The weekly watchdog: Dec. 5 - Dec. 9

This week's top investigations from iWatch News

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Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich

Craig Ruttle/AP

GOP, Chamber Push to Weaken Consumer Protection Bureau

Senate Republicans this week blocked the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Five months after its formation, the new federal agency tasked with safeguarding the financial interests of ordinary people is still without a director. Republicans, led by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., want a board of commissioners rather than a single director to oversee the agency – a move that would weaken the organization, consumer advocates say. The GOP position on the agency closely matches that of Washington’s most powerful lobbying force, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is pushing a House bill that would also replace the director with a five-member commission. A total of 34 industry groups list the bill as a lobbying priority, according to a Center analysis of federal records, representing 183 industry lobbyists. At least 79 of these lobbyists once worked for the government.

Health Insurers Don’t Want Clearer Policy Information

Health insurers bank on poorly informed consumers, writes Senior Analyst Wendell Potter. He says the industry and its allies are lobbying the Obama administration to ignore the new health law’s requirement for clearer policy information, arguing that to comply will cost millions of dollars that insurers would have to pass on to consumers. “The companies insist that providing understandable information allowing us to compare plans serves no purpose that would justify the additional cost.” It’s the same bogus argument the food industry floated to fight clearer ingredients labeling legislation in the early 1990s. That law passed, and the republic survived.

Newt Races for Cash and Support

The 2012 presidential campaign money chase continues. As Newt Gingrich resurrects his once moribund campaign, his fundraisers and outside allies are moving aggressively to rake in millions of dollars and win backing from the evangelical and Tea Party communities, iWatch News reports. To achieve these daunting goals, three long-time allies of Gingrich — Florida fundraiser Gay Gaines, former spokesman and conservative Christian activist Rick Tyler, and Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson — are shaping up as important players. Gingrich’s political fortunes in the upcoming Iowa caucuses and the early primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida hinge heavily on getting his message out to potential supporters through TV ads and outside organizations that will require millions of dollars, fast.

Center Wins Two EPPY Awards

The Center was recently honored with two 2011 EPPY awards from Editor & Publisher. The winning categories: Best Enterprise Feature on a Website and Best Investigative Website with Under 250,000 Monthly Visitors. The feature singled out for accolades is Dangers in the Dust: Inside the Global Asbestos Trade, produced by the Center's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The multimedia series published in July 2010 and included a BBC World TV documentary, a dozen radio stories on BBC World Service and seven online stories by ICIJ. The project reached tens of millions of people in more than 150 countries, receiving coverage by some 400 news outlets, blogs and websites in at least 20 languages. The Website prize honors our new digital front door, iwatchnews.org.

Until next week, 

Bill Buzenberg 
Executive Director