May 17, 2001

The Honorable Fred Thompson
Chairman
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
Ranking Democrat
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: John D. Graham Nomination

Dear Senators:

We write as former federal regulators in response to the nomination of John D. Graham, Ph.D., to direct the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). As OIRA Administrator, Dr. Graham would oversee the development of all federal regulations and he would help shape federal regulatory policy. His decisions will have profound effects on the health, welfare, and environmental quality of all Americans. We are concerned by many of Dr. Graham’s expressed views and past actions as Director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, and encourage the committee to conduct a thorough investigation into Dr. Graham’s suitability for this position.

Since the early 1980s, both Republican and Democratic Presidents have issued Executive Orders granting the OIRA Administrator exceptionally broad authority to approve, disapprove, and review all significant executive agency regulations. In addition, under the Paperwork Reduction Act, the OIRA Administrator has the responsibility to approve and disapprove agency information collection requests, which agencies need to evaluate emerging public health and environmental threats. These powers give the OIRA Administrator a considerable role in determining how important statutes are implemented and enforced.

In his written work and testimony before Congress, Dr. Graham has repeatedly argued for an increased reliance on cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis in the regulatory process. We agree that economic analysis generally plays an important role in policy making. But increasing the role that economic analysis plays in rulemaking threatens to crowd out considerations of equal or perhaps greater importance that are harder to quantify and to put in terms of dollars – for example, what is the dollar value of making public spaces accessible so a paraplegic can participate fully in community activities? How should we quantify the worth of protecting private medical information from commercial disclosure? Why is the value of preventing a child from developing a future cancer worth only a small fraction of the value of preventing her from dying in an auto accident? How do you quantify the real value of a healthy ecosystem?

In addition, we are concerned that Dr. Graham may have strong views that would affect his impartiality in reviewing regulations under a number of statutes. He has claimed that many health and safety statutes are irrational because they do not allow the agencies to choose the regulatory option that maximizes economic efficiency where doing so would diminish public protections. He has repeatedly argued, in his written work and testimony before Congress, that requirements to take the results of cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses into account should supercede congressional mandates that do not permit their use, such as some provisions of the Clean Air Act. [John D. Graham, "Legislative Approaches to Achieving More Protection Against Risk at Less Cost," 1997 Univ. of Chi. Legal Forum 13, 49.] It is important to assure that he can in good conscience carry out the will of Congress even where he has strong personal disagreements with the law.

We are also concerned about Dr. Graham’s independence from the regulated community. At the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, Dr. Graham’s major source of funding has been from unrestricted contributions and endowments of more than 100 industry companies and trade groups, many of which have staunchly opposed the promulgation and enforcement of health, safety and environmental safeguards. At HCRA, Dr. Graham’s research and public positions against regulation have often been closely aligned with HCRA’s corporate contributors. In coming years these same regulated industries will be the subject of federal regulatory initiatives that would be intensively reviewed by Dr. Graham and OIRA. It is thus fair to question whether Dr. Graham would be even-handed in carrying out his duties, including helping enforce the laws he has criticized. Might he favor corporations or industry groups who were more generous to his Center? Will he have arrangements to return to Harvard? Is there an expectation of further endowments from regulated industries? There is the potential for so many real or perceived conflicts of interest, that this could impair his ability to do the job.

We urge the Governmental Affairs Committee to conduct a thorough inquiry into each of these areas of concern. We believe that the health, safety, and quality of life of millions of Americans deserves such an appropriate response. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Robert B. Reich
Former Secretary of Labor

Ray Marshall
Former Secretary of Labor

Edward Montgomery
Former Deputy Secretary of Labor

Charles N. Jeffress
Former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health

Eula Bingham
Former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health

Davitt McAteer
Former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health

W. Michael McCabe
Former Deputy Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency

Lynn Goldman
Former Assistant Administrator for Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic
Substances
Environmental Protection Agency

J. Charles Fox
Former Assistant Administrator for Water
Environmental Protection Agency

David G. Hawkins
Former Assistant Administrator for Air, Noise and Radiation
Environmental Protection Agency

Tara O'Toole
Former Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment Safety and Health
Department of Energy

Joan Claybrook
Former Administrator
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Anthony Robbins
Former Director
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health