News & Politics

HIGHTOWER: Beware of the Revolving Door

The pesticide industry has been upset that the EPA -- while trying to protect children -- has clamped down on chemical makers. A corrupt new bill in Congress could change that.
There it goes again -- the whump, whump, whumping sound of the big revolving door in Washington, DC. Every time it goes around, we get whumped on the backside.

The latest is a piece of legislation called the "Regulatory Fairness and Openness Act," sponsored by a congress critter named Richard Pombo, Republican of California. Sounds positive doesn't it -- but open and fair for whom? Pombo says he's merely trying to streamline the process of regulating toxic pesticides. But when lawmakers say "streamline," they usually mean "grease-the-skids" for some special interest, and that's exactly what Pombo's devious bill does.

The pesticide industry has been upset that the EPA, trying to protect children, has required chemical makers to reduce some of their toxic levels dramatically. If a corporation can prove that a higher level of poison still would be safe for children, then the toxic level could rise, but the burden of proof is on the company. Pombo's bill would reverse this, saying the EPA can't keep a high-level poison off the market until it proves that the stuff is causing damage to children. Kids would become the pesticide makers' guinea pigs.

Where did this nasty piece of work come from? The Washington Post reports that Pombo's bill is practically "a word-for-word duplicate" of a bill drafted by the "Implementation Working Group," which is a coalition of pesticide makers, agribusiness giants, and food processors. IWG hired a Washington lobbying/consulting outfit to write Pombo's bill, choosing a powerhouse firm that is loaded with former staff members at the EPA. Indeed, Edward Gray, the guy who wrote Pombo's "Fairness and Openness Act" for the industry coalition formerly was EPA's general counsel for pesticides.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Watch out for that revolving door between government and industry -- it turns our watchdogs into lapdogs.

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