Wyden To Obama: Hollywood Shouldn't Know More About TPP Than Congress

from the transparency? dept

Senator Wyden has been at the forefront of raising concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (as with many other issues we follow), specifically over the total lack of transparency from the USTR on the issue. While USTR Ron Kirk has pretended that “listening” to a few people is transparency, it’s not. Actually sharing what you’re doing is transparency.

Now, it’s one thing for the USTR to refuse to share with the public what it’s supposedly negotiating on their behalf — but what if it is refusing to share with the very people in charge of overseeing its actions? As you hopefully know it’s Congress, not the Executive branch, that has the authority to regulate foreign commerce. While the USTR is often granted the power to handle negotiations, it is only to be done with oversight from Congress.

So, you would think that the staff director on the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, would be able to “oversee” what the USTR is doing by getting a copy of the USTR’s positions. That staffer, who works for Senator Wyden, got all the proper security clearances… and the USTR basically gave him the finger. According to Wyden:

As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, my office is responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR and trade negotiations. To do that, I asked that my staff obtain the proper security credentials to view the information that USTR keeps confidential and secret. This is material that fully describes what the USTR is seeking in the TPP talks on behalf of the American people and on behalf of Congress. More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing.

But you know who’s not having any trouble seeing the details? The MPAA, Comcast, PHRMA and others. Again, from Senator Wyden:

The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.

Wyden is introducing some new legislation in response to this, called the Congressional Oversight Over Trade Negotiations Act, which is actually just a clarification of legislation passed in 2002 that created the Congressional Oversight Group in an attempt to increase coordination between Congress and USTR on such matters. Again, Senator Wyden:

Congress passed legislation in 2002 to form the Congressional Oversight Group, or COG, to foster more USTR consultation with Congress. I was a senator in 2002. I voted for that law and I can tell you the intention of that law was to ensure that USTR consulted with more Members of Congress not less.

In trying to get to the bottom of why my staff is being denied information, it seems that some in the Executive Branch may be interpreting the law that established the COG to mean that only the few Members of Congress who belong to the COG can be given access to trade negotiation information, while every other Member of Congress, and their staff, must be denied such access. So, this is not just a question of whether or not cleared staff should have access to information about the TPP talks, this is a question of whether or not the administration believes that most Members of Congress can or should have a say in trade negotiations.

Again, having voted for that law, I strongly disagree with such an interpretation and find it offensive that some would suggest that a law meant to foster more consultation with Congress is intended to limit it. But given that the TPP negotiations are currently underway and I – and the vast majority of my colleagues and their staff – continue to be denied a full understanding of what the USTR is seeking in the agreement, we do not have time to waste on a protracted legal battle over this issue. Therefore, I am introducing legislation to clarify the intent of the COG statute.

The legislation, I propose, is straightforward. It gives all Members of Congress and staff with appropriate clearance access to the substance of trade negotiations. Finally, Members of Congress who are responsible for conducting oversight over the enforcement of trade agreements will be provided information by the Executive Branch indicating whether our trading partners are living up to their trade obligations. Put simply, this legislation would ensure that the representatives elected by the American people are afforded the same level of influence over our nation’s policies as the paid representatives of PHRMA, Halliburton and the Motion Picture Association.

How ridiculous is it that a Senator in charge of oversight of the USTR has to introduce special legislation just to find out what’s being negotiated by the USTR, supposedly on the public’s behalf? The ridiculous levels of secrecy from the USTR are shameful. It’s sad that it hasn’t received more attention.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Wyden To Obama: Hollywood Shouldn't Know More About TPP Than Congress”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So...

We don’t give the MPAA and RIAA special treatment. Obama does.

Next to Wall Street, where do you think Obama gets most of his campaign money? The MAFIAA’s donations are the only reason anyone has even ever heard of “Dentures” Biden – the liver-lipped old guy with the flabby jowls (giving Hollywood all those blow-jobs has taken its toll) and the smile like a demented rat.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: So...

Yes because the republicans just hate big corporations and the money they hand out…

Look, lemme lay this out simply: this is not a democrat/republican thing, this is not an obama vs. (insert republican here) thing, it’s a politics thing.

Both sides are quite guilty of listening to the money, rather than the people they are supposed to be representing, and when you just blame one side for the wrong-doings of both you’re just picking your particular brand of poison, instead of refusing to accept either as acceptable.

Also, by only blaming one side for the actions both are guilty of, it makes you more likely to ignore it when ‘your’ side commits the same wrong-doing, which you just provided a nice example of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So...


He’s probably got them on wiretap, State’s Atty. Pearlman on hold with Mayor Schwarzenegger

Jimmy McNulty right now is probably aproaching the premise from the front, coz that just the way he rolls

and Bunk’ round the back……..probably having a cigar right now

and ofcourse down town lester brown saying cool cat things over the coms

LolZ, sorry, vivid, some might rightly say, stupid imagination

But in my defense, they used the word hollywood in the title, and i think its safe to assume that im speaking to hollywood……..soooo, you like my 6 lines of script? First come first serve fellas

Anonymous Coward says:

Shouldn’t everything being negotiated be fully available to the public?

What is the point of keeping it secret? It’s not like it would be giving giving away troop positions or sensitive nuclear information, which is the scaremonger talking point for justifying secrecy.

At what point and to what extent do people need to go in order to fix these problems that many people obviously see?

The current approach does not seem to be working. We are continuing to see an erosion of rights and a ramp up in corruption to keep the game the way it is. Isn’t it time for real action? What is the tipping point? Can we use the ends to justify the means… as they do? It is getting close to the point that we need to forcefully turn everything completly upside down and eliminate the cancer.

Fuck your false sense of security and your modern comforts.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because if regular people could see it online for themselves they would have to actually question why it is “News” corporations (who get to see these things) aren’t being truthful about the actual content of them.
The American people don’t care about facts, they care more about large showy things to fix huge problems that have no actual solution. They are glad to have money poured at the problem, even if it is being wasted completely. (ex. TSA)

This is where the long history of special deals between corporations and the officials they purchase special access have lead us to. Many people are no longer willing to accept what they are told without being able to see the facts, and they are fighting to get the truth out there. This threatens the entire Government system they have devolved to.
If you had easy access to see your congresscritter slipped in an amendment to make sure the large corporation would never be held responsible for polluting the ground water in your town, how long would they still have their job? Instead this is buried in a bill of several thousand pages and behind a few layers of war on drugs, for the children, to keep cyberwar from happening and no one looks at all the parts.

Until we can get people to stop voting for kneejerk soundbites, and look past their own selfish desires we will never see change. The system as devolved to the idea of – well my senator voted to try and have all abortion providers shot and that is more important than him gutting FDA oversight. And they refuse to care until they get sick from e coli tainted meat that the FDA was blocked from stopping.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: your boat

1. just a little log rolling to say that i generally find your comments on-point and spot-on… (okay, your turn, hhh)
2. i am pretty much at the head of the line in bashing fat, stupid, lazy, violent, gluttonous ‘merikans, *but*, there are other factors at play which i think widen the circle of blame, to wit:
A. i have 100% sympathy for nearly ANY parents, especially with wee ones, ’cause rugrats are a blackhole for time…
*of course* it is not ‘impossible’ to stay informed and on top of issues, keep abreast of technical developments, blah blah blah, but really ? …it is generally impractical, at least, for *most* parents, especially working two+ jobs…
(not a prob for exceptional and nerdy techdirtians, though… /sarc)
B. here is the thing: that 1984 shit is WORKING: people ARE afraid to speak their minds if it contradicts ‘conventional wisdom’; people ARE -justifiably- concerned that their business, their job, their livelihood is in jeopardy should they champion some ‘unpopular’ issue or person; people ARE -reasonably- afraid they will end up on secret lists for no-travel, or possibly no-life…
C. the cherry on top, is that the media, the press, the so-called journalists of the day working for Big Media are NOT working on behalf of the 99% of us, but the 1% who own Big Media… this is so common-place and beyond argument, that it is trite and naive to repeat it; yet that doesn’t mitigate the horrible damage ‘our’ (sic) in-activist media continuously inflicts upon our body politic…

that is all, you may now resume your regularly scheduled programming…
art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

The fact that any bill is conducted with secrecy should be obvious grounds for dismissal by default and an imediate investigation and dismissals across the board…..weed them out so to speak

There’s a law for you, im sure we can get loads of corporate support on this one lads

Alrite lads, chop chop, we can do it, raise the flags and all that………tally hoe

International support

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“The fact that any bill is conducted with secrecy should be obvious grounds for dismissal by default”

Not a bill – that’s what’s so dangerous about this situation. Bills are subject to approval by congress/the senate (presumably both, but I’m not completely sure how your system works – out here it’s both houses for any bill).
This agreement is subject to approval by US, Australian and Asian diplomats. Period. Your country’s representative agrees to something that your and the rest of your country’s population doesn’t want? Sucks to be you. And you can’t directly vote out the asshat who signed up on your behalf. Yay.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re:

“But hey, as Citizens United showed us corporations are people too!”

So, if you destroy a corporation’s headquarters with a bomb, you’ve just committed murder?

Can we do abortions on the corporations yet?

I’d like to see those buildings fit into the voting booths too!

And why don’t they have a Social Security number?

I bet they’re all illegal immigrants! Quick! We must deport all the corporations!

Can I get a restraining order against corporate ads? They’re harassing me!

Anonymous Coward says:

I guess we got change uh? Not to mention how transparent the government has become, as this article demonstrates.

The really smart thing (which won’t happen) is if congress got their back up and decided that in order to ratify the treaty some of their own should be in the process or it doesn’t enter into congress.

I’ve already problems with the way ACTA was signed. The Executive Branch does not have the authority to sign trade agreements. Period. No matter if the laws don’t have to be changed or if they do. I’ve no doubt that the signing will not be legal if it becomes a case in court as the precedents are quite well laid out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Give it a rest

The “current president is making acting along the rule of day and outright says so”?????

Are you serious?!?!? Were you not alive during the King Bush era???

Save your partisan bullshit for another blog. The issue here is about corporations buying both sides and acting against the public welfare.

gorehound (profile) says:

Money is the factor here.Thank You asshole MAFIAA.
You will never see a dime out of my wallet for the rest of my damn life.you have paid off Politicians and even our President to do your bidding.You are so greedy you would rather see this World Censored and locked up and forced to your MAFIAA Contnet but many of us will not be buying into your garbage.
Buy & Support INDIE !
Censor the MAFIAA from your Wallet please.

Anonymous Coward says:

given the run around that Senator Wyden received from Ron Kirk to specific, official questions asked of him some while ago and the fact that the contents of the TPP wont be released for 4 years after the fact, what did Wyden expect? has he not realised yet that being a Senator has nowhere near the clout of the MPAA, RIAA or other corporations? Senators are just there to take all the shit when things go wrong, are learned of by the public and it all hits fan! corporations run the country, no one else!

Jonathan says:

My advice to Sen. Wyden: Don’t negotiate with terrorists. Instead of introducing a bill that lets you have this secret information, simply direct the USTR to recall, impound and destroy all work on TPP that has not been officially presented to the public.

The elite class understands nothing until you start breaking their toys.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...