Oct. 31, 2007
Consumer Product Safety Chief Nancy Nord Should Resign; Her Opposition to Improving Weak, Ineffective Agency Serves Corporate Interests, Not People
Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen
In a year that has seen an unprecedented number of recalls of unsafe products, the head of the agency designed to protect consumers is calling on lawmakers to reject legislation that would double its budget, beef up its authority and expand its staff.
For far too many years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has failed to properly protect consumers, hiding behind the excuse that it was underfunded and understaffed. While there was some truth to that statement, it has been ineffective as a shield from criticism because of the very real connections between the CPSC and industry.
This was clearly illustrated by the administration’s recent nomination of Michael Baroody for the CPSC’s top job. Baroody was then the executive vice president for the National Association of Manufacturers. The would-be new chairman had spent most of his professional life as a lobbyist and political operative on behalf of corporate interests, an unreasonable choice for a pro-consumer leadership position.
It is now apparent that the agency’s modus operandi is to avoid strengthening the commission if it means that it will interfere with serving corporate interest groups. Acting Chair Nancy Nord was a corporate lawyer and an official at the United States Chamber of Commerce before joining the CPSC. Prior to her congressional testimony Tuesday before the Senate Commerce Committee, Nord had submitted her own proposal for changing the CPSC. It was far less sweeping, and far more acceptable to her and the business groups who echoed Nord’s complaints about the strong legislation the Senate proposed, S.2045. Some speculate that Nord’s opposition to fixing the broken agency is part of a continuing attempt by the administration to dismantle the CPSC.
Nord has failed a critical litmus test by proving she is no friend to consumers. She does not belong in a position of power and authority and should resign immediately or be relieved of her duties. The CPSC’s responsibility is first and foremost to protect the public. Nord has effectively shown that she has other priorities.
The president should stop choosing obstructionists to run the CPSC and instead select someone who cares deeply about public safety and is willing to work to restructure the commission so that it will focus on its core mission – safety.