Public Citizen

Public Citizen is a consumer advocacy group that was founded in 1971 by Ralph Nader, a liberal activist and later a Green Party presidential candidate. The group says it works for “openness and democratic accountability in government, for the right of consumers to seek redress in the courts; for clean, safe and sustainable energy sources; for social and economic justice in trade policies; for strong health, safety and environmental protections; and for safe, effective and affordable prescription drugs and health care.”

The organization has six divisions: Auto Safety, Congress Watch, Energy Program, Global Trade Watch, Health Research Group and Litigation Group. It has been instrumental in a number of high-profile consumer advocacy causes. Public Citizen activists helped in the push to get airbags required in all vehicles, for instance, and the group fought to get Reye’s Syndrome warnings on aspirin bottles. Toy safety has been another area of focus for the group. Its worstpills.org site offers detailed information about pharmaceuticals the group considers unsafe, but full access to this information requires a paid subscription.

The Public Citizen website can be an invaluable source of information on consumer safety issues, and in some areas the group does its own research. Its Center for Auto Safety, for example, developed its own roof crush test for cars.

Public Citizen is pro-consumer and often critical of corporations and government. Don’t expect to see the views of the private sector represented here. The group does not accept donations from corporations, professional associations or government agencies, though it has received contributions from labor unions. In 2008, more than half of its funding came from individual donations, with about one-sixth coming from grants. Public Citizen’s Form 990 tax records are available on its website.

Comments: Public Citizen’s research is often thorough and detailed, though the group has an anti-corporate, pro-regulatory point of view.

Political Leanings: Liberal