As Consumer Watchdog's founder, Harvey Rosenfield is one of the nation's foremost consumer advocates. Trained as a public interest lawyer, Rosenfield authored Proposition 103 and organized the campaign that led to its passage by California voters in 1988 despite over $80 million spent in opposition (still a record).
He has co-authored groundbreaking initiatives on HMO reform and utility rate deregulation (Proposition 9, 1998). Rosenfield is the author of the book, Silent Violence, Silent Death: The Hidden Epidemic of Medical Malpractice.
Rosenfield, who established Consumer Watchdog in 1985, has worked for the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Congress, in private practice, as a staff attorney for Ralph Nader's Public Citizen Congress Watch and as the Program Director for the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG).
Rosenfield graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College and obtained a joint Law and Masters degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.
Jamie Court, President
Consumer Watchdog's President is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. His latest book, The Progressive's Guide To Raising Hell: How To Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws And Get The Change You Voted For, was published by Chelsea Green in September 2010. "Americans angry about the state of their government or the fallout from the BP oil disaster might find in Court's persuasive manifesto a cause for action," Publishers Weekly writes. "With great accessibility and a fired-up attitude, Court brings his lessons in empowerment to the people."
Court is also the author of Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Freedom And What You Can Do About It (Tarcher Putnam, 2003) and co-author of Making A Killing: HMOs and the Threat To Your Health (Common Courage Press, 1999).
The Los Angeles Times calls Court "a tireless consumer advocate." The Wall Street Journal writes, "He's notorious for his dramatic, sharp-tongued attacks on the health- and auto-insurance industries, and on any politician who takes their campaign cash."
Court helped to pioneer the HMO patients' rights movement in the United States, sponsoring successful laws in California and aiding them elsewhere. He has also led major corporate campaigns to reform insurers, banks, oil companies, utilities and political practices. Court is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's "Marketplace" program and on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page.
Court has also worked as an advocate for the homeless and as a community organizer. He has a degree in history from Pomona College.
Carmen Balber, Executive Director
Carmen Balber is Consumer Watchdog’s new executive director and returns to California after four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office. Balber leads Consumer Watchdog’s national health reform project, and is recognized as a leading expert on a wide range of insurance issues. In 2012, she managed the coalition effort to defeat a $17 million insurance industry initiative that would have raised rates on good drivers, as well as the campaign to successfully qualify an initiative measure for the 2014 ballot that will require health insurance companies to justify and get prior approval for rate hikes. Her advocacy work includes consumer issues ranging from medical malpractice and the civil justice system, to personal privacy, corporate accountability and the influence of money in politics. She has authored or co-authored numerous reports on the auto, health and medical malpractice insurance industries, and insurance rate regulation.
Balber is a consistent critic of politicians who skirt campaign and ethics laws. Her exposure of corporate funding for exotic overseas junkets led to new rules on politicians’ travel and luxury spending. Balber ran the campaigns to pass the nation’s strongest conflict of interest protections in five cities across California and coordinated citizen organizing efforts in Consumer Watchdog’s successful grassroots campaign to block a legislative utility bailout in 2001, including leading a three-week volunteer lobbying effort in Sacramento.
Before joining Consumer Watchdog, Balber served as Assistant Canvass Director for the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (COPIRG). She holds a B.A. in Politics from Pomona College.
Douglas Heller, Consumer Advocate/Executive Director Emeritus
Consumer Advovate Douglas Heller, who served as Consumer Watchdog's Executive Director from 2004 to 2012, is one of the nation’s leading experts on, and critics of, the insurance industry. Heller is also recognized as a vocal critic of political corruption and corporate influence in government. He has led legislative, regulatory and public education campaigns related to insurance and energy issues, healthcare reform whistleblower protections and political accountability and is a frequent media commentator on these issues.
Heller has authored numerous reports on issues such as energy deregulation, medical malpractice and insurance industry low-balling. He has served on several consumer- and social justice-oriented boards and has testified before Congress and several state legislatures.
In 2010, Heller led the coalition that defeated the anti-consumer Proposition 17, sponsored by Mercury insurance, despite being outspent by more than 12 to one. Heller also led the 2001 lobbying effort that blocked the proposed bailout of California’s electric utilities in the wake of the state’s deregulation debacle. Through both advocacy work and community outreach, Heller has been California’s consumer leader in the effort to implement and expand the nation’s first low-cost auto insurance program for low-income motorists.
Prior to advocacy work, Heller was a community organizer, training and managing volunteers. After receiving his B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, Heller spent two years as a Teach For America teacher in rural Louisiana, where he was awarded his school district’s highest teaching honor, the Crystal Apple.
Pamela Pressley, Litigation Director
Consumer Watchdog's Litigation Director, Pamela Pressley has headed up Consumer Watchdog's legal advocacy and regulatory efforts since 1999. Pressley has served as lead counsel in challenges to insurance industry rate hike proposals resulting in savings to California policyholders of $1.7 billion since 2003.
Additionally, Pressley has led Consumer Watchdog's efforts to enforce Proposition 103's mandates to protect California insurance policyholders against discriminatory practices and premium overcharges, including through rulemaking proceedings before the California Department of Insurance and court actions. Pressley has also authored numerous appellate briefs and presented oral argument in cases seeking to enforce Proposition 103 and California’s consumer protection laws. Currently, she is prosecuting an enforcement action against Mercury Insurance for its practice of charging illegal brokers fees and is leading a court action against the Department of Managed Health Care seeking an order requiring the agency to order health care plans to cover medically necessary treatment for autism.
Pressley received her B.A. in Sociology from UCLA and her J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law. Before joining Consumer Watchdog, Pressley worked for CALPIRG as its Consumer Attorney and as a staff attorney for the Center for Law in the Public Interest, a non-profit, public interest law firm specializing in consumer, environmental, and civil rights advocacy and litigation.
Jerry Flanagan, Staff Attorney
Jerry Flanagan is a staff attorney at Consumer Watchdog focusing on health care litigation. He is recognized as one of the nation's leading public interest health law analysts. Flanagan has helped lead Consumer Watchdog’s litigation efforts in the areas of heath insurance coverage and access to treatments for autism.
Flanagan exposed the illegal practice of health insurers retroactively canceling coverage and authored a law journal article underscoring the need for reform in health insurance rescission law, Healthy State of Mind: The Role of Intent in Health Plan Rescissions, 43 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 291 (2009).
Flanagan designed and successfully advocated for key new consumer legal rights in national health reform legislation such as “guarantee issue” of health coverage, medical loss ratio caps, review and justification of health insurance rates, bars on annual and lifetime policy caps, and an “intentional misrepresentation” standard for coverage rescissions.
Flanagan led a successful national campaign to stop federal legislation to expand "junk insurance" that does not provide real protections when patients get sick.
Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog, Flanagan drafted and won passage of one of the nation’s strongest HMO accountability measures, which was signed into law in New Jersey in 2001. Flanagan received a B.A. in Social/Cultural Anthropology and Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley and his law degree from Loyola Law School. At Loyola Flanagan was a Note and Comment editor on the Loyola Law Review, and he graduated Magna Cum Laude and is a member of the Order of the Coif.
Kent A. McInnis, Jr., Creative Director & IT Manager
Kent McInnis comes to Consumer Watchdog after spending 8 years as a designer and art director in the world of commercial advertising. He has worked for industries such as entertainment, automotive, banking, computer technology, recruitment and corporate communications. Prior to that, Kent spent several years working in both the education and mental health fields for children as well as the elderly.
Kent has volunteered his time and skills to various issues, including fundraising efforts for a nationally recognized battered women's shelter, and movement & art therapy for abused children. Kent has a bachelor's degree in Fine Art from the University of Illinois, and continues that practice in a range of digital mediums including experimental photography, collage and video performance.
John M. Simpson, Consumer Advocate
John M. Simpson is a veteran journalist who held top editing positions at international, national and community newspapers. Most recently he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. He was previously deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition.
Simpson taught journalism at Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. Recently he wrote Consumer Watchdog's report, "Affordability, Accessibility & Accountability in California Stem Cell Research." His op-ed articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News, the Sacramento Bee, and the Wisconsin State Journal.
Simpson holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.
Liza Tucker, Consumer Advocate
Liza Tucker is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, following everything from oil and gas to the regulation of toxic substances in the state of California. She comes to us from Marketplace, the largest U.S. broadcast show on business and economics heard by ten million listeners each week on 400 radio stations. Liza worked at this public radio show for a decade, first as Commentary Editor and then as Senior Editor for both Washington and Sustainability News. At Marketplace, Liza produced and edited several special feature series from who funds Washington think tanks to the BP oil spill. Liza has worked as a journalist, consultant, teacher, and translator.
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Liza spent a few years in Bologna, Italy. She covered business at The Washington Post and later free-lanced her way through the Soviet Union, covering its collapse for Time, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. Liza is fluent in Russian and speaks Italian. She taught journalism at Allegheny College. She also served as a consultant to the MacArthur Foundation awarding individual grants in the areas of independent media, women’s rights, and legal reform, and to US AID on how to support independent media in Ukraine. She translated Alexandra’s letters to Nicholas for The Fall of the Romanovs, published by Yale University Press, and the memoirs of Anatoly S. Chernyayev, a top Gorbachev aide on foreign affairs, My Six Years with Gorbachev, with her husband and Director of the School of International Relations, Robert English for Pennsylvania State University Press. She travelled through Europe in 2009 as a German Marshall Fund Fellow studying German, French, Danish, and British approaches to sustainability. She holds a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
Mark Reback, Advocate/Researcher/Manager
Mark Reback has been with Consumer Watchdog for ten years, providing the advocacy and legal departments with research support, following money trails from special interests to politicians, as well as being the primary contact with members of the media, in addition to also handling the day to day administrative work. Reback also helps maintain the organization's various websites, is a frequent blogger on those sites, and is responsible for supervising Consumer Watchdog's consumer complaint program, helping members of the public looking for consumer assistance.
In his life outside Consumer Watchdog, Reback has been a long-time volunteer with TreePeople, an environmental non-profit based in Los Angeles, and was honored in 2009 with TreePeople's Volunteer Leader Award at their annual gala. Reback is also an accomplished drummer/musician, who has recorded/performed/toured with a variety of bands & artists, and his music has been featured on several television shows & independent films. His current musical project is the indie-rock band Black Hi-Lighter. Reback holds a B.A. in Business - Marketing from Colorado State University.
Laura Antonini, Staff Attorney
As the newest addition to Consumer Watchdog's team, Laura Antonini is an attorney providing research support to the litigation team in all focus areas. Antonini is a dedicated consumer advocate. She previously volunteered as an intern for Consumer Watchdog during her undergraduate education in 2004, helping organize the Rx Express, a campaign calling attention to the high cost of prescription drugs for senior citizens. She decided to return to Consumer Watchdog as a volunteer attorney in early 2011, and recently joined the team full time.
During law school, Antonini conducted legal and scientific research on several projects, including the development of carbon dioxide quantification software for businesses and municipalities, and water quality and environmental compliance assessments of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog, Antonini tutored and mentored law school students and recent law school graduates for the California Bar Exam, and also co-authored a “How To” book for law students, focused on legal writing.
Antonini received a B.S. in Environmental Biology and Management from University of California, Davis, and a J.D. from Pace University School of Law, with a specialization in Environmental Law.
Jodi Waxman, Operations Manager
Jodi Waxman joined the organization in summer 2011 as Operations Manager. She has been tasked with overseeing the essential logistics of our day-to-day operations-- a job she likens to herding cats in a tornado. She brings over fifteen years of experience in project management, production, creative logistics, and public relations to Consumer Watchdog.
Jodi started her career with a degree in Communication and American studies, working for PR powerhouse Rubenstein Associates, before spending three years as Traffic Manager and Photo Researcher in The Education group at Scholastic Inc., and six years as the Senior Art Editor at Oxford University Press, in the American English Language Teaching division.
Jodi is also an accomplished artist. A painter and printmaker, she most recently has been working with wood and sheet metal to create sculptural pieces that reflect the ever present interaction of organic and inorganic elements in our material world. She swears this is fun and relaxing.
Jodi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Rutgers University School of Communication, Information and Library Science and Douglass College, and has studied painting, photography, printmaking and assemblage post-grad at The School of Visual Arts, The Art Students League of NY and New York University.
Jason Roberts, Legal Assistant / Paralegal
Jason is the newest addition to the Consumer Watchdog team. As a UCLA certified paralegal he provides legal support to all members of the litigation department as well as assisting with recruitment, research projects and media. Jason also plays a role in assisting our advocates with research and administrative support.
Jason earned his B.S in political science at San Francisco State University. It was here that Jason became interested in the law and public policy. As a judicial extern and legal aid volunteer, both at the on-campus legal aid center as well as the ACESS legal aid center attached to the San Francisco Superior Court, he observed the power the law can have to effect real change in peoples lives. Jason is proud to be a part of the team here at Consumer Watchdog and is ready to fight the good fight for consumers everywhere.
Daniel Palay, New Media Director
Daniel Palay comes to Consumer Watchdog after spending three years as a staff member of Stearns Consulting in San Francisco. As new media professional there, Daniel oversaw the design and maintenance of all of the firm's campaign websites and helped develop social media presences across multiple platforms. His online and print editing portfolio includes work for Jerry Brown for Governor, Kamala Harris for Attorney General and Leland Yee for State Senator among other candidates and ballot measure campaigns.
In addition working in the online and print environment, Daniel acted as the lead organizer in helping pass the Bayview Hunters Point redevelopment plan - which when completed will represent the largest development project in San Francisco - adding 10,000 jobs and 10,000 units of affordable housing to San Francisco.
Prior to his time at Stearns Consulting, Daniel served as the Deputy Director of Operations for Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change in Missouri where he was in charge of field office set-up and maintenance, merchandise sales, human relations and election-day operations. He also spent two summers interning on Capitol Hill for Senator Dianne Feinstein and California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.
Daniel holds a bachelor’s degree in American Politics and History from the University of California, San Diego where he graduated with Alumni Honors as an active member of the campus political and athletic community.
Ellen Snortland is Consumer Watchdog’s longest serving Board Member, a Director since the group’s inception in 1985.
Ellen has her Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. A regular columnist for the Pasadena Weekly, frequent contributor to Ms. Magazine and www.theWIP.net, she’s a tireless advocate for women and girls and physical safety for all. Snortland has attended United Nations world conferences and annual UN meetings as an NGO delegate and journalist. Her book, “Beauty Bites Beast,” was featured on Dateline NBC and is the basis for the documentary she is directing by the same name. Her acclaimed one woman show, “Now That She’s Gone” is a comic and poignant memoir about growing up Norwegian American in South Dakota. The show has been selected for the New York Fringe Festival in August 2008.
Ellen and her fiancé Ken Gruberman live in Altadena, California. To keep up with Ellen visit www.snortland.com.
Consumer Watchdog Director Kathy Olsen has traveled the country advocating for increased patient protections and fighting to stop efforts to limit the rights of people and families harmed by medical malpractice. Kathy and her husband Scott founded the Steven Andrew Olsen Coalition for Patients’ Rights, after their wonderful son Steven was injured as a result of medical negligence. Kathy and Steven have been featured on The Today Show and in numerous television and newspaper stories.
Kathy has been a Board Member of the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation. In addition to being a patient rights activist, Kathy has been a driving force for educational access for disabled children.
Kathy lives with her husband Scott, daughter Stephanie and son Steven in Chula Vista, California.
In 1988, Chic Wolk was the first person to call Harvey Rosenfield and say “I am glad you are fighting for consumers and I’d like to give you some money to help the cause.”
In addition to being a Director of Consumer Watchdog, Chic is the Treasurer of the Board of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. He is Honorary Counsel General for the Kyrgyz Republic, Chairman of the Friends of Vilnius Yiddish Institute, the Founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project, and he has served as President of the Board of the Inner City Law Center.
Chic was the CEO and Founder of Five Star Parking, a nationwide service company. He attended Loyola School of Law in Chicago. Chic lives with his partner Kristin Zethren in Los Angeles.
Since the late seventies, as the head of J.P. Tarcher, Inc., Jeremy Tarcher has published books in the field of human potential and leading edge ideas in science, psychology, consciousness, spiritual development, and social change.
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