Nader Denounces DC Lobbying Culture

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader returned to his roots last week in an all-encompassing denunciation of Washington's slavish devotion to corporate agendas.

Nader told a dinner audience at the National Press Club that every significant government branch or important watchdog apparatus has been captured. He said the situation is far worse than he observed when he first worked in Washington in the mid-1960s.

Nader's talk had a bittersweet quality as he recalled working at a small office at the club following his graduation from Harvard Law School. He said he could look out from the club to the broken windows the Willard Hotel, a once and future luxury establishment between the club and the White House. Aside from such superficialities as downtown renovation, he said, much of the city has gone downhill, most especially Congress and the news media.

Update: As a separate development, about a 20 security personnel, some armed, appeared at the National Press Club April 2 with National Rifle Association officials in an unprecedented show of firepower as the NRA spoke out against proposed gun legislation in Congress. The armed security, using earpieces as if they were Secret Service personnel, ordered certain photographers not to take photos, and at one point prevented a 90-year-old Press Club member, approximately 5-foot five and 110 pounds, from walking along a club corridor. The NRA show of strength to announce its advocacy of armed guards in schools apparently was to underscore its position of strength for making the rules in Washington and across the nation. Details below.

Nader spoke to the McClendon Group, an independent speaker society based at the press club. The chairman for a quarter of a century has been John Edward Hurley, who serves also on the board of the Justice Integrity Project among several other civic groups. Hurley, shown at right, introduced the speaker this way:

Ralph Nader's career as author, activist and presidential candidate has captured the attention of the American public over much of the last half century. Since he co-founded the non-governmental organization Public Citizen in 1971, this NGO now has over 225,000 members. His national media campaigns have covered air pollution, nursing home flaws, the insider atrocities that Congress cultivates, nuclear dangers to the political and world environment, Watergate, whistle-blowing, national security, the gigantic corporate strangleholds on democracy, and the Iraq war, to name but a few of his issues.

With all of his past activities, you would think that he would have difficulty coming up with something new.  But if you think this, you would be wrong.

Nader then began his March 26 lecture by describing the major governmental bodies in Washington. One by one, he described their failures in their responsibilities. He said consumer advocates are outnumbered by more than 100 to one by corporate lobbyists, "who are not here to just to look at the Washington Monument."

Forceful and articulate, Nader specified the ways that corporations gut the effectiveness of Congress, the courts, regulators, the rest of the executive branch, and the media. Nader noted that the Constitution and other founding documents do not mention the word "corporation."

He argued that the best hope for the public is to elect better members of Congress, or else persuade billionaires to fight for the public interest after they have made their fortunes. In 2009, Nader published, Only the Super-rich Can Save Us. The 733-page book is his only work of fiction.

His first book was Unsafe at Any Speed, published in 1965. He played a leading role in the recall of millions of unsafe consumer products, as well as vastly improved regulation of the environment, workplace safety, and transportation safety. The crusading attorney has been named by The Atlantic as one of the nation's 100 most influential figures, and by Time and Life as one of the last century's most important figures.

Claire Nader, the speaker's sister, happened to sit to my left during his speech. The slender, retired social scientist with a doctorate from Columbia University was born in 1928. Like her brother, she is a thoughtful and dynamic social activitist.

I was gratified — and extremely surprised — that she remembered me from my first book, Spiked, more than a quarter of a century previous. The case study on the decline of media under conglomerate ownership focused heavily on my first employer, the Hartford Courant, which she and her siblings had read as youngsters in northwestern Connecticut.

"You were thinner then," she added, as nicely as possible. I'm at the point where I welcome well-intended feedback. So, I laughed, and responded that I hope to resume a healthy living in the spirit of her brother's 2007 memoir, The SeventeenTraditions, derived from their upbringing, following my latest research project.

I previewed with her the major findings of my book, Presidential Puppetry, to be published later this month. What I found most interesting was that even she, who shares her brother's activism and concern about unresponsive leaders, was not aware of the main irregularities and deceits I mentioned.

This is not unusual since no one can know them all. I have tried out the findings with several esteemed reporter friends of mine working for major media, and have learned they have not had time to explore even certain leads on scandals within their specialties.

I have kept the research findings secret until this point to prevent the kind of last-minute cover-up that I occasionally observed in New York and Washington on sensitive matters.

The research, like Ralph Nader's overview, shows that the United States government is no longer entrusted to its citizens. Power over government is concentrated in a few executives, families, and institutions that advance their ideologies and other interests.

The result is job loss, evaporation of the safety net, deficit spending, terrorism, financial instability, and partisan gridlock. Voters must take their power back by rejecting the puppet masters.

The ABC-TV show, Scandal, launched in 2012, focuses on important topics in a politically acceptable way: by fictionalizing them and portraying as the hero a former presidential advisor whose consulting firm specializes in containing scandals. That is better than the mainstream media's all-too-frequent practice of ignoring major issues entirely.

But it would be better still if the facts behind actual events were revealed. We need citizen Truth Patrols to hold elected and appointed officials accountable, and to demand answers from leaders.


Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment



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Washington Post, The NRA’s disarming plan to arm schools, Dana Milbank, April 3, 2013 (print edition). The gun-lobby goons were at it again. The National Rifle Association’s security guards gained notoriety earlier this year when, escorting NRA officials to a hearing, they were upbraided by Capitol authorities for pushing cameramen. The thugs were back Tuesday when the NRA rolled out its “National School Shield” — the gun lobbyists’ plan to get armed guards in public schools — and this time they were packing heat. About 20 of them — roughly one for every three reporters — fanned out through the National Press Club, some in uniforms with gun holsters exposed, others with earpieces and bulges under their suit jackets. In a spectacle that officials at the National Press Club said they had never seen before, the NRA gunmen directed some photographers not to take pictures, ordered reporters out of the lobby when NRA officials passed and inspected reporters’ briefcases before granting them access to the news conference. Thus has it gone so far in the gun debate in Washington. The legislation is about to be taken up in Congress, but by most accounts the NRA has already won. Plans for limiting assault weapons and ammunition clips are history, and the prospects for meaningful background checks are bleak. Now, The Post’s Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe report, the NRA is proposing language to gut the last meaningful gun-control proposal, making gun trafficking a federal crime. Apparently, the gun lobby thinks even criminals deserve Second Amendment protection. If the NRA has its way, as it usually does, states will soon be weakening their gun laws to allow more guns in schools.

Wayne Madsen Report, NRA security goons seize control of National Press Club, Wayne Madsen, April 3, 2013. Armed gunmen order photographers not to take photos. Armed thugs block entrance to library. WMR sources: 90-year old NPC member ordered not to move by armed security personnel. Fault goes all around: the NRA should have been told to leave their gun monkeys at home and the Press Club should've put its foot down.

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Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

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