Farewell to a champion for the public interest

Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum’s passing this week gives us a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of a great American and a special friend. Few lawmakers have ever worked harder or more diligently for the rights of consumers and workers.

Time and time again, he stood up to the corporate elite and powerful special interests, often to the chagrin of his colleagues. He was the ultimate champion for the little guy. He was a fearsome legislator who used his intimate knowledge of Senate rules to protect consumer interests.

During his distinguished Senate career, he passed the landmark law that requires nutrition labels on food, fought for the rights of adoptive parents, helped ban the sale of assault-style rifles, sponsored legislation that requires companies to give workers at least 60 days’ notice before closing plants, challenged corporate tax breaks and monopolies, and was instrumental in thwarting attempts to undercut the right of consumers to sue for damages under federal racketeering laws.

Sen. Metzenbaum took up these fights on behalf of the poor and working class when others found it easier to look away. He didn’t do it to further a political agenda. He did it because it was the right thing to do.

He brought that same crusading spirit to the board of Public Citizen, which he joined in 1995 upon retiring from the Senate and served on until his death. All of us at Public Citizen mourn his passing.

We will remember Howard Metzenbaum as a man of unwavering principles and indefatigable passion. He was a guiding light, and he will be deeply missed.