North Carolina Public Interest Research Group Citizen Lobby (NCPIRG) is the lobbying arm of the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and the North Carolina state affiliate of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US-PIRG), one of a network of left-progressive advocacy and canvassing organizations controlled by professional activist Doug Phelps. 1
U.S. PIRG coordinates resources among its state affiliates, such as NCPIRG, to maximize its advocacy efforts. U.S. PIRG also works as the “federal lobbying office for state PIRGs,” aiming to replicate left-of-center state laws as federal policies and lobbying states to adopt left-progressive policies not adopted in federal legislation. 2
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCPIRG urged its members to apply the effects of the pandemic to left-of-center advocacy projects, including activism on college subsidies, environmentalism, and voting rights. 3
Leading up to the 2020 election, NCPIRG supported voter registration efforts, specifically among college students, under its New Voters Project. Nationally, U.S. PIRG trained 700 students to register classmates on over 100 college campuses across the country,4 including the University of North Carolina campuses in Chapel Hill and Greensboro and Durham Community College. 5
NCPIRG supports U.S. PIRG activities to increase regulations on product manufacturers. NCPIRG has especially supported the U.S. PIRG Trouble in Toyland program, which reviews children’s toys for hazards and has reportedly led to 150 product recalls and new regulations. 6 Such regulations have included banning products found with lead or phthalate chemicals, as well as toys which may present choking hazards. 7
NCPIRG promotes environmentalism in state policy surrounding agriculture and manufacturing. NCPIRG focuses on three main environmentalist projects: regulating and restricting the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture, regulating lead in children’s toys, and limiting the use of various chemicals in protecting crops. 8
NCPIRG opposes the use of chemicals in consumer products, especially glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, a common pesticide. Aside from pressuring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement new regulations, NCPIRG lobbies the North Carolina state government to ban pesticides from schools, government buildings, and homes. 9
NCPIRG seeks to ban single-use plastics, such as plastic cutlery, plates, cups, bags, straws, and containers. To this end, the U.S. PIRG network has pushed legislation banning single-use plastic take-out containers in 13 states. NCPIRG also promotes legislation to mandate that companies provide consumers with access to all of the parts, tools, and service information needed to repair products like cellphones and other electronic devices. 10
NCPIRG claims to employ three main tactics to “protect” students from student loan debt. NCPIRG has lobbied to ban fees associated with on-campus banks,11 increase taxpayer funding of student tuition, and promote the open-licensing of all textbooks. 12
NCPIRG promotes left-progressive approaches to electoral administration and campaign speech restrictions. 13 Suggested electoral changes include eliminating written, on-site voting systems in favor of encrypted online voting. 14
NCPIRG has advocated for several left-of-center health care policies, including incentivizing preventive services, mandating decreases in prescription drug prices, lobbying for legislation focusing on insurers’ fees, and promoting a government-run “public option” in health insurance. 15
NCPIRG campaigns against gasoline and diesel cars and supports the use of electric buses for public transit. NCPIRG also promotes bicycling and walking as an alternative to motorized transportation. 16
NCPIRG lists its president as Faye Park, who is also the president of U.S. PIRG and the Public Interest Network, the parent network of U.S. PIRG and state PIRG affiliates like NCPIRG. 17 NCPIRG also lists its senior director as Ed Mierzwinski, who co-founded Americans for Financial Reform, the organization which campaigned for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 18
- Ludwig, Hayden, and Michael Watson. “Secrets of the Public Interest Pyramid: The Left’s Silent Partner.” Capital Research Center. Capital Research Center, February 21, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/secrets-of-the-public-interest-pyramid-part-1/.
- Brobeck, Stephen & Mayer, Robert N. (Eds.). (2015). Watchdogs and Whistleblowers: A Reference Guide to Consumer Activism. Santa Barbara, California. Greenwood, accessed May 18, 2020. https://books.google.com/books?id=uUUMCgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. ^
- Raja, Sara. “Here’s how UNC’s political groups are staying active while campus is shut down.” The Daily Tar Heel, https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2020/03/political-groups-coronavirus-0330, 3/30/2020,Chapel Hill, NC, accessed May 28, 2020.
- PIRG New Voters Project: Mobilizing students during COVID-19,” BeyondChron.org, https://beyondchron.org/pirg-new-voters-project-mobilizing-students-during-covid-19/, accessed October 14, 2020.
- “Chapters,” ncpirgstudents.org, https://ncpirgstudents.org/chapters/, accessed October 14, 2020.
- ”Looking Out For Consumers,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/issues/ncp/protecting-consumers, accessed July 10, 2020.
- “32nd annual ‘Trouble in Toyland’ survey finds dangerous toys on store shelves, Beaumont.org, https://www.beaumont.org/health-wellness/press-releases/32nd-annual-trouble-in-toyland-survey-finds-dangerous-toys-on-store-shelves, accessed October 14, 2020.
- “New UN Report: We Can Feed The World Without Using Pesticides,” ncpirg.org, https://ncpirg.org/news/usp/new-un-report-we-can-feed-world-without-using-pesticides, accessed October 14, 2020.
- Verges, Josh, “Macalester College students reject MPIRG on campus,” twincities.com, https://www.twincities.com/2014/11/18/macalester-college-students-reject-mpirg-on-campus/, accessed October 14, 2020.
- “Zero Waste,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/feature/ncp/zero-waste, accessed July 10, 2020.
- “Protecting Students From Unfair Banks Fees,” uspirg.org, https://uspirg.org/results/usp/protecting-students-unfair-bank-fees, accessed October 15, 2020.
- ”Make Higher Education Affordable,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/feature/ncp/make-higher-education-affordable, accessed July 10, 2020.
- ”Democracy for the People,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/feature/ncp/democracy-people, accessed July 10, 2020.
- ”Modernize the Vote,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/feature/ncp/modernize-vote, accessed July 10, 2020.
- ”High Value Health Care,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/feature/ncp/high-value-health-care, accessed July 10, 2020.
- ”Transform Transportation,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/feature/ncp/transform-transportation, accessed July 10, 2020.
- “About:NCPIRG Staff: Faye Park,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/staff/wap/faye-park, accessed May 20, 2019.
- “About: NCPIRG Staff: Ed Mierzwinski,” NCPIRG.org, https://ncpirg.org/staff/xxp/ed-mierzwinski, accessed May 20, 2020.