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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

CA Prop 64  
Election Day is getting closer, and at CALPIRG we're turning our attention to defeating Proposition 64. The initiative would limit the right of individuals and nonprofit groups to enforce consumer privacy laws, pollution laws and public health laws.

Here's what the Sacramento Bee wrote about Prop 64: "The state's wealthiest corporations have contributed a staggering $8.2 million to bankroll Proposition 64. ...It frees businesses to act in destructive ways with dangerous impunity."

Here's what the San Jose Mercury News wrote: "By gutting the so-called unfair business competition law, Prop. 64 would do away with a powerful tool long used by environmental, consumer and public health advocates to prevent unscrupulous businesses from putting the public at risk."

Here's what the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Business leaders argue that district attorneys will adequately protect consumers against fraudulent business practices if Prop. 64 succeeds. Not so, according to state Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Herschel Elkins, who says Prop. 64 "goes unbelievably far. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not the best thing.""

Joining CALPIRG in opposition to Prop 64 is AARP, American Lung Assoc. of California, Consumers Union, California Nurses Association, Sierra Club California, California Professional Firefighters Association, and many many others.

When the "Grandma Millie" tapes revealed Enron employees scamming California ratepayers, the state Attorney General responded by using California's Unfair Business Competition Law to take Enron to court. The same law was used to hold many energy price-gougers accountable. When a company breaks the law, we have the right to stop them. In California, it's not just the Attorney General who can stand up in court when corporate wrongdoing threatens our health, safety, privacy, or financial well-being. It's every Californian's right, and citizens have used it to win important changes.

* Safeway was caught putting new expiration dates on old meat. Consumers filed a lawsuit and got them to stop.
* Union Bank of California was caught illegally sharing information about its customers. Rodger Reed, an ordinary bank customer, filed a lawsuit and got the bank to change its privacy practices for all customers.
* Pesticide companies were found marketing their products as safe for children and pets. Knowing better, CALPIRG used a lawsuit to get the companies to stop their false marketing.

Big corporations who break the law, of course, hate these suits. That's why they're putting big money behind Prop 64, a scheme to gut California's Unfair Business Competition Law and limit our right to hold them accountable.Under Prop 64, if a company was dumping a known carcinogen into our waters, citizens wouldn't be able to stop them until someone got sick. You wouldn't be able to stop your bank from illegally selling your private information until someone used it to rip you off. Citizens would first have to wait until they were financially injured, sick or worse before taking action.

Who would support such an initiative? Banks, insurers, HMOs, car dealers, pharmaceutical drug companies, oil companies, chemical companies, and other special interests have put Prop 64 on the November ballot. They don't want citizens standing up to them when they break the law or act deceptively or unfairly.

Don't let them get away with it.