Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 8, 2011

CONGRESS' ANTI-CONSUMER-SAFETY CONTINGENT.... On her show last night, Rachel Maddow had a segment on the political efforts of the right-wing Koch brothers, and there was one data point that I hadn't heard about before.

First , a little background. In 2007, following a series of scandalous incidents, federal officials created on online consumer-product-safety database, allowing Americans to go online and access free information about the safety records of household products. It passed the House unanimously, sailed through the Senate, and was signed into law by George W. Bush.

Who could possibly oppose this? Why would even the most unhinged Republican reject giving Americans free access to such materials? Or as Rachel asked, "Dear Lord, who is going to object to consumer product safety information being put online?"

The answer, it turns out, is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) of Kansas, who ran a surprisingly racist campaign, and won last year thanks to generous support from his largest campaign contributors, the Koch brothers and their political action committee. Pompeo also happens to represent the district where Koch Industries is located.

As it turns out, the Kochs don't care for the consumer product safety database, so their congressman pushed a measure to delay and weaken it. As the Kansas City Star explained, Pompeo wanted to push off implementation "to give Congress a chance to make changes that both he and the business community would prefer."

The point of the database couldn't be any more of a no-brainer. The Consumer Safety Product Commission has valuable information, but faces challenges in reaching the public. For very little money, the government has created an online resource that will help families make more informed choices, and create a new incentive for manufacturers to put safe products on the market.

As Michael Lipsky explained today, "One would think it hard to find a politician who opposes reducing preventable dangers to children. [Pompeo] has stepped up to this challenge."

Pompeo's proposal, an amendment to the House spending-cut bill, was approved with 227 Republican votes, but it's not expected to be part of the compromise with the Senate. Still, the fact that he tried, and that the GOP backed his measure, should tell voters a great deal about the party's priorities.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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We're making a list, checkin' it twice.

I hope the DCCC is tracking this stuff closely for their 2012 ad campaigns.

Posted by: bignose on March 8, 2011 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

If we went back to taxing these f*cking assholes at 90%, they wouldn't have the money for buying off politicians to do this kind of BS, or fund their think tanks.

And think of the nation we could build!

Kind of like the nation Boner cries about, but with social and economic equality for people of all sexes, colors, and religious and sexual orientations.

Instead, the right can afford to flip the finger to everyone not in their virtually non-existant tax bracket.

Keep 'flipping' us the finger, rich people. We'll be 'flipping' you over to cook the other side sometime soon, if you don't watch out.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 8, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

It is beginning to look like the GOP should be changed to KOCH.

Posted by: T2 on March 8, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

If you just understand that Republicans are Tolkien's Orcs, you see the truth. Rememer the scene in Return of the King where the Orcs are working in this horrid "factory" to destroy the world? That's the Republicans. How can they accomplish their goal if people keep getting hold of information and becoming informed, instead of remaining the sheep stupid enough to keep voting for the wolves to run things???

Posted by: TCinLA on March 8, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Could someone with a spare thousand dollars please send 435 copies of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" to Congress?

Posted by: DAY on March 8, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

It is beginning to look like the GOP should be changed to KOCH.
Posted by: T2 on March 8, 2011 at 10:12 AM

I have observed that Americans are incredibly good at acronyms. I think you (and others) should get to work on the relevant words of which Koch is the acronym.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on March 8, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

I beleive the Kochs are akin to the emperor in the star wars movies. the evil that they are doing is tangible and the more they get the more they're going to try and implement evil.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 8, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Not so fast! When a law passes both houses and a Bush signature, something might stink - and this law does! Check out http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org/ and their position. This law was written by the bad (big) guys, and all it does is punish the good (little) guys. Too many on the left are giving this law a knee-jerk reaction - it protects the CHILDREN! No, it protects the guys who where bringing in the tainted toys, while crushing small toy-makers under silly regulation. The misinformation on this law has to be countered. Everyone wants safe toys, this law isn't the way to do it.

Posted by: JohnGA on March 8, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

K(eep) O(ur) C(hildren) H(ungry)


Posted by: Sara on March 8, 2011 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

I think you (and others) should get to work on the relevant words of which Koch is the acronym.

Ok, I'll start: Killing Our Children's Hopes

Posted by: martin on March 8, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Yet another proof of the hypocrisy of uber-libertarians like the Kochists. these free-marketeers constantly rail against pointless and intrusive government oversight -- consumers can just make their own decisions about which product or service to consume, no problem. At the same time, whether it's country of origin labels on meat or this product database, they are adamantly opposed to consumers having the ability to make informed decisions. It puts the lie to their entire bullshit ideology when the only freedom they are obsessed about is the freedom of their rapacious corporate plutocracy to make money, period.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on March 8, 2011 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a second JohnGa were talking about the database here providing informatiom on unsafe products. Surely you don't object to that?

Posted by: Gandalf on March 8, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Johnny Canuck,
Here's my first entry:

K - Kleptocratic
O - Oligarchs for
C - Controlling
H - Humanity

I'll think about. I've got to be able to do better than that.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 8, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Pompeo is a Koch sucker.

Posted by: doubtful on March 8, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

See, I was right.
Sara's and martin's are already way better than mine!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 8, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

The database gets its data from the required testing - from which Mattel, Hasbro etc are EXEMPT. I don't object to the database - small toy makers have nothing to hide, and everything to gain from being compared to the big companies. It's the testing requirements that are killing small toy makers.

Posted by: johnGA on March 8, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

They don't even have the "free market" argument this time. Even the most stringent advocate of pure free market ideology would say that it only works with informed consumers. So how can you possibly justify keeping consumers in the dark?

Posted by: Jurgan on March 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

I found this piece to be a little confusing. Nowhere does it mention that the database will open to the public in about a week or so. You have to read the linked stories to learn that.

Steve, I love your writing and reporting, but I think this piece needs a clarification. This article makes it sound like the database has been available since 2007; if that had been true true, I wouldn't have a problem cutting it because I have never seen the database and have never heard of any reports about the contents.

The truth is it will soon be available, and I imagine we will eventually see stories about consumer complaints that have always been hidden from the public view.

Posted by: cb on March 8, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a link to the Handmade Toy Alliance information:
It's disheartening to have to rely on creeps like Demint and Pompeo, who are fighting this for the wrong reasons. My congressperson (Pelosi) sends me dismissive form letters saying it's FOR THE CHILDREN. Good information has to get out on this bad law.

Posted by: johnGA on March 8, 2011 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Cronies/Corporations/Criminal Co-Conspirators

Posted by: broken arrow on March 8, 2011 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

JohnGa, I have no idea if the objections of the Handmade Toy Alliance to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act are valid or if HTA is just another astroturf organization. However, Pompeo's ammendment was specifically to delay implementation of an online database that would allow consumers to see reports about products safety complaints without having to file a FOIA request for the data (with associated filing costs and delays and opportunities for companies to object). In other words, the HTA complaints are not relevant to the subject of this post.

Posted by: tanstaafl on March 8, 2011 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Furthermore, if you read the articles linked in Benen's post, you will find first, that the database is specifically one that will track consumer complaints, not CPSC testing results. And second, that the changes Pompeo and his large corporate backers want are to limit who can report complaints (i.e. only the specific consumer who was harmed by a product, not groups like the Consumer's Union and others that do independent testing and consumer surveys.) and increase the opportunity for corporations to object to and block specific complaints.

Finally, your accusation that Mattel, Hasbro and other large companies are exempt from the CPSIA appears to be bullshit. Not even the HTA makes that claim. Their claim specifically, is that the requirements are relatively inexpensive when applied to a run of thousands or millions of toys, but prohibitively expensive when applied to small manufacturers or hand-crafters. They claim that the law has no exemptions or allowances for small, domestic manufacturers and that it is even being interpreted to required item by item testing of both hand-crafted goods and of old items donated to thrift shops. However, I have not seen verifications of these claims in ANY news reports not originating with the HTA and their solution, to repeal the law entirely and start over, is not consistent with their claimed objections.

Posted by: tanstaafl on March 8, 2011 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Kick Off Crimson Hoax

Posted by: Ted76 on March 8, 2011 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it obvious by now that Repubicans have ginned up the budget "crisis" to justify cutting any and all programs they don't like? Cheney was right -- deficits don't matter (and will actually come in handy in the future when we're trying to gut everything the government provides to ordinary Americans).

Posted by: dalloway on March 8, 2011 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Well, leave it to the Koch Bros. to buy themselves an America one legislator at a time! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 8, 2011 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

The scary thing to me is that the Kochs and their ilk have been working in the shadows for years to co-opt the U.S. government, but it's only been recently that they've stepped into the public eye. Apparently, they feel that the game is won, and there's no longer a need to hide.

Posted by: josef on March 8, 2011 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK



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