Non-profit

Consumers Union Action Fund

Location:

YONKERS, NY

Tax ID:

20-4780406

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $1,634
Expenses: $10,675
Assets: $153,114

Consumers Union Action Fund is the lobbying arm of Consumer Reports (formerly known as Consumers Union), the consumer product organization most notable for publishing Consumer Reports magazine. While Consumer Reports is a large organization with over $250 million in annual revenue,[1] the Consumers Union Action Fund is not particularly active as Consumer Reports mostly conducts its own advocacy work. [2] Consumer Reports and the Consumers Union Action Fund advocate for left-leaning consumer policies on issues such as environmentalism, food and nutrition, and subsidizing the use of electric vehicles. [3]

Background

Consumers Union was founded in 1936 following a strike among employees at Consumers’ Research, another nonprofit consumer testing organization that was founded in 1929. The strike at Consumers’ Research resulted in the head of the organization firing several of the strikers and describing them as communists. As a result, the strikers from Consumers’ Research formed a new organization called Consumers Union and began publishing a magazine under the name Consumers Union Reports. Consumers Union changed the name of the magazine to Consumer Reports in 1942. [4]

The founding of Consumers Union was opposed by many magazine publishers with several outlets refusing to provide advertising space for the organization over its policy of criticizing products by name. Early products evaluated by the organization included milk, soap, breakfast cereal, credit unions, and Alka-Seltzer. In the 1950s and 1960s, Consumer Reports grew rapidly, as did its efforts around consumer advocacy including publishing criticism of the tobacco industry over the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes. During this period was when the organization began to ramp up its lobbying and advocacy efforts, which included staff and board members of the organization testifying on public policy issues including drug pricing and automobile safety. The organization also began providing funding to other consumer advocacy groups including American Council on Consumer Interests and Ralph Nader’s Center for Auto Safety. Nader eventually joined the board of Consumers Union. [5]

In 2018, Consumers Union abandoned the name Consumers Union, and rebranded as Consumer Reports Advocacy and continued to publish Consumer Reports as a part of the same 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit. [6]

Lobbying Activity

The advocacy work done by Consumer Reports mostly is done Consumer Reports Advocacy, a department within the main organization. Consumer Reports discloses $1.2 million in direct lobbying expenses and the Consumers Union Action Fund is a small 501(c)(4) lobbying arm that has not been particularly active in recent years. Issue areas that the organization engages on include car safety, energy and environmentalism, food and nutrition, tech policy, data privacy, and product safety. The organization is often most associated with encouraging action among its large subscriber base to urge lawmakers and regulators to enact strict product safety reforms to restrict the activities of businesses. Recent issues that Consumer Reports Advocacy has lobbied on include supporting clean car standards, strict standards on food and beverage distribution, and greenhouse gas emissions standards. [7]

People

Marta Tellado is the President and CEO of Consumer Reports and the Consumers Union Action Fund. Tellado was hired by Consumer Reports in 2014 and was previously the vice president for global communications at the Ford Foundation, which is among the largest funders of left-leaning nonprofits. Tellado began her career working for left-wing activist Ralph Nader, a longtime ally of Consumer Reports. [8]

The advocacy efforts of Consumer Reports and Consumers Union Action Fund are led by David Friedman, who previously worked for the left-leaning environmentalist group Union of Concerned Scientists and then served in multiple roles in the Obama Administration including as the Deputy Administrator and later Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the Department of Transportation, and later in the U.S. Department of Energy as Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary of the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). [9]

References

  1. “IRS Form 990. Consumers Union Action Fund. 2019. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/131776434/202021059349301427/full ^
  2. “IRS Form 990. Consumers Union Action Fund. 2019. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/131776434/202021059349301427/full ^
  3. “Our Work. Consumer Reports Advocacy. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://advocacy.consumerreports.org/our-work/?cur_page=2 ^
  4. “Consumers Union.” Encyclopedia.com. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/consumers-union#:~:text=Consumers%20Union%2C%20publisher%20of%20Consumer,the%20quality%20of%20life%20of ^
  5. “Consumers Union.” Encyclopedia.com. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/consumers-union#:~:text=Consumers%20Union%2C%20publisher%20of%20Consumer,the%20quality%20of%20life%20of ^
  6. “Consumers Union is now Consumer Reports Advocacy.” Public Citizen. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://pubcit.typepad.com/clpblog/2018/11/consumers-union-is-now-consumer-reports-advocacy.html ^
  7. “Our Work.” Consumer Reports Advocacy. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://advocacy.consumerreports.org/our-work/?cur_page=4 ^
  8. Haughney, Christine. “Ford Foundation Executive to Lead Consumer Reports.” July 14, 2014. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/15/business/media/ford-foundation-executive-to-lead-consumer-reports.html?_r=0 ^
  9. “David Friedman.” LinkedIn Profile. Accessed April 18, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-friedman-2a876a46/ ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: May - April
  • Tax Exemption Received: May 1, 2007

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 May Form 990EZ $1,634 $10,675 $153,114 $1,160 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2015 May Form 990EZ $25,453 $81,824 $175,788 $808 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2014 May Form 990EZ $59,127 $57,171 $240,088 $8,737 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2013 May Form 990EZ $34,481 $28,444 $235,607 $6,212 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2012 May Form 990EZ $52,341 $15,970 $267,916 $44,558 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2011 May Form 990EZ $86,830 $77,175 $231,591 $44,604 $0 $0 $0 $0

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Consumers Union Action Fund

    101 TRUMAN AVE
    YONKERS, NY 10703-1044