Friday, November 2, 2007

ACC No Longer Supports Consumer Product Safety Council Chair

The president of the American Consumer Council said today that the head of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nancy Nord, should resign for breaching the trust of consumers. Thomas Hinton, president of ACC, a national consumer education organization, called on Nord to resign for "compromising the Commission's integrity" by accepting lavish travel from manufacturers and trade associations that the Commission regulates.

Hinton said, "the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has one job -- to protect consumers. Chairwoman Nord has betrayed the American consumer and compromised her office. She is no longer credible. She should resign immediately to help restore credibility at the CPSC."

Hinton also called on the CPSC's General Counsel to resign for allowing Commission staff to skirt government regulations that prohibit subsidized travel that creates the appearance of a conflict-of-interest. Hinton added, "By allowing members of the Commission and their staff to travel at the expense of those industries it is supposed to regulate, Nancy Nord and her general counsel have violated the spirit of the law. They should resign or be fired." Nord has ordered an ethics probe of the agency after she was accused of taking "gift travel" from industries regulated by the federal government's consumer product safety watchdog.

"Travel by all employees at the CPSC goes through the agency's painstaking review by the Office of the General Counsel. That process has been in place for 14 years," Nord said in a statement. "Nevertheless, because questions have been raised about the adequacy of these long standing procedures, I am asking the Office of Government Ethics to conduct a complete review of the agency's travel acceptance procedures," Nord's statement added.

Hinton dismissed Nord's explanation saying, "Government officials as Ms. Nord's level should know the difference between right and wrong. Given her lack of judgment, she should resign. We no longer trust her to keep American consumers safe."

A report in the Washington Post accused Nord and her predecessor Hal Stratton of taking 30 trips since 2002, including to China, paid in full or in part by industries whose products are monitored by the CPSC or lobbyists.

"The records show that Nord and Stratton repeatedly accepted gift travel for events from industries subject to CPSC enforcement," the report said.

"The records also detail several trips that were paid for by lawyers who represent manufacturers in product liability lawsuits," it said.

Two of the trips taken by Nord, who like Stratton was appointed by President George W. Bush, were paid for by the Toy Industry Association, whose members are "battling public mistrust over lead in toys made by their Chinese manufacturers," the report said.

The report was published amid a raft of recalls of toys imported from China, which have prompted calls for Nord to resign and the CPSC to be overhauled.

A pending congressional bill that would double CPSC funding, broaden its authority, modernize its facilities, and increase numbers of CPSC workers and safety inspectors at US ports was sent to the Senate last month -- despite Nord's opposition.

"It's clear that Chairwoman Nord is in the lap of the special interest and not the American consumer," Hinton noted. "You cannot have an effective, balanced government agency when its leadership has been compromised."

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