November 2, 2007

Earlier this week, we learned that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is responsible for reviewing thousands of consumer products to look for potential health risks, wants less money, a smaller staff, and weaker rules for product safety. Given recent events — most notably, toys from China with lead “issues” — the CPSC should want the opposite, but the agency that Bush has undermined for nearly seven years is apparently disinterested in the interests of consumers.

The obvious assumption is that the White House has stacked the CPSC with hacks and ideologues who oppose safety regulations for political purposes. As it turns out, the truth might be even worse.

The chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and her predecessor have taken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children’s furniture industries and others they regulate, according to internal records obtained by The Washington Post. Some of the trips were sponsored by lobbying groups and lawyers representing the makers of products linked to consumer hazards.

The records document nearly 30 trips since 2002 by the agency’s acting chairman, Nancy Nord, and the previous chairman, Hal Stratton, that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufacturers of products ranging from space heaters to disinfectants. The airfares, hotels and meals totaled nearly $60,000, and the destinations included China, Spain, San Francisco, New Orleans and a golf resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

In response to the news, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel nailed it: “Now we know why Nancy Nord opposes efforts to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission more resources: Who needs more resources when the industries you regulate will pay your expenses for you? After taking dozens of trips on the industry dime, it is now time for Mrs. Nord to take a permanent vacation from her post.”

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