Ralph Nader today commended Senator Paul Wellstone for his introduction of legislation designed to directly empower citizens in the fight against corporate crime.
Nader predicted that the bill – the Consumer and Shareholder Protection Association Act (S. 3143) – if enacted, will “usher in a new era of governmental and corporate accountability which will provide consumers, workers and shareholders vast new protections and help ensure the integrity of the nation’s economic system.”
“Senator Wellstone’s bill recognizes that the resources available for representation of consumers, workers and community interests must be expanded so that, in the tradition of self-government, citizens can monitor the performance of their state and federal agencies which regulate corporations,” Nader said. “The associations formed under this legislation will provide a vehicle through which citizens can become active participants in shaping the public agenda and seeking remedies to protect the interests of consumers and investors.”
In addition to their watchdog role, the citizen associations formed under the Wellstone legislation will provide policymakers, workers, shareholders, taxpayers and the news media with information on how actions of corporations and their government regulators affect citizens at the grassroots.
Nader noted that the concept behind the Wellstone legislation already has working models in states like Illinois and California. In Illinois a similar organization known as the “Citizen Utility Board” was formed by citizens. The CUB organized advocacy groups that gave consumers a voice in the regulatory proceedings which control the monopoly utilities. The result: Illinois consumers saved more than three billion dollars on utility bills in eight years-and at the same time motivated the public to embrace energy conservation. In California, the San Diego CUB attracted 60,000 members within a year of its formation.
Nader said the key to the success of citizen associations is the Wellstone bill’s provisions requiring corporations – at no extra cost to them – to enclose a notice in billings, statements and related mailing informing consumers of the existence of the associations and inviting citizens to become members of the organization. Nader said the organizations formed in Illinois and California succeeded in attracting most of their members through similar inserts in utility bill mailings.