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How Companies Turn Your Facebook Activity Into a Credit Score

This story in The Nation explains our work challenging the way data brokers use "black box," or secret, algorithms to make scoring decisions that may violate the law and deny credit opportunities. This work was also the subject of our recent livestream event featuring Professor Frank Pasquale and his new book, "The Black Box Society." We've now posted an archive of that event, in 3 chapters on our Youtube page.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG | Safe Energy

Statement in Response to Maryland PSC Ruling on Exelon Pepco Merger.

“We are disappointed that the Maryland Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to approve the merger between Chicago-based nuclear power giant Exelon Corp. and Pepco Holdings Inc. They should have stood up for Maryland ratepayers and rejected the anti-consumer merger.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG | Transportation

Statement on Amtrak Derailment

Statement by Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr on the May 12th Amtrak derailment along a curved stretch of track near Philadelphia. Reports indicate the train was traveling 106 miles per hour on a curve designated as safe for travel at 50 mph.

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News Release | Fair Elections Maryland Coalition | Democracy

Montgomery County Funds Groundbreaking Fair Elections Program

(Rockville) - The Montgomery County Council took an important step forward for fair elections in its FY16 budget by seeding the Public Campaign fund with a $1 million.

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Blog Post | Public Health

"Closer to Customers" | Emily Scarr

Steve Easterbrook, the President and CEO of McDonald's, last week put out a 23 minute video talking about changes afoot with the fast food giant. He bluntly said, "Our recent performance has been poor."

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News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation and Citizens for Tax Justice | Tax

Study: 70% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2013

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including Stanley Black & Decker in Maryland – to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the Maryland PIRG Foundation and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ). Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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News Release | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Saves Consumers $12.6 Billion Annually

On May 22, the fifth anniversary of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, consumer advocates applaud the Act’s success in saving Americans billions of dollars in predatory and excessive fees. By one estimate, the CARD Act has saved consumers $12.6 billion annually in lower fees and interest charges; a recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau identifies nearly $4 billion annual savings in fees alone.

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Media Hit | Democracy

Money & Politics

How will recent campaign finance rulings by the Supreme Court and by the Maryland Board of Elections affect the governor’s race and other state campaigns? How do Maryland campaign finance laws compare to those of other states? Our guests: Andy Kroll, senior reporter for Mother Jones; Bruce Marcus, chair of the bipartisan state commission that looked at Maryland’s campaign finance structure; and Emily Scarr, director of Maryland’s Public Interest Research Group.

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Media Hit | Tax

Editorial: Improve online databases

“Big data” has become a catchphrase of our age, and Gov. Martin O’Malley is a professed believer in data-gathering and numbers-crunching as a tool in governing – hence, his much-heralded StateStat system. So it’s a little disappointing — if not surprising, given the usual bureaucratic resistance to change – that only modest steps have been taken to make this bonanza accessible to the taxpayers.

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Media Hit | Tax

Slightly Brighter Sunlight

Maryland is gradually improving its scoring when it comes to being transparent to the public, having moved from a C to a B- in a recently released report card from the Maryland PIRG Foundation.

That grade could get better: Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law this week legislation that may shine a little more light into the dark and dusty corners of state spending.

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Report | Maryland PIRG, WTC, Safer States | Consumer Protection

Hidden Hazards in the Nursery

Parents expect the products they buy for their babies to be safe. But new testing of 20 baby and children’s products, including bassinet pads, nursing pillows, changing pads, and car seats, has found toxic flame retardants in 85% of the items.

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Report | Budget, Democracy

Representation Without Taxation

Marking the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, this report takes a hard look at the lobbying activities of profitable Fortune 500 companies that exploit loopholes and distort the tax code to avoid billions of dollars in taxes.

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Tax Shell Game

Tax havens are countries with minimal or no taxes, to which U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals transfer their earnings to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Users of tax havens benefit from access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security, but pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system.

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Apples to Twinkies

America is facing an obesity epidemic – one that’s hitting children especially hard. The rise in childhood obesity has many causes, but one of the most important is the increased prevalence of high-fat, heavily sweetened junk food.  And shockingly, American taxpayers are spending billions to subsidize junk food ingredients, making the problem worse.

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Report | Budget

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Privatized traffic law enforcement should be used solely as a tool for enhancing traffic safety – not as a cash cow for municipalities or private firms.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Floor Vote on Budget Delayed over Special Interest "Riders" From Wall Street, Other Powerful Interests | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: Opposition to a controversial provision authored by Citibank forced House leaders to delay consideration of the "CRomnibus" appropriations package just hours before funding for the federal government expired at midnight Thursday. Eventually the bill passed narrowly with the Wall Street provision intact. Action now shifts to the Senate, which has a 48-hour window to pass the bill, but any one Senator can block it under Senate rules. The provision would again allow Wall Street banks to place risky bets with taxpayer-backed funds, and require taxpayers to bail them out if the bets fail, repealing a key protection added in the 2010 Wall Street reform law. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

8 Toy Safety Tips for 2014 | Evi Lowman

Play is an essential part of childhood. Unfortunately, thousands of children go to the emergency room every year because of injury from unsafe toys. Our tips will help you to choose the right toys for the children in your life. You can read our 2014 toy safety report here.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We oppose merger between giants Comcast & Time Warner Cable | Ed Mierzwinski

We have joined the Consumer Federation of America in a petition to deny the merger of cable/Internet giants Comcast & Time Warner Cable.

 

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Priority Action

We're teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Call on KFC to stop selling meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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