NOVEMBER 06, 2007
In a blatant violation of the ethics code, the chief of the federal agency charged with protecting Americans from dangerous products regularly accepted lavish gift travel from industries she regulated, including the makers of products linked to consumer hazards.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s chief and former chief each took dozens of trips from trade associations or manufacturers of products regulated by their agency, including manufacturers of items ranging from space heaters to disinfectants. The travel, luxury hotel stays and meals totaled about $60,000 and destinations included Asia, Europe and various upscale U.S. resorts.
Although government-wide travel regulations state that officials from agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should not accept money for travel from nonfederal sources, CPSC chairman Nancy Nord regularly disregarded the rules by taking gifts from industries subject to her agency’s enforcement.
The toy, appliance and children’s furniture industries are among those that have financed her travel expenses and some were paid for by lobbying groups and lawyers representing the makers of products linked to consumer hazards. In hot water recently for its dangerous products, the Toy Industry Association not only paid for Nord’s rail fare, two-night hotel stay and meals, it also paid her Union Station parking bill to attend a toy fair in New York.
In contrast, other regulatory federal agencies specifically ban such gift travel. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for example, never accepts host-paid travel reimbursements or in-kind payments from any organization regulated by the agency and neither does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Even the troubled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) forbids travel paid for by regulated companies or others with business before the agency.
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