Seattle brings home C+ in ‘corporateering’ ratings

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The Seattle Times

The director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights gave Seattle a C+ for its protection of citizens from corporate power.

In a news conference at the Labor Temple yesterday, Jamie Court, the head of the California-based organization, said that for years businesses “have rated cities for how friendly they are to business. Now we’re rating corporations for how friendly they are to societies.”

Seattle’s score card

Here are the scores the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights gave to the city of Seattle and some of the group’s comments:

Public Recourse: A- (Good score due to initiative, recall and referendum rights.)

Privacy Rights: B (Marked down because state bill to prohibit disclosing personal information was defeated and not re-introduced.)

Legal Rights: B- (State does not allow victims to recover punitive damages from corporations.)

Commercialization of Schools: B (Bill restricting fast food in schools has lagged.)

Whistleblower protection: C+ (State laws protect corporate dissenters from being fired but not from other forms of retaliation.)

Environmental degradation: C- (State ranks fifth in the nation for dioxin releases in water.)

Media independence: C- (Increasing media consolidation.)

Protection of community space: D (Brand names run rampant; they’re all over taxis, stadiums and performing-arts centers.) The rating; which Court calls “corporateering quotient”; is based on a study of how well privacy and legal rights are respected by corporations. Other factors, such as environmental protection, commercialization of schools and the influence of corporate money in politics, count as well.

According to Court, the term “corporateering”; which is also included in the title of his recently published book; is closely related to “profiteering, electioneering and racketeering” and is both a verb and a noun meant to describe corporations that care more about profits than about the common good.

“Thirty years ago this was not the case,” said Court. “In the last two decades, corporations have put themselves above the individual and society.”

Representatives from local nonprofit organizations also expressed their concerns at the news conference, especially about the relationship between corporations and the state.

Barbara Flye, director of Washington Citizen Action, said the effect of tax exemptions; including those given to Boeing; was not studied enough.

“Washington has more than 430 state tax exemptions, over $45 billion in unrealized revenue, more than the state collects,” Flye said. “We have no idea whether it’s paying off.”

Media independence was given a C-, because of increasing consolidation of broadcast media and the joint operating agreement between the city’s two daily newspapers, Court said.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has so far rated six cities. Seattle’s grades are ahead of Los Angeles, Washington and Philadelphia, but behind San Francisco and Portland, said Court.

“If your fourth-grader came home with a C+ on his report card, you wouldn’t pat him on the back,” said Court. “You’d like to see some improvement.”

But businesses would like some improvement, too. Stephanie Bowman, public-affairs officer at the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, refused to comment on the news conference, but said the city should invest more in infrastructure and that the sales tax is too high. As for tax breaks, she said they’re there “because it helps an industry to grow.”
Angel Gonzalez: 206-464-3312 or [email protected]

Consumer Watchdog
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