In the wake of revelations about 30 trips taken by the current and previous Chairs of the Consumer Product Safety Commission that were funded by industries they regulate, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today introduced legislation that would prohibit such travel for federal regulators. The Restoring Truth in Regulator Travel Act is co-sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Barack Obama (D-IL).
The reports of the industry-funded travel come as the CPSC is under intense scrutiny for allowing toys containing lead into the hands of American children.
"It's clear that this is toxic travel - it can be harmful to our health," said Sen. Menendez. "The image of toy companies paying for federal regulators to travel around the globe while American children are at home playing with toxic toys is probably seared into the minds of millions of parents. We need to make sure that these product gatekeepers are looking out for one interest and one interest only: the well-being of the American people. Just as we enacted historic legislation that curbed Congressional travel this year, we now have to do the same for federal regulators."
"This is truly a case of the fox guarding the hen house," said Sen. Schumer. "It is flat out wrong for the head of the agency charged with regulating toy companies should be jet setting around the world on their dime. We need a complete overhaul of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, including more funding, more inspectors, and more accountability for manufacturers. I am proud to co-sponsor legislation that would do just that."
"Federal regulators shouldn't get free trips from the industries they regulate - period. That's common sense," Sen. Whitehouse said. "Our children deserve a government that looks out for them - not special interests."
"While kids are being exposed to deadly toys, the federal officials charged with protecting them from harmful products are taking travel paid for by the toy industry," said Sen. McCaskill. "This is a conflict of interest and it must be stopped."
"This is good, common-sense consumer legislation," said Sen. Carper. "We are demanding more transparency for congressional travel, and the same should be expected of the appointed officials charged with protecting consumer products for all Americans."
"This bill works to ensure that we are putting the people's interests ahead of the special interests," Sen. Obama said. "It's simply unacceptable that our kids were exposed to lead toys while the very people in charge of keeping products safe were accepting industry-funded trips. Just as we worked to enact historic ethics reform earlier this year and stop lobbyist-funded trips for members of Congress, it's essential that we pass this bill and stop industry-funded travel for federal regulators. The health and safety of our kids depends on it."
The Senate Commerce Committee has approved legislation that would strengthen the CPSC, expanding its budget and increasing the number of product inspectors, but the Commission's acting-Chair, Nancy Nord, opposes such a measure. Sen. Menendez has called for her to step down.