Michael Baroody Responds in Washington Post

By May 25, 2007General

From the letters page in Friday’s Washington Post:

How to Treat a Nominee Shabbily
Friday, May 25, 2007; Page A18

Much has been made, and made up, of reports about my severance agreement with the National Association of Manufacturers [“Nominee to Head Consumer Product Agency Withdraws,” In the Loop, May 24]. It is important to note that such reports could be written in the first place only because, despite promised confidentiality, a copy of my ethics agreement “was provided by a Democratic Congressional aide,” according to a May 16 news story in the New York Times.

I disclosed the anticipated severance payment in confidential filings on the basis of which the director of the Office of Government Ethics wrote the Senate Commerce Committee that “we believe that Mr. Baroody is in compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest.”

Further, the agreement was originally signed in January 2006, six months before any vacancy occurred at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 10 months before discussions began and 14 months before the nomination itself. As I told senators who inquired, the agreement had two essential elements: a dollar amount and a date certain for leaving NAM. As the date certain in January 2007 approached, the agreement was amended to allow for a later date. The severance amount was not changed, however, and according to that amended agreement, since January of this year I have been in unpaid status at NAM, though continuing to receive employee benefits for which I will reimburse NAM the employee portion of cost.

The Post reported “outrage stemming from news reports” about this agreement. Outrage should be directed at the leak, which breached not just my reasonable expectation of confidentiality and proper privacy safeguards but the explicit promise of same — offering yet another regrettably chilling example that will cause potential future nominees for posts in government to think twice, or maybe three times, before taking the risk.

Executive Vice President
National Association of Manufacturers