U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent the following letter to Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, raising serious concerns about the nomination of Michael E. Baroody to head the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye Chairman Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee 508 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Inouye:
I am writing to express my serious concerns about the nomination of Michael E. Baroody, the lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), to head the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). I know your Committee will be holding a hearing on his nomination next week, and I wanted to submit my views for your consideration.
The CPSC, as you know, is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the Commission's jurisdiction. According to the CPSC, deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $700 billion annually as well irreparable pain to those who lose loved ones.
Mr. Baroody's work history and consistent opposition to regulation in the public interest raises significant questions about whether he can effectively carry out the agency's mission. A number of well-respected advocacy groups, including Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and the Consumer Federation of America, have objected to Mr. Baroody's nomination because of his history of working to "dilute safety proposals pending before the Commission." They argue that while Mr. Baroody was leading NAM's advocacy efforts, he and NAM's "CPSC Coalition" pursued a number of anti-consumer activities, such as:
* Opposing a CPSC proposal to improve safety standards for baby walkers and instead blaming parents for improperly supervising their children;
* Opposing a petition from consumer organizations to improve the way that consumers find out about recalls of potentially dangerous children's products;
* Seeking to dilute guidelines that companies use to determine whether they must report substantial product hazards; and
* Urging New York Governor George Pataki to veto legislation that mandated fire-safe cigarettes.
Further raising concerns about Mr. Baroody's ability to act independently from the industry he is supposed to be regulating is the recent revelation that he accepted a $150,000 payment from NAM as part of a "severance" package in going to the CPSC. Although Mr. Baroody has said he will not work on matters involving NAM for two years, he will still be able to work on matters involving companies that are NAM members, as well as matters involving smaller trade groups like those representing children's products manufacturers that have alliances with NAM.
Mr. Chairman, I know you are a strong supporter of greater consumer protection, and I trust that you will closely examine Mr. Baroody's record and fitness for this important position. Leading the nation's premier product safety commission is too important a responsibility to put in the hands of someone who owes his career to the same companies whose products he is supposed to judge. Thank you.
United States Senator