CPSIA Update: Implications of Two New Commissioners

By May 5, 2009Regulations

Walter Olson at Overlawyered has a new post up on the two nominees President Obama has selected for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, speculating informedly about their potential impact on implementation of the horrendous Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

He notes that Inez Tenenbaum, slated for CPSC chairman, is a political ally of Obama’s. There’s also the  political reality: She would have to pass muster with the plaintiff’s personal injury bar. As a 2004 Senate candidate she drew support from  two of the South’s best-known injury law firms, Motley Rice ($17,250) and Beasley Allen ($19,000). From “White House nominates two to CPSC“:

An optimistic view would be that because Tenenbaum has not spent the past year digging into an entrenched defense of CPSIA and all its works, she might be free to rethink the issue, developing more nuanced or moderate positions that acknowledge the views of CPSC career staff on the law’s various defects. And because of her background as an education advocate, she might be particularly sympathetic to the pleas of libraries and schools harmed by the law. That’s the optimistic theory, anyway.

As for Richard Adler, a UNC professor and former CPSC staffer:

Few figures are more closely identified than Adler with the cluster of Washington institutions and personalities that brought us CPSIA: after serving in a staff capacity at CPSC for many years he joined the staff of none other than Rep. Henry Waxman, where his work included overseeing the agency. As the White House press release also notes, Adler “has been elected six times to the board of directors of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine”; in its blind and clueless advocacy of a maximally onerous CPSIA, Consumers Union has taken a back seat only to Public Citizen and PIRG. Another online source describes Adler as a “longtime colleague” of Pamela Gilbert, a key figure in both the litigation lobby (Public Citizen, PIRG, trial lawyer lobbying) and in CPSC affairs.

The Bloomberg story on the nominations is reasonable.

UPDATE (5:45 p.m.): Public Citizen has a statement on the nominees, starting with:

We applaud President Obama’s statement this morning that the safety of American consumers is one of the top priorities of his administration. His appointments of Inez Moore Tenenbaum to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Robert Adler to serve on the commission are hopeful first steps in overhauling this long marginalized federal agency.

It’s hard to imagine any president ever saying something like, “The public’s safety is a tertiary priority for my Administration.”

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