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Washington doesn’t need a new ethics law – it needs a good kindergarten teacher!
Even kindergarteners know what “don’t cheat” means, so why are top government officials so slow to grasp the most basic concepts of integrity? The latest miscreants to embarrass the public trust come out of the consumer product safety commission.
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Americans were shocked this summer to learn that this watchdog agency is so toothless that it routinely allows dangerous toys, food, and other imported items onto American shelves. More shocking, however, has been the recent testimony by CPSC’s chairwoman that she and the White House don’t want new regulatory muscle and staff proposed by Congress. Instead, they prefer to continue asking industries to comply “voluntarily” with consumer protection laws.
Why are they so soft on corporate wrongdoing? One reason is that CPSC chairwoman, Nancy Nord, is a corporate product herself, having been a lawyer for Eastman Kodak before being picked by Bush to become a “regulator” of industry.
But another reason is that she has never really left the corporate swirl. Nord and her predecessor, another Bush appointee, have taken dozens of junkets to China, Spain, San Francisco, and other pleasurable locales on the expense accounts of the very industries they are supposed to regulate. Last year, for example, Nord took a jaunt to a toy fair in New York City on the tab of the Toy Industry Association. One of the group’s executives explained that the chairwoman’s attendance was “vital” to inform her about new toys. Even if that’s true, why are the expenses of our consumer protector not covered by her agency, rather than by the regulated industry?
This is a blatant conflict of interest. Any kindergarten teacher could tell you that it’s hard to speak out for consumers when your mouth is full of industry’s paté and cabernet.
“Product Safety official took trips paid for by industries they regulate,” Morning Star Tribune, November 3, 2007
“Industries Paid for Top Regulators’ Travel,” www.washingtonpost.com, November 2, 2007