Bush Administration Dismantles Public Safeguards at Behest of Special Interests

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New report on special interest groups' influence in the Bush Administration.

– Today, the Center for American Progress and OMB Watch released a comprehensive report on behalf of the Citizens for Sensible Safeguards coalition that details the Bush administration’s record of dismantling protections for public health, food safety, the environment and corporate responsibility at the behest of special interests.

As documented by the report – Special Interest Takeover: The Bush Administration and the Dismantling of Public Safeguards – crucial safeguards have been swept aside or watered down; enforcement efforts have been curtailed; and emerging problems are being ignored, as the administration squelches information and scientific findings that suggest a need for action.

“This agenda puts narrow special interests over the broader public good,” said John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “The administration is littered with ex-lobbyists who are now writing the rules to benefit their former special-interest employers. With these foxes guarding the henhouse, the public is at significant risk.”

To take one example from the report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, led by administration officials with close ties to the meat industry, ignored repeated food safety violations at a Pennsylvania Wampler Foods plant.

In 2002, Listeria-contaminated turkey meat from the plant killed eight, sickened more than 50, and caused miscarriages and stillbirths, prompting the largest recall in U.S. history.

“People’s lives are at stake,” said Gary D. Bass, executive director of OMB Watch. “Over the last 30 years, public safeguards have significantly improved the safety of our food, workplaces, and highways, and the quality of our air and water. These safeguards have saved thousands of lives and prevented countless injuries and illnesses. Yet instead of building on past successes, the Bush administration has reversed course.”

Consider the administration’s decision to roll back clean air standards for aging coal-fired power plants. In the late 1990s, EPA discovered that these plants were widely violating Clean Air Act requirements to install modern pollution controls. However, as discussed in the report, the Bush administration halted efforts to compel compliance and expanded the loophole that allowed plants to avoid their clean-air obligations in the first place.

“Children for generations to come will suffer as a result of the administration’s environmental policies,” said Carol Browner, former EPA administrator and board member of the Center for American Progress. “Power-plant pollution is linked to severe neurological disorders and childhood asthma, among other problems. Yet when it came time to choose, the administration sided with energy interests over the health of our children.”

The Citizens for Sensible Safeguards coalition, chaired by OMB Watch, formed in 1995 and, through the remainder of the 1990s, beat back a string of regulatory “reform” bills that sought to prevent new public and environmental safeguards. Since then, coalition members have actively worked to spotlight special-interest influence over the executive branch. The report represents a compilation of their efforts.

To view the report and accompanying brochure, see the Center for American Progress Web site, http://www.americanprogress.org.

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