Industries Paid for CPSC Chief's Trips

Industry organizations paid for regulators' trips, newspaper report says.

Nov. 2, 2007 — -- The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and her predecessor have taken numerous trips paid for by the industries the commission regulates, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the report stated that acting CPSC Chairwoman Nancy Nord and her predecessor Hal Stratton "have taken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children's furniture industries and others they regulate."

A government official has confirmed the accuracy of the Washington Post's report to ABC News.

Those trips, totaling nearly 30 since 2002, cost almost $60,000 for airfare, lodging and meals, the report said. The trips were both domestic and international.

On the Senate floor Friday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, decried the CPSC's actions, saying the newspaper report "revealed that in addition to fighting agency improvements, chairwoman Nord has enjoyed trips across the country and around the world paid for by the very toy companies she is responsible for regulating… and that is outrageous."

Nord and the CPSC have come under fire following frequent and sweeping recalls of Chinese-manufactured toys which contained potentially toxic levels of lead.

This week, congressional Democrats have been calling for Nord's resignation in the wake of the recalls and after statements by Nord indicating that she is not in favor of expanding the CPSC.

Stratton's trips included an 11-day excursion to Hong Kong and China paid for by the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory -- an $11,000 tab.

Nord also reportedly attended a New Orleans meeting on trends in product litigation, paid for by the Defense Research Institute (DRI). Travel expenses for the February trip exceeded $2,000.

In 2004, Stratton had also attended a similar meeting hosted by the group in Barcelona, with records reportedly showing that the group paid $915 for his lodging. DRI is made up of more than 22,000 defense trial and corporate attorneys, according to its Web site.

A CPSC spokeswoman defended the trips to the Washington Post, saying the industry-funded trips help defray costs that can't be covered under the agency's limited travel budget.

Spokeswoman Julie Vallese told the newspaper that the CPSC's counsel and ethics staff reviewed the trips for conflict of interest, and that they stand behind their authorizations.

The documents obtained show an apparent departure from the Clinton administration, as former CPSC Chairwoman Ann Brown "traveled only at the expense of the agency or of media organizations that sponsored appearances where she announced product recalls," according to the report.

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