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CONTACT: United for a Fair Economy
Launch of New iPhone App Makes Finding & Sharing Corporate Tax, Government Subsidy & Campaign Donation Records Easy
MILWAUKEE, Wi. - January 29 - Timed to the February 4 PBS|Independent Lens rebroadcast of their award-winning documentary AS GOES JANESVILLE, 371 Productions is launching BizVizz, the first mobile iPhone app to make corporate behavior transparent. Just snap a picture of a brand’s logo and a simple graphic screen instantly displays essential facts about America’s largest corporations. Do they pay their taxes? How much money do they get in government in subsidies? To whom do they give their political donations? BizVizz currently has 300 companies and over 900 brands with plans to expand.
371’s president, filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, says he was created the app because filmed a company in his movie obtaining taxpayer dollars without even so much as a public hearing. “I watched the democratic process being subverted and felt that we should do something on a grander scale to make corporate behavior more transparent, especially when we’re all called on to do our part during these tough economic times.” The Independent Television Service, funded by the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, backed BizVizz to extend the movie’s impact and Kartemquin Films co-produced the movie.
371 teamed up with Faculty Creative, a Philadelphia-based digital creative agency to develop BizVizz. Their goal was to make the app both useful — it’s a “wikepedia” of corporate accountability stats — and fun to use. They also created a website and an open API.
Seeking a wider audience for BizVizz, 371 teamed up with fellow filmmakers, Vicky Bruce and Karin Hayes, whose 2012 Sundance film WE’RE NOT BROKE exposes how US multinational companies offshore profits to avoid paying tax. Together they are working with non-profits including the Tax Justice Network-USA US PIRG, and the F.A.C.T. coalition, a DC-based coalition of organizations that promote transparency and tax compliance. 371 is working with DC-based non-profit Citizens for Tax Justice to obtain data on corporate tax payments; DC-based non-partisan, non-profit Sunlight Foundation whose Influence Explorer API supplies BizVizz with campaign finance data; and DC-based non-profit Good Jobs First whose Subsidy Tracker website and staff provided the research on state and local government subsidies of corporations. Each of these partners has advised 371 throughout the creation of the app.
371 believes that BizVizz will appeal to consumers who prefer to “shop their values”, citizens and activists concerned with corporate accountability, and reporters on the economics beat. Walking down the shopping aisle scanning brands reveals how most brands are owned by only a few companies. Users can discover that Boeing received over $450,000,000 from South Carolina in subsidies to help build their now grounded Dreamliner; that Wells Fargo, recipient of at least $25 billion in bailout funds, paid negative tax; or that the fiscal cliff deal actually extended a tax break that will allow GE to once again file for a refund instead of paying tax in 2013. “This is public information,” says Lichtenstein. “We’re just making it visible.”
371 is working with the organizations that helped build BizVizz as well as the AFL-CIO and US-PIRG to help provide content for alerts the app will send to BizVizz users about ways in which they can get involved in corporate accountability campaigns, learn about relevant legislation or read a new report or timely news story. Working Films is also helping 371 to reach new audiences by promoting the film and the app along with several other documentaries about our economy. 371 and Faculty are already looking to the next phase of development which will include hundreds more companies, an Android version of BizVizz, and a location-based feature that will let users know when brands nearby are in the app.