Recently a diary was dumped into our space by a group called Consumer Watchdog. They post here regularly, dropping diaries on various topics and leaving without engaging in discussion. The inflammatory title attracted immediate attention and immediate reaction:
In the course of the discussion several Kossacks, notably Eyesbright and wilderness voice, began to smell a fish. Who are these people? What do they want here? Are they truly consumer advocates or are they just another astroturf shop that makes big bucks while pretending to serve the little guy?
Come along below the gizmo and let's try and sort this out:
Consumer Watchdog appears to be a fearsome group of activist lawyers who take on special interests and protect individuals from predatory corporations and intrusive government. Their website is impressive: well credentialed lawyers working on an array of seemingly progressive issues.
So what's the beef? Well, Consumer Watchdog, formerly known as the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is a tireless advocate for transparency --everywhere except when their own business is concerned.
According to Consumerwatchdogwatch.org they aren't a legitimate consumer group at all.
Consider these facts:A Democratic political consultant in Sacramento, Steve Maviglio, took to the pages of the SF Chronicle in an attempt to shine a light on Consumer Watchdog:
It claims to work for the public interest, but refuses to reveal who its funders are;
Rakes in millions of dollars for itself from a self-serving "intervenor fee" provision it inserted into a ballot initiative;
Has been fined by California's Fair Political Practices Commission for illegal actions;
Has a founder who has pocketed millions from the organization and its affiliates, and lives in a $1.75 million mansion; and
Is funneled money by special interests, including corporations, for its grandstanding and attacks.
One source of Consumer Watchdog's financing is public record. Consumer Watchdog sprang from the loins of Voter Revolt, which gave us Proposition 103 and auto insurance reform in 1988. Organizations created by Prop. 103 author [and founder of Consumer Watchdog] Harvey Rosenfield have collected $7.8 million in intervenor fees since his measure passed, including $2.4 million in 2009 alone.According to Maviglio, Consumer Watchdog strongly opposed the Affordable Care Act .
No other group has received any of these fees in years. (It's not clear why consumers need intervenors when there are lawyers, actuaries and analysts at the state Department of Insurance to protect our interests.) Meanwhile, Rosenfield has paid himself millions of dollars through nonprofits, including one organization whose only grant, according to IRS records, is a grant to another one of his organizations.
More recently, Consumer Watchdog pushed legislation that would regulate health insurance rates at the state level even though the federal government plans to do the same thing - with one critical difference. Federal law doesn't pay "intervenors," so Consumer Watchdog wrote a state law that promises juicy intervenor fees in California.
They were bashing Planned Parenthood over a disagreement on malpractice limits, but that is not all their new patient safety initiative proposes. It (PDF) requires mandatory random drug testing of doctors, requires doctors to inform on each other, and automatic suspension from practice upon test failure, pending a bureaucratic investigation, regardless of whether the doctor in question was taking painkillers for, say, a recent root canal. Trying to capitalize on the failed war on drugs hysteria is hardly a progressive agenda.
Given the lack of transparency of this organization, given that we don't know where their money comes from, given that they regularly drop diaries that read like PR promotions, given that they almost never engage in discussion with Kossacks, given their recent attack on Planned Parenthood, given all that and more, the question is: why are they here?