Public Citizen is a non-profit, liberal / progressive consumer rights advocacy group and think tank based in Washington, D.C., United States, with a branch in Austin, Texas.
Public Citizen advocates before all three branches of the United States federal government. Its five divisions include: Congress Watch; Energy; Global Trade Watch; the Health Research Group; and Public Citizen Litigation Group, a nationally prominent public interest law firm founded by Alan Morrison and known for its Supreme Court and appellate practice.
Broadly speaking, Public Citizen favors robust corporate accountability and strong government regulation, particularly in the areas of transport, healthcare, and nuclear power. The organization's priorities range from campaign finance reform to drug and auto safety and financial reform. The unifying theme is an effort to curb the impact of corporate power on American democracy.
Organization and history
Founded by Ralph Nader in 1971, Public Citizen is funded by dues and contributions from its members and supporters, foundation grants, and publication sales and does not accept government or corporate funds.
Public Citizen's slogan is “Corporations have their lobbyists in Washington, D.C. The People need advocates too.” As explained on its website, its overarching goal is “to ensure that all citizens are represented in the halls of power.” It is a nonprofit organization unaffiliated with any partisan political activity, and it does not endorse anybody running for public office. It survives on donations from its 80,000 supporters and on other income, and it does not accept donations from governments or corporations.
According to their website, Public Citizen consists of two legal entities: Public Citizen, Inc. which donation to them is non-deductible and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc. which donation to them is deductible.
Disassociation from Ralph Nader
In the aftermath of Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign, Public Citizen disassociated itself from its founder. Progressive magazine Mother Jones wrote about the so-called "rank-and-file liberals” who faulted Nader’s U.S. presidential run in 2000 for taking votes away from Al Gore, thus ensuring George W. Bush’s victory. Mother Jones also pointed out that Nader’s association with Public Citizen was causing fundraising problems. Mother Jones cited a letter by Public Citizen to its readership with the disclaimer: "Although Ralph Nader was our founder, he has not held an official position in the organization since 1980 and does not serve on the board. Public Citizen—and the other groups that Mr. Nader founded—act independently."