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Phillips' Colon Health's Bloated Claims
DOJ alleges Bayer violated previous court order by making unsupported claims about product
 
Pharmaceutical giant Bayer is once again in hot water for allegedly pushing unproven health claims to promote one of its dietary supplement products. 
 
Seven years after settling allegations that it falsely marketed its One-A-Day WeightSmart vitamins as a weight-loss remedy, Bayer faces similar charges over the marketing for another one of its dietary supplements, Phillips’ Colon Health.
 
The 2007 settlement slapped Bayer with a $3.2 million civil penalty — which was really mild considering the company’s revenues totaled nearly $140 billion during the time it sold the vitamins — but it also required that Bayer refrain from making any unproven health claims about its dietary supplements in the future.
 
Now, the U.S. Department of Justice says Bayer violated that court order with its multimillion-dollar marketing campaign for Phillips’ Colon Health.
 
The DOJ said in a release last month:
… the United States alleges that Bayer expressly claims Phillips’ Colon Health can “defend against” occasional constipation, diarrhea, and gas and bloating, and impliedly claims that Phillips’ Colon Health prevents, treats and cures constipation, diarrhea, and gas and bloating, even though the company lacks competent and reliable scientific evidence for those claims.
 
Consumers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for Phillips’ Colon Health, the DOJ said.
Bayer refutes the allegations, arguing that “the government’s motion is based on an erroneous standard” on how it deals with dietary supplements.
 
“Probiotic bacteria, including the three species used in Phillips’ Colon Health, have a long and well-documented safety record, complemented by substantial science supporting their digestive benefits,” the company said in a statement. “Indeed, the government does not dispute that the product is safe.
 
“Claims about PCH are fully substantiated by numerous clinical, animal and genetic studies, among other things, and satisfy all applicable legal standards.” 
 

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In Wisconsin, Dark Money Got a Mining Company What It Wanted
An accidentally released court filing reveals how one company secretly gave money to a non-profit that helped get favorable mining legislation passed 
 
This story was co-published with The Daily Beast.
 
When billionaire Chris Cline's company bought an option to mine a swath of northern Wisconsin in 2010, the company touted the project's potential to bring up to 700 well-paid jobs to a hard-pressed part of the state.
 
But the Florida-based company wanted something in return for its estimated $1.5 billion investment — a change to Wisconsin law to speed up the iron mining permit process.
 
So, Cline officials courted state legislators and hired lobbyists. And, unbeknownst to Wisconsin voters and lawmakers, the company waged a more covert campaign, secretly funding a nonprofit advocacy group that battered opponents of the legislation online and on the airwaves.
 
Since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on politics, hundreds of millions of dollars have flooded into the political system — much of it through nonprofit groups that have no legal obligation to identify their donors.
 
Usually such efforts remain hidden from view, leaving voters unaware of who's paying for the gush of campaign calls, flyers and attack ads. But a court filing recently made public by a federal appeals court in Chicago provides a rare look at how so-called "dark money" groups helped one company get what it wanted.
 
The document shows how, in its push for a new state law, a Cline Group subsidiary gave $700,000 to a conservative nonprofit in 2011 and 2012. That group, in turn, donated almost $3 million in 2012 to a second, like-minded nonprofit that also campaigned to change the mine permit process, tax filings show.
 
Both nonprofits worked to pass the mining bill. One helped to write the measure and launched a radio campaign even before it was introduced. The other tried to pressure a Republican holdout. Together, the two groups played a critical role in defeating a freshman Democratic state senator who'd voted against the bill, paving the way for its passage months later.
 
After the 2012 elections, some observers downplayed the impact of dark money groups after most of the candidates supported by the largest one, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, lost. As this year's elections approach, the Cline Group's strategy in Wisconsin reveals the much bigger impact such groups can have in state races. Here their money goes much further, in some cases dwarfing the amount candidates themselves spend on their campaigns.
 
The nonprofits that pushed for the mining law — the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Issues Mobilization Council (WMC), an arm of the state's largest business lobby, and the Wisconsin Club for Growth — declined to comment for this story. On its website, the WMC states "we have never disclosed our donors, and never will."
 
Neither nonprofit reported spending any money on politics on their 2012 tax returns, potentially violating Internal Revenue Service rules, experts said.
 
In an interview, James Buchen, a former WMC vice president, said the group's efforts on behalf of the mining bill were no different from its support of other pro-business legislation. "Our interest in this was trying to create an environment where someone was interested in coming and mining in the state," said Buchen, who left in 2012 to start a lobbying practice.
 
A spokesman for Gogebic Taconite, Cline's Wisconsin subsidiary, did not respond to requests for comment.
 
Still, documents and interviews show that Gogebic's money secretly made its way into the political battle over the mining law — and that the efforts of the WMC and the Wisconsin Club for Growth significantly swayed the results.
 
With the help of ads funded by the two groups, the GOP retook the state senate in 2012 and passed mining legislation similar to what the company had wanted.
 
Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, the veteran legislator targeted by one of the groups, said Gogebic's efforts to hide its influence went beyond anything he'd witnessed since his election to the state assembly. "I've never seen anything like this done by special interests in Wisconsin in 32 years," he said.
 
 

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Private Donors Supply Spy Gear to Cops

There's little public scrutiny when private donors pay to give police controversial technology and weapons. Sometimes, companies are donors to the same foundations that purchase their products for police

 

In 2007, as it pushed to build a state-of-the-art surveillance facility, the Los Angeles Police Department cast an acquisitive eye on software being developed by Palantir, a startup funded in part by the Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital arm.


Originally designed for spy agencies, Palantir's technology allowed users to track individuals with unprecedented reach, connecting information from conventional sources like crime reports with more controversial data gathered by surveillance cameras and license plate readers that automatically, and indiscriminately, photographed passing cars.


The LAPD could have used a small portion of its multibillion-dollar annual budget to purchase the software, but that would have meant going through a year-long process requiring public meetings, approval from the City Council, and, in some cases, competitive bidding.


There was a quicker, quieter way to get the software: as a gift from the Los Angeles Police Foundation, a private charity. In November 2007, at the behest of then Police Chief William Bratton, the foundation approached Target Corp., which contributed $200,000 to buy the software, said the foundation's executive director, Cecilia Glassman, in an interview. Then the foundation donated it to the police department.


Across the nation, private foundations are increasingly being tapped to provide police with technology and weaponry that -- were it purchased with public money -- would come under far closer scrutiny.


In Los Angeles, foundation money has been used to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of license plate readers, which were the subject of a civil-rights lawsuit filed against the region's law enforcement agencies by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (A judge rejected the groups' claims earlier this year.)


Private funds also have been used to upgrade "Stingray" devices, which have triggered debate in numerous jurisdictions because they vacuum up records of cellphone metadata, calls, text messages and data transfers over a half-mile radius.


New York and Los Angeles have the nation's oldest and most generous police foundations, each providing their city police departments with grants totaling about $3 million a year. But similar groups have sprouted up in dozens of jurisdictions, from Atlanta, Georgia, to Oakland, California. In Atlanta, the police foundation has bankrolled the surveillance cameras that now blanket the city, as well as the center where police officers monitor live video feeds.


Proponents of these private fundraising efforts say they have become indispensable in an era of tightening budgets, helping police to acquire the ever-more sophisticated tools needed to combat modern crime.


"There's very little discretionary money for the department," said Steve Soboroff, a businessman who is president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the LAPD's policies and operations. "A grant application to the foundation cuts all the red tape, or almost all of the red tape."


But critics say police foundations operate with little transparency or oversight and can be a way for wealthy donors and corporations to influence law enforcement agencies' priorities.


It's not uncommon for the same companies to be donors to the same police foundations that purchase their products for local police departments. Or for those companies also to be contractors for the same police agencies to which their products are being donated.


"No one really knows what's going on," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, a good government group in New York. "The public needs to know that these contributions are being made voluntarily and have no bearing on contracting decisions."


Palantir, the recipient of the Los Angeles Police Foundation's largesse in 2008, donated $10,000 to become a three-star sponsor of the group's annual "Above and Beyond" awards ceremony in 2013 and has made similar-sized gifts to the New York police foundation.

 

The privately held Palo Alto firm, which had estimated revenues of $250 million in 2011 and is preparing to go public, also has won millions of dollars of contracts from the Los Angeles and New York police departments over the last three years.


Palantir officials did not respond to questions about its relationships with police departments and the foundations linked to them. The New York City Police Foundation did not answer questions about Palantir's donations, or its technology gifts to the NYPD.


Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said she saw danger in the growing web of ties between police departments, foundations and private donors.


"We run the risk of policy that is in the service of moneyed interests," she said.


Continue Reading….

Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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