Monday, November 05, 2007

Can You Lend Me Your Corporate Jet To Fly Out To Your Factory For A Suprise Inspection?

You know, it is getting to the point where government can't do anything without getting jumped on by some do gooder with an agenda. We mean, in these times of shrinking resources (except for the war) and the need not to tax rich people to pay for another war we should demand our government become more efficient at spending China's money on the war, but when they do, Wham! the media goes all Conflict of Interest on them.

The chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and her predecessor have taken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children's furniture industries and others they regulate.

Well, of course they did. Why should taxpayers pay for this when the companies themselves are willing to wine and dine the regulators on their dime? You invite us out to your place, we have a few drinks, maybe play a round of golf or two, and we look over your site. It's just good fiscal stewardship if you ask us.

The records document nearly 30 trips since 2002 by the agency's acting chairman, Nancy Nord, and the previous chairman, Hal Stratton, that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufacturers of products ranging from space heaters to disinfectants. The airfares, hotels and meals totaled nearly $60,000, and the destinations included China, Spain,San Francisco, New Orleans and a golf resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Hey, do you know how many people are injured each year by substandard golf balls? These people are putting themselves on the line for you, ingrates.

Notable among the trips -- commonly described by officials as "graft travel" -- was an 11-day visit to China and Hong Kong in 2004 by Stratton, then chairman. The $11,000 trip was paid for by the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory, an industry group based in a post office box in Bethesda whose only "laboratories" are in Asia. If by "laboratory" you mean private country club and casino.

Consumer groups and lawmakers intensified their criticism of the CPSC this summer after several highly publicized recalls of Chinese-made toys that contained hazardous levels of lead. "I feel pretty confident that there is no lead in Chinese fireworks coming into this country," Stratton said.

Government-wide travel regulations state that officials from agencies such as the CPSC should not accept money for travel from nonfederal sources if the payments "would cause a reasonable person . . . to question the integrity of agency programs or operations." When asked who the model of a "reasonable" person was, an aide to CPSC chief Nord replied the model had been developed "after consultation with Rick Santorum."

CPSC officials defend the industry-paid trips as a way for the agency to be in contact with manufacturing officials and hear their concerns. When asked how the agency kept up with consumer concerns, Nord looked puzzled, then said, "I'm sorry, who?"

"The mission of the agency and the benefits to consumer safety are two factors that are taken into consideration in approving gift travel," Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said. "Well, that and proximity to shopping and fine restaurants."

"This is a blatant violation of the ethics code," said Craig Holman, an expert on governmental ethics law for the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. The rules allow nonfederal sources to pay for trips, "but not if you're a private party with business pending before the agency," he said.

"That's naive and counter productive," Nord said. "How are we going to know what these companies want us to do unless we talk to them?"

The records show that Nord and Stratton repeatedly accepted graft travel for events from industries subject to CPSC enforcement. In February 2006, the Toy Industry Association provided Nord with rail fare, two nights in a hotel, meals -- and even $51 to pay her Union Station parking bill -- to attend the American International Toy Fair in New York, one of the industry's biggest product exhibitions.

Joan Lawrence, the association's vice president who oversees toy safety, said that "I have heard some enforcement officials say that they consider attending vital" because "they are able to see new products before they hit retail shelves" and suggest safety improvements. "I've also heard that if you leave a tooth under your pillow at night a fairy will come and give you money."

Hey, let's not drag senator Craig into this.

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