.g., Southwest Airlines), domestic carriers impose hefty fees and/or nonrefundability clauses on nearly all domestic ticket purchases. However, the House Ethics Manual states: “The Committee has also issued a general gift rule waiver permitting Members to make multiple reservations for official travel if offered by an airline.” (ethics.house.gov/travel-information/official-travel-paid-official-funds) While House ethics rules may allow such waivers, it’s unclear if certain airlines offer them to members of Congress while simultaneously not offering such waivers to the general public.

OTHER ISSUES:
Multiple reports from nonprofit organizations and media outlets in recent years have detailed many other VIP perks for members of Congress by the airline industry:

• In 2011, the Center for Public Integrity noted: “Staff schedulers oftentimes make reservations for members of Congress via dedicated phone lines that Delta and other major airlines have reportedly set up for Capitol Hill customers. Airlines also permit members to reserve seats on multiple flights but only pay for the trips they take.” (www.publicintegrity.org/2011/11/23/7495/congressional-perks-lawmakers-most-surprising-benefits)
• In 2011, Roll Call confirmed that double-booking policies were ubiquitous: “‘We get on every single flight,’ one congressional aide familiar with the process told Roll Call last month.” (www.rollcall.com/issues/57_43/Being-in-Congress-Has-Perks-209558-1.html)
• In 2013, The Motley Fool noted: “What’s really unique is that lawmakers are afforded the ability by airlines to book themselves on multiple flights without being charged multiple times because of their very liquid schedules.” (www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/10/20/10-perks-congress-has-that-you-dont.aspx)
• In 2017, ThePointsGuy.com noted: “Given that members’ time is rather valuable, a staffer told me that one senator will tell staffers to book him refundable seats on the 6pm, 7pm, and 8pm flights back to his district each Thursday so he can have a more flexible schedule.” (thepointsguy.com/2017/01/how-government-officials-fly/)
• In 2011, FrequentlyFlying.com cited similar reports: “Delta Air Lines has upgraded several of Georgia’s current and former politicians with Gold, Platinum, and even Diamond Medallion status [in the SkyMiles frequent flyer program].” (frequentlyflying.boardingarea.com/delta-air-lines-granting-elite-status-to-top-georgia-elected-officials/)

In light of these matters, we are writing to request that you share information that should be public on whether airlines, airport authorities, and/or government agencies have provided you or your staff with favors and privileges not provided to the general public, including frequent flyer rewards status and the amount of free personal air travel accumulated or used at government and taxpayer expense. We have detailed such privileges below.  Please share what your office has accepted and declined.

PRIVILEGES GRANTED BY AIRLINES:
• Operating flights specifically for your convenience
• Intentionally delaying or rescheduling flights for your convenience
• Ticket discounts
• Complimentary tickets
• Complimentary upgrades to premium economy, business, or first classes
• Complimentary amenities (meals, drinks, inflight entertainment, etc.)
• Complimentary elite status in frequent flyer programs
• Waivers of ticketing fees for changes, rebooking, refundability, etc.
• Waivers of ancillary fees for checked baggage or other services
• Access to airport lounges
• Priority boarding/disembarking
• VIP escorts
• Other amenities or perks

PRIVILEGES GRANTED BY AIRPORT AUTHORITIES AND/OR GOVERNMENT AGENCIES:

• Complimentary and/or VIP parking at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and/or other facilities
• Expedited clearance through U.S. Transportation Security Administration airport security processing
• Expedited clearance through U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing
• Expedited clearance through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processing
• Other amenities or perks

Please notify us if you have any questions or additional comments. Thank you for your assistance. May we hear from you by Monday, June 4, 2018 to avoid receiving repeated requests and petitions?

Thank you.

Ralph Nader, Consumer Advocate

Paul Hudson, President, FlyersRights.org

SOURCES:

U.S. Congressional Research Service; “Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage;” September 27, 2017; (fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40962.pdf)

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ethics; “Official Travel Paid With Official Funds;” (ethics.house.gov/travel-information/official-travel-paid-official-funds)

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Standards of Official Conduct; “House Ethics Manual;” 2008 Edition; (ethics.house.gov/sites/ethics.house.gov/files/documents/2008_House_Ethics_Manual.pdf)

Rep. Paul Gosar; “Rep. Gosar Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Prohibit Members of Congress from Flying First Class on the Taxpayer Dime;” May 1, 2015; (gosar.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=1957)

Washington Post; “First Class Travel for Lawmakers: A Smarmy Tale of Congressional Political Games;” May 15, 2014; (www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/05/15/first-class-travel-for-lawmakers-a-smarmy-tale-of-congressional-political-games/)

The Center for Public Integrity; “Congressional Perks: Lawmakers; Most Surprising Benefits;” November 23, 2011; (www.publicintegrity.org/2011/11/23/7495/congressional-perks-lawmakers-most-surprising-benefits)

Roll Call; “Being in Congress Has Perks;” October 17, 2011; (www.rollcall.com/issues/57_43/Being-in-Congress-Has-Perks-209558-1.html)

The Hill; “Business Travel Coalition: Lawmakers Advocate ‘Mother of All Subsidies’ for Delta, United, and American Airlines;” May 22, 2015; (thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-budget/242863-lawmakers-advocate-mother-of-all-subsidies-for-delta)

USA Today; “United to Pay $2.25M in Newark Scandal;” July 14, 2016; (www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/07/14/united-port-scandal/87094180/)

United Airlines; “United Airlines Reaches Non-Prosecution Agreement in Port Authority Investigation;” July 14, 2016; (newsroom.united.com/2016-07-14-United-Airlines-Reaches-Non-Prosecution-Agreement-In-Port-Authority-Investigation)

The Motley Fool; “10 Perks Congress Has That You Don’t;” October 20, 2013; (www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/10/20/10-perks-congress-has-that-you-dont.aspx)

The Points Guy.com; “How Government Officials Fly—From the President to Your Local Representative;” January 23, 2017; (thepointsguy.com/2017/01/how-government-officials-fly/)

View from the Wing; “It’s Good to Be the King: The Special Travel Perks Enjoyed by the Political Class;” February 18, 2015; (viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2015/02/18/good-king-special-travel-perks-enjoyed-political-class/)

ViewFromTheWing.com; “Is It Wrong That Members of Congress Get Special Treatment from the Airlines?;” May 29, 2015; (viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2015/05/29/is-it-wrong-that-members-of-congress-get-special-treatment-from-the-airlines/)

Bloomberg Businessweek; “The Pampered World of Congressional Air Travel;” April 30, 2013; (www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-04-30/the-pampered-world-of-congressional-air-travel)

The Hill; “Congress to Lose VIP Parking Spots at National Airport;” April 26, 2017; (thehill.com/policy/transportation/330667-congress-to-lose-vip-parking-spots-at-reagan-airport-this-summer)

FrequentlyFlying.com; “Delta Air Lines Granting Elite Status to Top Georgia Elected Officials;” June 21, 2011; (frequentlyflying.boardingarea.com/delta-air-lines-granting-elite-status-to-top-georgia-elected-officials/)

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Letter to Jeff Sessions

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Robert F. Kennedy Building
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Re: Corporate Crime Database and Annual Report

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been clear about the dangers posed by corporate crime.

In its strategic plan for fiscal years 2014-18, the DOJ states that economic crimes present “very severe threats to the United States’ economy” and that the “explosion of financial fraud over the past few years has threatened the Nation’s financial stability.”

To put the gravity of these threats in context, the DOJ has recognized that “threats to the U.S. economic system must be addressed with the same seriousness and sense of purpose that guide efforts to protect the safety of the Nation.”

In similar terms, the DOJ calls health care fraud “one of the most destructive and widespread national challenges facing our country.”

In April 2017, you told a group of compliance officers meeting in Washington, D.C., “We will enforce the law.  We’re not going to back down to powerful forces, big companies or powerful economic interests.”

To properly face these major threats, it is important that the DOJ have more specific and timely ways to measure the incidence and severity of corporate crime, to determine whether its efforts against them are successful or not, and the many ways they might be improved.

Currently, the DOJ does not compile comprehensive data on corporate crime. This is a notable oversight.

It is as if the Department of Education had no measures for how well our children learn, or if the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no idea of how much wheat or corn our farmers grow.

The failure to measure can lead to sloppy thinking, bad decisions and entrenched neglect.

We urge the DOJ to equip itself with the power afforded by measurement and data analysis.

For street crime, the FBI oversees the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which tracks data from over 18,000 local and state law enforcement agencies.

The DOJ should launch a parallel program for corporate crime and law-breaking, including but not limited to antitrust and price-fixing, environmental crimes, financial crimes, overseas bribery, health care fraud, trade violations, labor and employment-related violations (discrimination and occupational injuries and deaths), consumer fraud and damage to consumer health and safety, and corporate tax fraud onshore and offshore.

A pittance invested here will go a long way toward promoting more lawful corporate behavior and the critical public support the DOJ needs for adequate enforcement budgets and stronger laws.

The DOJ should produce and maintain a corporate crime database.  This is an elemental form of accountability.  Street criminals have rap sheets — corporate law-breakers ought to have them, too.  This could help to deter and punish such crime in many ways.

For example, prosecutors, regulators and judges could use the database to identify recidivist violators and to assess appropriate sanctions. Procurement officials could use a corporate crime database to identify corporations that fail to meet the “responsible contractor” standard in the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

In addition, by making the database available online to the public for free, it would benefit countless journalists, criminologists and other scholars, investors, and others interested in crime in the suites.

At a minimum, the corporate crime database should:

  • Be searchable by parent company, major subsidiaries, corporate official name, industry, type of crime, city, state, and date of crime.
  • Contain individual company data, including the number of civil, administrative and criminal enforcement actions brought against corporate defendants by government agencies involving a felony charge, misdemeanor, or civil charge where potential fines may be $1,000 or more.
  • Specify the agency bringing each charge, the charge, the name of the company charged (including the ultimate parent company), and the outcome of the action if any, including plea agreements, consent decrees, findings of innocence, convictions, and fines and other penalties.

The “Corporate Crime Database Act” (H.R. 6545 in 111th Congress, H.R. 323 in 112th Congress) was introduced in 2010 to require the DOJ to establish and maintain such a database, and to make it available to the public via the Internet.

Such proposals have been made by advocates for many years.

The DOJ should also issue an annual report on corporate crime.

At a minimum, the report should provide an estimate of the total annual cost of corporate crime in the United States.

It should include not only costs of crimes committed by individuals against businesses and investors (white-collar crime), but also the costs that corporate crime imposes on the rest of society, including the resulting deaths, injuries and property damage. In addition, millions of Americans lost their jobs, due to the financial crisis of 2008-9, which was caused by mortgage fraud and reckless speculative Wall Street gambling. Imagine Americans lost trillions of dollars because of financial sector greed and lawlessness.

The report should present an analysis of trends in corporate crime and an explanation of the relative effectiveness of various conventional sanctions, and the potential of new sanctions.

While the UCR Program does measure certain forms of white-collar crime, it is far from a thorough treatment of corporate crime.

The DOJ’s annual corporate crime report should also tally data about prosecutions and compile agency enforcement data, including budgets, descriptions, staff, and status of investigations. The report should also address the issue of unenforced noncompliance.

The report should include the number of cases referred to U.S. attorneys for prosecution each year by the FBI or other federal and state agencies, as well as the status and ultimate disposition (i.e., how many referrals were prosecuted; how many prosecuted were found guilty; how many settled with deferred and non-prosecution agreements; the magnitude and kind of penalties involved; how many cases settled).

It should also compile agency enforcement data, including the number, description, and status of investigations initiated by federal agencies (including the DOJ and Department of Labor as well as the EPA, SEC, IRS, OSHA, CPSC, FDA, FRA, FAA, NHTSA and FTC).

More than one-third of a century has elapsed since the DOJ issued a thorough analysis of corporate crime in America (“Illegal Corporate Behavior”, October 1979).

We are well into the 21st century, and non-governmental unofficial databases on corporate crime have been created to partially fill the void.

The University of Virginia Law School has pulled together its Corporate Prosecution Registry. The Corporate Research Project has its Violation Tracker. But there is still no comprehensive official federal database of corporate crime in America.

Given your recognition of the tremendous costs of corporate crime to Americans, their household wealth and our economy, the DOJ must resolutely employ these most elementary tools of analysis and accountability without further delay.

We would like to meet with you to discuss these matters as well as broader consensus subjects relating to corporate crime, fraud and abuse that annually are costing many human casualties and hundreds of billions of dollars to taxpayers and to private-sector consumers, workers, and small businesses. According to a 2015 report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there had been an estimated $60 billion in annual fraud and abuse just on Medicare the year before.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Consumer Advocate

Rena Steinzor
Edward M. Robertson Professor of Law
University of Maryland Carey Law School

Robert Weissman
President
Public Citizen

Greg LeRoy
Executive Director
Good Jobs First

Philip Mattera
Director
Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First

Robert Fellmeth
Price Professor of Public Interest Law
University of San Diego School of Law.

Charlie Cray
Interim Director of Political and Business Policy
Greenpeace USA

John Richard
Director
Essential Information

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Letter to Mark E. Ojakian

Mark E. Ojakian, President
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities
61 Woodland Street
Hartford, CT 06105
April 11, 2017

Dear President Ojakian,

News reports regarding the Board’s plan to centrally consolidate the administrative and operational structures of the system’s state colleges, including the community colleges, raise troublesome questions:

  1. Those persons who spoke or wanted to speak had less than two days to study and prepare from the plans release. Why so short a time?
  2. Centralizing and consolidating moves very often project savings more optimistic than the ensuing reality that flows form expanding an existing bureaucracy from the top and ignoring the costs – both tangible and intangible that flow from local control, accessibility, greater personal feedback and accountability. Why did you just put forth the alleged savings and not the costs?
  3. Consolidation is another word for concentrated power and further delays in decisions over local people and their local institutions. Concentrated power invites abuse of power and shreds local innovations and morale. What make you think that taking power away from communities, especially those with traditions of town meetings and referenda will bring the best out of people who learn in and run these community colleges?

F. Philip Prelli, a former state agricultural commissioner and board member at the Northwestern Connecticut Community College Foundation, opposed this consolidation, noting the benefits lost from consolidating power far removed if not absentee from local conditions. He said, “Let us not take the ‘community’ out of community college.”

On that last observation, you may wish to read the just published Democratizing America: Shaf Nader and the Founding of an Impossible College, recounting my brother’s lead role in founding the Northwestern Connecticut Community College in Winsted (recently rated first among such colleges in Connecticut and 86th in the nation of over 1200 community colleges). Pertinent in the book is his thoughts on the community nature of community colleges. Had there been consolidation then, he could not have been successful, for Winsted would have been considered too small a town for such an institution which now sports several new and renovated buildings in addition to Founders’ Hall.

I look forward to your response and hope it pays attention to fairer procedures, openness and affirmative efforts to invite commentary from all constituencies, including students and faculty affording them full disclosure of your work product for education.

Top down conclusions leading to top down dictates are not conductive to the purposes of any educational body in a purported democratic society.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,
Ralph Nader

PO Box 19367
Washington, DC 20036
[email protected]
202-387-8030

Now that you have done the deal to ‘strip mine’ the Connecticut community colleges, will you respond to my April 11, 2017 letter seeking information about the asserted savings and the real costs of this scheme?

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