May 10, 2001

Dear Colleague:

The nomination of John Graham as the Administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) raises important issues for the Senate as we exercise our "advice and consent" responsibilities. The American people do not support a rollback of the federal regulations that protect the environment, worker safety, and public health. I believe John Graham’s professional record raises serious concerns about his scientific views, his reasoning and his commitment to the safety of our citizenry.

OIRA is the funnel through which all major federal regulations must pass. It has the capacity to delay, alter, or kill regulatory proposals. The Administrator of this pivotal office should have a demonstrated record of balance, impartiality, and openness. I have not found these qualities in John Graham’s public record, and I am not convinced that he is committed to running this critical office in a manner that serves all Americans, rather than select special interests.

The companies that fund Professor Graham’s research agenda at Harvard read like a list of the Fortune 500. He routinely reports results that favor the very industries supporting his work. His independence as an academic has been called into question by some of the most prestigious researchers in the field of public health. For example, Professor Graham offered to submit a chapter he was writing on the risks of cigarette smoke to Philip Morris for review, at the same time he was soliciting research funds from the company. The funds eventually had to be returned as a violation of university policy, but that didn’t stop Professor Graham from accepting funds from Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Philip Morris.

At the very least, Professor Graham would need to recuse himself at OIRA from virtually any involvement with regulations affecting the many industries from which he has received funds. Clearly, he could not function as an effective Administrator under this kind of constraint.

Of even greater concern to me is the possibility that Professor Graham would use his position as a platform for imposing his own unusual view of the world in judging the merit of federal regulations. For instance, Professor Graham has written or testified that:

Can an OIRA Administrator who holds these views really be trusted to make objective judgments on environmental and public health regulations? Should we entrust him with regulations regarding arsenic in drinking water, disposal of radioactive wastes, or the many other critical issues that are certain to arise in the next few years? I think not.

I urge you to consider the extreme views that make up John Graham’s record and join me in opposing his nomination as the Administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.


Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senator