|Founded||1971 by Ralph Nader in the US|
|Key people||Robert Weissman, President
Robert C. Fellmeth, (Foundation Chair)
Jason Adkins, Inc. Chair
Joan Claybrook, emeritus President
|Area served||Nationwide (US)|
|Method(s)||Research, lobbying, litigation and appeals, media attention, direct-appeal campaigns|
Public Citizen is a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., United States, with a branch in Austin, Texas. Public Citizen was founded by Ralph Nader in 1971, headed for 26 years by Joan Claybrook, and is now headed by Robert Weissman.
Public Citizen advocates for the public interest before all three branches of the United States federal government. Its five divisions include: Congress Watch; Energy; Global Trade Watch; the Health Research Group; and Public Citizen Litigation Group, a nationally prominent public interest law firm founded by Alan Morrison and known for its Supreme Court and appellate practice.
Broadly speaking, Public Citizen favors robust corporate accountability and strong government regulation, particularly in the areas of transport, healthcare, and nuclear power. The organization's priorities range from campaign finance reform to drug and auto safety and financial reform. The unifying theme is an effort to curb the impact of corporate power on American democracy.
Organization and history
Founded by Ralph Nader in 1971, Public Citizen is funded by dues and contributions from its members and supporters, foundation grants, and publication sales and does not accept government or corporate funds.
Public Citizen's slogan is “Corporations have their lobbyists in Washington, D.C. The People need advocates too.” As explained on its website, its overarching goal is “to ensure that all citizens are represented in the halls of power.” It is a nonprofit organization unaffiliated with any partisan political activity, and it does not endorse anybody running for public office. It survives on donations from its 80,000 supporters and on other income, and it does not accept donations from governments or corporations.
Public Citizen aims to make sure that the government remains one by the people, for the people and in that attempt leads the charge “against undemocratic trade agreements that advance the interests of mega-corporations at the expense of citizens worldwide.” As a means of fulfilling that mission, Public Citizen has five policy groups: The Congress Watch division, the Energy Program, Global Trade Watch, the Health Research Group and a Litigation Group. It has two offices, one in Washington, D.C., and one in Austin, Texas.
The Congress Watch Division of Public Citizen “champions consumer interests before Congress and serves as a government watchdog.” It is focused on “strengthening health, safety and financial protections. Ensuring access to the courts to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing. [and] strengthening our democracy by exposing and combating the harmful impact of money in politics.”
Public Action's Energy Program attempts to rally people against the dangers of nuclear power and instead advocate a reliable and sustainable energy future. Among its efforts are the desire to combat climate change and support an environment that runs on sustainable energy.[clarification needed]
Public Citizen’s Health Research Group leads this sector’s “research based, system wide changes in health care policy and drug safety.” The group is in charge of newsletters. It supports a single-payer, Medicare-type health plan for everyone.
For forty years Public Citizen can take credit for “successfully challenging the abusive practices of the pharmaceutical, nuclear and automobile industries” as well as many others. Its work includes sections such as access to justice, access to medicines, climate and energy, commercial alert, financial reform, globalization and trade, government reform, health and safety, litigation and Texas issues.
Disassociation from Ralph Nader
In the aftermath of Ralph Nader's role in the 2000 presidential election, Public Citizen disassociated itself from its founder. Wrote Mother Jones, "For evidence of how rank-and-file liberals have turned against Nader, one need look no further than the empire he created. Public Citizen, the organization (Nader) founded in 1971, has a new fundraising problem–its founder. After the election, contributions dropped... When people inquire about Nader's relationship to the organization, Public Citizen sends out a letter that begins with a startling new disclaimer: 'Although Ralph Nader was our founder, he has not held an official position in the organization since 1980 and does not serve on the board. Public Citizen–and the other groups that Mr. Nader founded–act independently.'"
People associated with Public Citizen
Ralph Nader, founder
Joan Claybrook, first Executive Director
Representative Donna Edwards
Robert Weissman, Executive Director
Lori Wallach, Director, Global Trade Watch
Phil Radford, Former Organizer, Global Trade Watch; currently democracy, clean energy and environmental leader
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food and Water Watch
- About Public Citizen
- Courting Change: The Story of the Public Citizen Litigation Group
- Kendall, Brent (2009-04-29). "US Consumer Groups: Public Opposes Forced Arbitration By Cos". Dow Jones Newswires. Retrieved 2009-06-04.[dead link]
- Staff report (June 2, 1971). Nader Forums Unite To Seek Donations.New York Times
- "Public Citizen's Annual Report and 990s". Retrieved 2009-06-01.
- Margolis, John (July/August 2001) Nader Unrepentant. Mother Jones.