Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Deval Patrick's Latest Gig? Lobbying for the TPP

Recently, our former governor here in Massachusetts took a job as a "global ambassador" for the Boston 2024 Partnership, the private, unelected group of lobbyists and CEOs behind the city's 2024 Summer Olympics bid. Although he's now "volunteering" and not taking the $7,500 a day compensation package, I'm sure he'll get a very generous expense account to use for his wining and dining of IOC commissioners.

However, lobbying the IOC isn't his own gig now. He's also lobbying for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal written by and for large corporations which the Obama administration has been aggressively pushing.

Deval Patrick was announced today as a member of the advisory board of the so-called Progressive Coalition for American Jobs, a front group run by former Obama aides. Here's the Associated Press on the announcement:
President Obama’s allies are recruiting high-profile Democrats to help combat liberal resistance to his bid for new trade agreements in Asia and elsewhere.
The effort will sharpen differences between the Democratic Party’s liberal and pro-business wings, especially in New England. And it could accelerate the effort to woo black lawmakers, a key target in the House.
Heading a pro-trade advisory board being announced Tuesday are former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and former US. Trade Representative and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
Kirk’s and Gregoire’s roles are not surprising. But Patrick’s might add some sizzle to the trade debate heating up in Congress. Among the Obama trade agenda’s strongest critics is another Massachusetts Democrat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Patrick and Kirk are two of the nation’s most prominent African-American politicians. Obama has openly wooed the Congressional Black Caucus in hopes of securing some of the House Democratic votes he will need to pass his trade plans.
I wrote about the "Progressive Coalition for American Jobs" two weeks ago here. It's the Democratic-aligned PR firm behind Democrat-in-name-only Ro Khanna's congressional campaign against Mike Honda (CA-17) and Educators for Excellence, a Gates-funded front group that advocates against teacher tenure and for teacher evaluation systems that rely on the use of standardized test scores. 
Elizabeth Warren has spoken eloquently and forcefully against the lack of transparency around the TPP text and the particularly pernicious investor-state dispute settlement provision, which would further entrench corporate power. Here's Warren last month in an op-ed in the Washington Post:
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.
Beyond that entrenchment of corporate power, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would further the trend toward monopolization, as Paul Krugman explained a few weeks ago:
What the T.P.P. would do, however, is increase the ability of certain corporations to assert control over intellectual property. Again, think drug patents and movie rights.
Is this a good thing from a global point of view? Doubtful. The kind of property rights we’re talking about here can alternatively be described as legal monopolies. True, temporary monopolies are, in fact, how we reward new ideas; but arguing that we need even more monopolization is very dubious — and has nothing at all to do with classical arguments for free trade.

Now, the corporations benefiting from enhanced control over intellectual property would often be American. But this doesn’t mean that the T.P.P. is in our national interest. What’s good for Big Pharma is by no means always good for America.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Trade Promotion Authority (commonly called "fast track") that Obama wants for it, has faced heavy criticism from environmental and labor groups. 
You can read a letter from environmental groups like, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace USA, and Clean Water Action (among many others) here.

You can read the letter from a large group of labor organizations against fast-track authority here.

You can read the letter that the AFL-CIO, Citizens Trade Campaign, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the National Farmers Union, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters just sent to Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, here.

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