Thursday, May 10, 2007

money changes everything, part two (Bags-o-Glass for everyone...!)

And now, more evidence that the Bush Administration continues its hostile takeovers of as many government regulatory institutions as possible in order to increase corporate profit with no regard for American citizens...

Bush Nominee for Product Safety Agency Was Top Lobbyist for Industry Group That Pressed to Weaken Key Safeguards

WASHINGTON - Michael Baroody, President Bush’s nominee to chair the nation’s consumer safety watchdog agency, was the top lobbyist for the country’s most powerful industry trade association when the group supported weakening guidelines for reporting information about dangerous products.

(acs note: It's kinda like nominating this guy {below} to watch over product safety for the country...)

According to a report released today by Public Citizen, the requirements that the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and its allies sought to weaken had been responsible for more than 80 percent of the fines issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) over the past decade. NAM’s members and its coalition partners were responsible for paying more than half of those fines. The report’s findings underscore the inappropriateness of Bush’s choice of Baroody, a career lobbyist for the manufacturing industry, to chair the agency that is charged with protecting consumers from unsafe products.

The CPSC is tasked with protecting the public – and especially children – from serious injury or death and monitors more than 15,000 types of consumer products. Reports about product hazards are mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Act, one of the key laws governing the CPSC’s role in protecting consumer safety. With Baroody serving as its executive director for lobbying efforts, NAM supported a move to weaken agency protocols that dictate when companies – including NAM members – must immediately report information about potentially hazardous product defects. The changes NAM successfully pressed for could affect the agency’s ability to issue timely decisions to recall dangerous 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.”

In 2006, despite a long history of manufacturer defiance and cover-ups of reporting violations, the CPSC proposed watering down the Substantial Product Hazard reporting guidelines. Its proposal added additional criteria to the test for determining if a product is both defective and potentially dangerous, and allowed companies new wiggle room in deciding whether to report unsafe products to the CPSC. The new guidelines will likely benefit manufacturers and reduce public notice of safety risks.

Public Citizen’s analysis shows that weakening the rules had enormous financial benefits for NAM and its manufacturer members at the expense of consumer safety. Alleged violations of reporting guidelines were responsible for about $32.9 million of $39.6 million in civil fines collected by the CPSC since 1997. NAM members and affiliates accounted for more than half of those payments, totaling $18 million. Five of those companies alone paid a combined $10 million for allegedly violating reporting guidelines.

Catherine Downs, the former deputy director for recalls in the CPSC’s Office of Compliance, argued that the changes could “only weaken the protection that is offered to the consumer.” Drawing on her experience with the CPSC, she criticized the proposed revisions as “not only unnecessary but potentially dangerous,” and warned the CPSC not to adopt them. Under Baroody, NAM was vocal in its support of the weakened rules. The CPSC approved the changes in July 2006.

“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.”

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