U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG is the umbrella group and national advocate for 25 state Public Interest Research Groups. The citizen-funded state PIRGs work on a wide range of consumer rights issues in 47 states and Washington, D.C. On its website, U.S. PIRG says it “stand[s] up to powerful special interests on issues to promote clean air and water, protect open space, stop identity theft, fight political corruption, provide safe and affordable prescription drugs, and strengthen voting rights.”

In addition to the state PIRG offices, there are student PIRGs that work on public interest issues at about 100 colleges and universities. Some of the first student PIRGs, established in the 1970s, were inspired by progressive activists Ralph Nader, Donald Ross and others. U.S. PIRG was founded by the state PIRG offices in 1983. In 2008 it received roughly the same amount from individual contributions as it did from grants from foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and the Media Democracy Fund. The group’s annual reports are available on its website.

The organization publishes investigative reports, drafts model legislation, and uses litigation and grassroots advocacy efforts to influence public policy. It publishes lengthy reports on topics ranging from pollution and global warming to risks of genetically engineered foods to campaign finance reform. U.S. PIRG releases an annual toy safety report, which it says has led to more than 100 product recalls, and issues an annual “Congressional Scorecard,” which lists votes on certain legislation in the Congress and awards a public interest “score” to each member.

U.S. PIRG also boasts of successes in blocking or pushing federal and state action on environmental issues. In its work, it often partners with other consumer and environmental organizations, such as the Consumer Federation of America and the Sierra Club.

U.S. PIRG’s reports are detailed and often contain discussions of the science involved in an issue. They reflect the group’s anti-corporate leanings, so aren’t likely to include the perspective of the business community.

Political Leanings: Liberal