In the Immortal Words of Ralph Kramden: “Whoa, what a surprise!”

We recently wrote about the efforts of the chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC), Nancy Nord, to oppose a Senate bill that would increase the budget and authority of the Commission to regulate consumer products such as children’s toys. It seemed more than a little odd that the government official in charge of protecting consumers would oppose legislation designed to improve product safety. Now a review of internal CPSC documents by The Washington Post reveals that since 2002 Chairman Nord, as well as her predecessor, Hal Stratton, have enjoyed nearly 30 trips totaling nearly $60,000.00 that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufactures of products ranging from space heaters to disinfectants.

The destinations included China, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Spain, San Francisco, New Orleans and a golf resort on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Not bad. Sponsors of these trips include the American Fireworks Standard Laboratory and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association, which represent makers of fuel-fired heating equipment linked to more than 300 deaths a year from fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Several trips were paid for by lawyers who represent manufacturers in product liability lawsuits. The report was published amid a raft of recalls of toys imported from China for defects including lead-based paint and magnets that have been ingested and caused intestinal perforations. In response to the report, Chairman Nord has ordered an ethics probe of her agency by the Office of Government Ethics.

The internal CPSC records document a pattern of travel that varies from the stated habits of top officials at four other regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.

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