Baseball Fan Protection Act
Nike v. Kasky
Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods
National Organic Standards
Cooperative Purchasing--Saving Local Taxpayer Funds
Pro Consumer Bank Regulations
View press releases and related documents on consumer rights
Congressman Kucinich has cosponsored a number of bills that would increase consumer protections and protect his constituents from deceptive practices. In the 110th Congress, he was a cosponsor of the Credit Cardholder Bill of Rights Act, which would require advance notice of any rate increases, eliminate double-cycle billing, and prohibit universal default, when servicers use changes to a consumer’s credit score (or other adverse information) to increase the annual percentage rate (APR) on a card that remains in good standing.
The Congressman has also cosponsored bills to amend the Truth in Lending Act to protect consumers from certain unreasonable practices of creditors, which result in higher fees, or rates of interest for credit cardholders, and to require credit card issuers to mail monthly statements at least 30 days before the due date of the next payment.
The Baseball Fan Protection Act
Although citizens are increasingly required to subsidize the construction of stadiums for professional sports teams, a rising number of sporting events now require a paid subscription service to view the events on television. As a result, many fans may never be able to watch the teams they love and support with their tax dollars. In turn, in the 108th Congress, Congressman Kucinich introduced the Baseball Fan Protection Act, HR 2745, which would increase the number of baseball games shown on free, broadcast television.
Under current law, franchise owners are able to write off half the cost of the purchase price of the team by capitalizing and depreciating players’ contracts. The Baseball Fan Protection Act amends current law, making the tax break available to franchise owners only if they offer local television broadcasters the option to bid on the rights to air games. If a local broadcaster offers a reasonable bid, the franchise owner must accept this bid. If the bid is unreasonable by market standards, or if no broadcast bidders are forthcoming, the franchise owner is free to accept bids from cable operators at any price the team can command. HR 2745 has been endorsed by the Pro Baseball Fans Association.
Nike v. Kasky
Congressman Kucinich spearheaded the Congressional effort to oppose the Nike Corporation’s attempt to grant corporations unprecedented leverage to make false statements to consumers with legal impunity. In sponsoring an amicus or “friend of the Court” brief in the Supreme Court case, Nike vs. Kasky, Congressman Kucinich urged the Court to dismiss Nike’s claims that the First Amendment protects corporations from false advertising lawsuits, even for instances in which the corporation knowingly makes false and misleading factual statements to consumers in an effort to increase product sales.
In this particular case, a California citizen sued the Nike Corporation for making statements aimed at consumers that distorted its historic and present treatment of workers in overseas factories. When a Nike-sponsored audit of its facilities was leaked to the press and revealed pay stubs and other evidence that contradicted Nike’s statements, the company sought First Amendment protection in court.
In his argument to the Supreme Court, Congressman Kucinich wrote that corporations exist only as artificial entities or legal constructs that are expressly created by people and possess only the privileges we grant them. They have no unique entitlement to fundamental American rights and thus should not be granted the same liberties citizens enjoy, including the full protection of the freedoms contained within the Bill of Rights. Although Nike and other corporate officials must be free to express their views as individuals with full constitutional protections, different standards of speech protection should apply when those same officials carry out the business of the company. In such circumstances, the company and its managers act with a clear financial incentive to mislead the public in an effort to maximize shareholder returns.
Congressman Kucinich warned in the brief that if the Court ruled in favor of Nike, granting corporations a constitutional right to advertise product falsehoods, citizens would have no recourse to hold corporations accountable in a variety of circumstances critical to consumer safety and protection.
In his brief, Congressman Kucinich used the following hypothetical scenarios to underscore the types of false statements a corporation could legally express with full constitutional protections if Nike were to prevail:
- A tuna company could state that its tuna is caught in dolphin safe nets when it is not.
- A cosmetics company could state it does not test on animals when it does.
- An agricultural company could state its products are organic when they are not.
- A company could state its products are made by union labor when they are not.
In a victory for consumer protection and the integrity of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the arguments put forth in Congressman Kucinich’s brief and dismissed Nike’s claims.
Genetically Engineered Foods
Congressman Kucinich has established himself as a leading advocate for genetically engineered food regulation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Kucinich believes that the American citizen must have the right to choose what foods they and their family eat and be assured of the safety of those foods. The current lack of regulation of genetically engineered do not respect those rights.
On July 29, 2008, Congressman Kucinich introduced three genetically engineered food bills combing those he originally introduced in 2003. The three bills include H.R. 6636, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, H.R. 6635, the Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act and H.R. 6637, the Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act. Congressman Kucinich will reintroduce this legislation in the 111th Session of Congress.
The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act:
Consumers deserve to know whether the food they purchase and consume is a GE food. This bill requires food companies to label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered material. The bill establishes a legal framework to ensure the accuracy of labeling without creating significant economic hardship on the food production system.
The Genetically Engineered Safety Act:
Given the consensus among the scientific community that genetic engineering can potentially introduce hazards, such as allergens or toxins, GE foods need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, contamination by pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops pose substantial liability and economic risks to farmers, grain handlers and food companies. This bill would therefore, require the FDA to screen all GE foods through the current food additive process to ensure safety for human consumption and require that unique concerns be explicitly examined. Furthermore, the bill places a temporary moratorium on pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops until all regulations required by the bill are in effect.
The Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act:
Policies promoted by agribusiness and biotech corporations, including the selling of a technology that has been commercialized far in advance of the science of genetic engineering, have systematically acted to remove the basic rights of farmers. This legislation gives farmers the ability to save seeds and seek compensation for failed GE crops, prohibits genetic engineering designed to produce sterile seeds and places all liability from negative impacts of GE organisms squarely upon the biotechnology companies that created the GE organism.
National Organic Standards
In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Food Production Act(OFPA) and directed the Department of Agriculture to implement national organic standards. The USDA finally published a set of proposed rules for national organic standards in December 1997. This first draft of the proposed rule, however, undermined some of the fundamental principles of organic farming. The organic industry instantly mobilized to protect standards that farmers have been following for decades.
On April 20, 1998, Congressman Kucinich joined a bipartisan coalition of 38 of his colleagues in sending a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman. In this letter, they urged the USDA to work closely with the organic industry to revise the rules so that they are based on the historical practices of the industry and in line with consumer expectations of organic products. Congressman Kucinich worked closely with Rep. Peter DeFazio in generating support from other members of Congress for the letter to Secretary Glickman. Also, he authored a "Dear Colleague" letter asking members to sign this letter.
On April 20, 1998, Congressman Kucinich also submitted his own comments on the proposed rules to the USDA. Citing the increased popularity of organic products in the marketplace and the great impact strict national standards would have on the industry, the Congressman suggested several changes to the proposed rules, including prohibiting irradiation of organic products, bio-solids as fertilizer, and genetically engineered organisms in organic productions. Congressman Kucinich also advocated strict oversight of any synthetic substances used in organic production and the humane treatment of organically raised animals. His comments were included as part of the official comment record on the National Organic Program.
On May 8, 1998, as a result of Congressman Kucinich's comments and those submitted by many others, Secretary Glickman announced that he would make substantial changes to the proposed rules. He noted that the final rule would prohibit the use of irradiation, bio-solids and genetically engineered organisms in organic farming and production.
In a statement in the Congressional Record, Congressman Kucinich rose in defense of strong organic standards and in support of Secretary Glickman's decision to revise the rules.
On June 23, 1998, Congressman Kucinich engaged the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Representative Skeen, in a colloquy during the debate of the Agriculture Appropriations bill. During the colloquy, the Chairman expressed his commitment to high organic standards that follow the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board and his request for the timely release a second draft of the proposed rules.
As the conferees for the Agriculture Appropriations bill prepared for their conference, Congressman Kucinich wrote and organized support for a letter urging them to retain language included in the Senate bill that will offset the high costs of organic certification for small organic farmers during the first round of certification under the new rules proposed by USDA. The Senate language also directs the Secretary to follow the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board in issuing a list of acceptable synthetic substances that may be used in organic farming.
In December 2000, the final rule for a national organic standard was issued and received strong support from organic consumers and farmers. Congressman Kucinich supports these rules and believes they will expand the organic food industry.
Cooperative Purchasing--Saving Local Taxpayer Funds
In 1994, Congress passed a new, money saving program for local and state governments and their public agencies. Called the cooperative purchasing program, it would allow local and state governments, school districts and public hospitals to purchase goods and services at the super discounted federal rate, saving the localities hundreds of millions of dollars per year. In the 105th Congress, several attempts were mounted to eliminate this program. Working in a bipartisan coalition with Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and others, Congressman Kucinich led a public campaign to resist these efforts. He mobilized former mayors and county executives to plead their case to Congress, and held a news conference and briefing. Initial efforts were successful -- an attempt to delete cooperative purchasing during the 1997 supplemental appropriations process was defeated. Although the program eventually was eliminated, these efforts raised its public visibility and advocated the interests of states, localities and consumers.
Congressman Kucinich strongly supports efforts to eradicate predatory lending practices and raise awareness among consumers. As chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, Congressman Kucinich held a hearing on predatory lending on March 21, 2007. Read about the hearing HERE.
In the 109th Congress, the Congressman was a cosponsor of the Prohibit Predatory Lending Act. The bill would close loopholes in the Truth-in-Lending Act and establish a federal floor for lenders, mimicking standards to protect consumers established in North Carolina.
Congressman Kucinich signed a letter to Chairman Alan Greenspan, during the 107th Congress, urging the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to help remedy the increasing financial damage suffered by victims of predatory lending practices and the lack of any quality public data on the costs of home loans being provided in different neighborhoods and to various populations in the mortgage market.
Pro-Consumer Bank Regulations
Congressman Kucinich advocates for consumer friendly reform of banking regulations and has cosponsored several bills to bring about reform. The Consumer Checking Account Fairness Act would reduce hold times for checks and prevent banks from bouncing checks, simply because the hold times on deposits have not expired. In addition, the Congressman has cosponsored a bill to eliminate the Deposit Item Returned (DIR). The DIR is a fee charged by banks to consumers for depositing a check that bounced.
During the debate over bank deregulation in the 105th and 106th Congresses, Congressman Kucinich worked to protect pro-consumer banking reforms. In the 105th Congress, Congressman Kucinich fought to protect state banking regulations from being preempted by federal law. Put at risk by the bill were state laws and regulations protecting consumers from bounced check penalties, limiting liability for unauthorized debit card transactions, and limiting or prohibiting prepayment penalties when consumers sell their homes and pay off their existing mortgages. In cooperation with Consumers Union, Congressman Kucinich lobbied on behalf of state banking regulations and inserted clarification of the bill’s language to establish that it was not the intent of the bill to preempt state regulations.