I agree with Hillary Clinton

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I have serious concerns about ISDS – a policy in the new TPP trade agreement that would let foreign companies challenge American laws outside of American courts.

I’ll give you a recent example of how it works: A big mining company wanted to do some blasting off the coast of Nova Scotia. The Canadian government refused to provide permits because it thought the blasting would harm the local environment and scare off fish that local fishermen needed to make a living.

Thanks to an ISDS provision in a past trade agreement, that mining company didn’t have to go to a Canadian court to challenge the permit decision – they went right to a special ISDS panel of corporate lawyers. Last month, the international panel ruled in favor of the mining company, and the decision cannot be challenged in Canadian courts.

Now the Canadian taxpayers may be on the hook for up to $300 million in “damages” to the mining company – all because their government had the gall to stand up for its environment and the economic livelihood of its local fishermen. And the next time a foreign company wants a blasting permit, what will the Canadian government do?

ISDS isn’t a one-time, hypothetical problem – we’ve seen it in past trade agreements. Just in the past few years:

  • A French company sued Egypt after Egypt raised its minimum wage.
  • A Swedish company sued Germany because Germany wanted to phase out nuclear power for safety reasons.
  • A Dutch company sued the Czech Republic because the Czech Republic didn't bail out a bank that the Dutch company partially owned.
  • Philip Morris is using ISDS right now to try to stop countries like Australia and Uruguay from implementing new rules that are intended to cut smoking rates – because the new laws might eat into the tobacco giant’s profits.

The Obama Administration has said that they have fixed all the problems, and nothing like that will happen here. They just won’t show you how.

Let's send a loud message to our trade officials: No vote on a fast-track for trade agreements until the American people can see what’s in this TPP deal – ISDS and everything else. Sign the petition right now.

I’m not the only one worried about ISDS. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in her book last year:

"We should avoid some of the provisions sought by business interests, including our own, like giving them or their investors the power to sue foreign governments to weaken their environmental and public health rules, as Philip Morris is already trying to do in Australia. The United States should be advocating a level and fair playing field, not special favors."

In March, more than a hundred law professors from all around the country wrote a letter about their concerns about ISDS. And five of the country’s top legal and economic experts – Joseph Stiglitz, Larry Tribe, Judith Resnik, Cruz Reynoso, and H. Lee Sarokin – all agree:

"ISDS weakens the rule of law by removing the procedural protections of the legal system and using a system of adjudication with limited accountability and review. It is antithetical to the fair, public, and effective legal system that all Americans expect and deserve. Proponents of ISDS have failed to explain why our legal system is inadequate to the task. For the reasons cited above, we urge you to uphold the best ideals of our legal system and ensure ISDS is excluded from upcoming trade agreements."

This isn't a partisan issue. I don’t often agree with the conservative Cato Institute, and I suspect they don’t often agree with me. But the head of Cato’s trade policy program said:

"[ISDS] raises serious questions about democratic accountability, sovereignty, checks and balances, and the separation of power... Sen. Warren’s perspective on ISDS is one that libertarians and other free market advocates should share."

The Obama Administration says you have nothing to worry about – to trust them that nothing could possibly go wrong. But they won’t release the text of the TPP agreement to the public for you to see it for yourself.

Frankly, "just trust us" isn’t good enough – not for a trade deal that multinational corporations have been working on for years while the public has been kept in the dark.

Tens of thousands of people have already signed our petition: No vote to fast-track trade agreements until the American people can see what’s in this TPP deal – including ISDS. Please sign the petition now.

You can't read this

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Have you seen what’s in the new TPP trade deal?

Most likely, you haven’t – and don’t bother trying to Google it. The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement. It’s top secret.

Why? Here’s the real answer people have given me: “We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.”

If the American people would be opposed to a trade agreement if they saw it, then that agreement should not become the law of the United States.

Let’s send a loud message to our trade officials: No vote on a fast-track for trade agreements until the American people can see what’s in this TPP deal. Sign this petition right now to make the TPP agreement public.

The Administration says I’m wrong – that there’s nothing to worry about. They say the deal is nearly done, and they are making a lot of promises about how the deal will affect workers, the environment, and human rights. Promises – but people like you can’t see the actual deal.

For more than two years now, giant corporations have had an enormous amount of access to see the parts of the deal that might affect them and to give their views as negotiations progressed. But the doors stayed locked for the regular people whose jobs are on the line.

If most of the trade deal is good for the American economy, but there’s a provision hidden in the fine print that could help multinational corporations ship American jobs overseas or allow for watering down of environmental or labor rules, fast track would mean that Congress couldn’t write an amendment to fix it. It’s all or nothing.

Before we sign on to rush through a deal like that – no amendments, no delays, no ability to block a bad bill – the American people should get to see what’s in it. 

Sherrod Brown has been leading this fight, and he points out that TPP isn’t classified military intelligence – it’s a trade agreement among 12 countries that control 40% of the world’s economy. A trade agreement that affects jobs, environmental regulations, and whether workers around the globe are treated humanely. It might even affect the new financial rules we put in place after the 2008 crisis. This trade agreement doesn’t matter to just the biggest corporations – it matters to all of us.

When giant corporations get to see the details and the American people don’t, we all lose. Let’s level the playing field: No vote on fast-tracking trade until the public can read the TPP deal.

We’ve all seen the tricks and traps that corporations hide in the fine print of contracts. We’ve all seen the provisions they slip into legislation to rig the game in their favor. Now just imagine what they have done working behind closed doors with TPP.

We can’t keep the American people in the dark.

Benghazi

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Earlier this week, Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a new select committee to investigate Benghazi led by Rep. Trey Gowdy.

All three of my brothers served in the military, and I know firsthand how much Americans serving abroad -- and their families -- sacrifice. What happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 was a tragedy. Four Americans died putting themselves in harm's way in service to peace, diplomacy, and their country. I look at what happened in Benghazi with sadness, with seriousness, and as yet another call to honor the men and women who keep us safe.

So let me be blunt: that kind of seriousness is sorely missing from the no holds-barred political theater of the House Republicans.  

I know a little bit about the way Trey Gowdy pursues oversight. I was on the other end of it when I was setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and I was called to testify before the House. As the Huffington Post reported at the time, Gowdy's interrogation of me "seemed to lack the basic facts" about the agency he was attempting to oversee. I'd like you to read their reporting on one of these exchanges just so you know what this Benghazi "investigation" is likely to look like:

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) grilled Warren on whether the bureau would make public the complaints it gets. She answered that the complaint issue was a work in progress, but that at the very least, there was progress in creating a system for large credit card companies.

"Are any of the complaints public?" Gowdy demanded.

"Congressman, we don't have any complaints yet," Warren said of the still-nascent agency. "What we're trying to do is build the system."

Gowdy also seemed to think that Warren had written the Dodd-Frank law, and he was determined to know what Warren meant by defining "abusive" practices as something that "materially interferes" with the ability of a consumer to understand a term or a condition.

"That suggests to me that some interferences are immaterial. Is that what you meant by that?" he asked a momentarily perplexed-looking Warren.

"Congressman, I believe the language you are quoting is out of the Dodd-Frank act," she said. "This is the language that Congress has adopted."

Still, Gowdy insisted on her answer, although the definitions and regulations required by the law are still being written.

As a Senator, I take oversight seriously because it is powerfully important. But Trey Gowdy gives oversight a bad name. The House GOP is on a waste-of-time-and-resources witch hunt and fundraising sideshow, shamefully grasping for any straw to make President Obama, former Secretary Clinton, or Secretary Kerry look bad. This stunt does a disservice to those who serve our country abroad, and it distracts us from issues we should be taking up on behalf of the American people.

With millions of people still out of work and millions more working full time yet still living below the poverty line, with students drowning in debt, with roads and bridges crumbling, is this really what the House Republicans are choosing to spend their time on? Even for guys who have so few solutions to offer that they have voted 54 times to repeal Obamacare, this is a new low.  

House Republicans are doing whatever they can to distract the American people from what's really going on in Washington – a rigged system that works great for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers but that leaves everyone else behind. A system in which Republicans protect tax breaks for billionaires while they block increases in the minimum wage for millions of people who work full time and live in poverty. A system in which Republicans give away billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil while making billions in profits off of our kids' student loans.

It's wrong, and it's shameful.

Meet our volunteer: Dan Futrell

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Dan Futrell - Elizabeth WarrenLast Fall, Somerville resident Dan Futrell, a decorated Iraq veteran with five years of active duty in the Army and two Bronze Stars, got involved in his first political campaign to support Elizabeth Warren.

Futrell, who was drawn to Elizabeth's message that "No one succeeds on their own," says, "I believe we are responsible to ourselves and to each other. In the military, you are a member of a team. You will succeed or fail together. If you see your battle buddy fall down, you stop and help him up. And I see that as a bigger responsibility - we must apply that military concept to the broader issues of society."

Dan Futrell - Elizabeth Warren"I don't think Scott Brown is a bad person," Futrell says. "He's just not pointing us in the right direction as a nation. Elizabeth understands the responsibility we have toward one another, and she understands that this responsibility is not optional. For instance, she's done a lot to help veterans. At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she hired Holly Petraeus to look out for issues that specifically affect veterans."

With Vietnam veteran Bill Dooling, Futrell put together Vets and Military Families for Warren. "We support her because we know she's on our team," Futrell says. Together they are growing the veteran outreach and organizing military families across the state.

Veterans looking to help the campaign can sign-up through:  http://elizabethwarren.com/groups/veterans.