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Bye, Bye Baroody

Yesterday, Michael Baroody withdrew his nomination as head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Baroody, executive vice president and a chief lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), was the latest in a parade of Bush cronies nominated to oversee their former industries.

Baroody withdrew just before what would likely have been a tumultuous hearing this morning on his nomination, amid mounting opposition from Senate Democrats who were rightly concerned that Baroody’s appointment presented a clear conflict-of-interest. Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, and, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois had all spoken out against Baroody’s appointment.

Also adding substantially to concerns about where his loyalties lay, the New York Times revealed last week that Baroody would have received a $150,000 windfall severance package from NAM following his appointment.

Baroody was a stunningly inappropriate choice. His career included stints as a partisan political operative, pushing to elect pro-business and anti-consumer candidates. He has spoken out against numerous safety and health regulations, including ergonomics rules to prevent worker injuries, efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to curb pollutants and regulations to mandate fire-safe cigarettes and prevent the 700 to 900 deaths that occur each year from home fires started by cigarettes and other smoking products.

Many of the companies overseen by the CPSC are NAM members or affiliates. In fact, as Public Citizen has shown, these industry groups accounted for more than half of the penalties the agency assessed in the past ten years for violating its most important rule, a requirement that companies inform the agency when they discover dangerous defects in their products. NAM successfully pushed last year to weaken that rule. Given Baroody’s strong ties to the industries he would have had to regulate and his past positions, he would have faced unavoidable conflicts.

As with other appointments made by this Administration, choosing Baroody was clearly an attempt to undercut regulations that protect consumers in favor of fatter corporate profit margins. Thankfully for consumers, in this case it was an attempt that failed.