NJPIRG discusses plans, goals for upcoming semester
The University chapter of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group held its semester kickoff meeting last night at the Douglass Campus Center to discuss their goals.
Topics of the night included the group’s efforts to reverse a Supreme Court case and end fracking, a method of extracting oil and natural gas through pressurized fluid and protect drinking water.
Gideon Weissman, program associate for NJPIRG, said their campaign aims to lobby to end corporate tax loopholes, especially corporate tax evasion.
“We released a report recently of companies that spend more money lobbying than they do paying taxes,” he said. “Our report shows that most of these companies pay negative taxes each year. These are guys that should be paying their fair share, and they’re not.”
Weissman said NJPIRG would also work to reverse the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — a 2010 case that ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting corporations’ and unions’ independent spending for political reasons — because he believes that corporations are not the same as individuals who donate money.
“The idea that you can have Super PACs that spend millions and millions on a campaign and not even report where it’s coming from is detrimental to our democracy,” he said.
Weissman said NJPIRG is working toward its campaign goals by creating transparency and pressuring legislatures to seal corporate tax loopholes while including the University community.
“We work in Trenton to fight issues like this,” he said. “We’re going down to Washington to fight issues like this and we’re bringing Rutgers students with us.”
After Weissman concluded his speech, representatives from various organizations and campaigns discussed an array of issues including environmental concerns, Citizens United and corporate tax evasion.
Dan DeRosa, Environment New Jersey field organizer, said a major campaign NJPIRG is working toward is making water safer to drink through a statewide campaign, including a campaign to stop fracking.
“A big issue we’re working on right now is protecting drinking water in the state,” DeRosa said.
After each campaign had a few minutes to speak, they broke down into smaller info groups for attendees to find out more about their initiatives.
Each breakout session gave the opportunity for open discussion, the ability to volunteer and offered attendees the chance to ask questions regarding their involvement.
David Bedford, a volunteer for the NJPIRG Safe Energy campaign, said the campaign branched off a nationwide PIRG effort against nuclear power and does not have a specific leader at the moment.
“The Safe Energy campaign was born this semester as a branch of another campaign,” he said. “Right now things are still pretty undeveloped, so we don’t have a specific leader. But it seems like it’ll be me at the moment.”
Bedford said the campaign’s goals and tactics is to educate the public on energy usage and make an impact on federal policy.
“The focus of the campaign is to educate people on the negative effects of nuclear energy and hydraulic fracturing. We also try to affect government policy to end fracking,” said Bedford, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
He said they worked last semester against hydraulic fracturing with Food and Water Watch and protested at the Trenton capitol building.
The Safe Energy campaign started as the Anti-Fracking campaign, with only Bedford and his friend Benjamin McCready, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student, as members.
“We had a focus to ban hydraulic fracturing in Delaware River Basin which would have made New Jersey drinking water highly toxic,” he said.