Bush Nominates Industry Lobbyist to Head Product Safety

Continuing his trend of nominating people with ties to business and industry for regulatory positions, President Bush has nominated Michael Baroody to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Baroody, an anti-regulation fanatic, has spent his career as an industry lobbyist and is an executive for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), one of the most powerful industry trade groups in the country. In short, Baroody has spent his career fighting against reasonable product-safety measures, and a slew of consumer watchdogs are, shall we say, not pleased.

According to a new report by Public Citizen, a national, nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization, NAM under Baroody’s watch was instrumental in severely weakening the CPSC’s safety guidelines related to the disclosure of hazardous products. “As head of the CPSC, Baroody would be in charge of administering the weakened disclosure guidance his industry association sought, presenting a serious and unavoidable conflict of interest,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Under his authority, consumer and public safety would be at risk, while the companies he represented for years would save millions in future fines.”

“The CPSC Chairman should champion product safety and work to uphold the mission of the agency without predisposition or bias,” added Rachel Weintraub, director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel with the Consumer Federation of America. “Mr. Baroody’s record of advancing a public policy agenda that would weaken health and safety protections for consumers makes him ill-suited to lead a critical federal safety agency like the CPSC. It is difficult to believe that Mr. Baroody could suddenly reverse course and oppose initiatives that would harm consumers.”

According to Public Citizen, the rules regarding the disclosure of hazardous products are the CPSC’s most effective tool in protecting consumer safety. Baroody and NAM worked very hard to weaken those rules in the interest of reducing fines levied against manufacturers and the new NAM-supported guidance was pushed through last year. As Public Citizen’s report notes, “The new guidance, which was finally issued in July 2006, will allow future manufacturing defects and safety hazards to go unreported if a manufacturer determines that they meet any of several newly created exceptions. The guidance will undoubtedly save companies money and reduce public notice of safety risks.”

“While Baroody was at its helm, NAM had a record of unrelenting hostility to the safety of consumers, including small children,” said Laura MacCleery, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Baroody should not be confirmed to lead a safety agency that has such a vital role in protecting American families.”

Added Ed Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), “Michael Baroody’s nomination is putting the fox in the henhouse and that’s the wrong decision for America’s safety.”

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