Letter to Sen. Fred Thompson, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman, Regarding the Safeguards at Risk Report

March 13, 2001

The Honorable Fred Thompson
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Shortly, the Senate will consider the nomination of John Graham for a position as the regulatory czar at the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). We are writing to call your attention to the threat that Graham's nomination poses to the environment, consumer safety, and public health, and to urge his rejection by the committee.

Graham's appointment to OIRA would put the fox in charge of the henhouse. His agenda is no secret. Over the past decade, Graham has amply demonstrated his hostility — across the board — to the system of protective safeguards administered by the federal regulatory agencies. In 1996, Graham told an audience at the Heritage Foundation that " environmental regulation should be depicted as an incredible intervention in the operation of society."

Graham has repeatedly advocated for sweeping regulatory rollback bills that would trump the statutory mandates of all the regulatory agencies. He would also impose rigid, cost-benefit analysis criteria well beyond that which has been used in previous administrations, virtually guaranteeing that many new regulations will fail to see the light of day. Moreover, his special White House clearance procedures may make it likely that virtually any agency response to public health hazards, such as the Surgeon General's pronouncements on the dangers of tobacco use, will not be made. At OMB, Graham would undoubtedly be the new master of "paralysis by analysis."

Graham has represented himself as a neutral academic "expert" from the Harvard School of Public Health when testifying before Congress and speaking on risk issues to the media. In fact, as our investigative report indicates, his Harvard-based Center accepts unrestricted funding from over 100 major industrial, chemical, oil and gas, mining, pharmaceutical, food and agribusiness companies, including Kraft, Monsanto, Exxonmobil, 3M, Alcoa, Pfizer, Dow Chemical and DuPont.

As just one example of the connections between his funding and his agenda, in the early 1990s Graham solicited money for his activities from Philip Morris, while criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency's conclusion that second-hand smoke was a Class A carcinogen. In short, Graham has long fostered deep roots throughout an entire network of corporate interests that are hostile to environmental and public health protections, who would expect to call upon his sympathy at OIRA.

A major area of controversy between Congress and the Reagan and Bush I administrations concerned the use of back channels in the OIRA office by major corporations and trade associations to delay, eviscerate or block important public health protections that federal agencies had promulgated following Congress' statutory authorization and open government procedures. The head of OIRA should be an honest broker, reviewing regulatory proposals from federal agencies and deferring to agency expertise on most scientific and technical matters. Inviting Graham to head that office, given his close connections to broad sectors of the regulated industries, would signal a return to back-door intervention by special interests.

We urge you to read the attached report detailing Graham's shoddy scholarship and obeisance to his corporate funders, and to vigorously oppose his nomination to OIRA. As a start, Congress should request full access to Graham's and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis' funding records and records as to speaking and consulting fees from the industries that he could now be charged with regulating.

Graham's confirmation would constitute a serious threat to our tradition of reasonable and enforceable health, safety and environmental safeguards, and should be rejected.

Sincerely,

Joan Claybrook                                 Frank Clemente
President, Public Citizen                 Director, Public Citizen Congress Watch