Nominee to Lead Consumer Product Agency Withdraws

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 24, 2007

President Bush withdrew the nomination of a top industry lobbyist to be chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission yesterday, after the nominee had come under renewed attack by Democratic lawmakers wary of his close connections to manufacturers.

Michael E. Baroody, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, delivered a letter to Bush asking to have the nomination withdrawn, in the face of a fresh wave of outrage stemming from news reports that NAM planned to give Baroody a $150,000 severance package.

"Mr. Baroody made the right decision to withdraw his name from consideration," said Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). "His nomination highlights yet again the need to slow a revolving door that creates conflicts of interest between government officials and the industries they're supposed to be overseeing."

The White House disagreed with that view, saying that Democrats have drawn unfair conclusions about Baroody and that his nomination was reluctantly pulled back. "Mr. Baroody was concerned that some members of the Senate judged him by reports of the severance package, rather than his qualifications and vision for the Consumer Product Safety Commission," said Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman.

Baroody began his career in 1970 working for Sens. Roman Hruska (R-Neb.) and Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), then moved on to the Republican National Committee, the Reagan White House and the Labor Department. In 1990 he joined NAM, where he often lobbied for the commission to soften its rules, including those governing when manufacturers must report defective products.

"His nomination to this critical post was astoundingly inappropriate and would have put American families at further risk because of his interest in weakening safeguards against potentially dangerous products," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group.

The Senate Commerce Committee had been scheduled to hold Baroody's confirmation hearing today. Instead, the White House has reactivated its search for a new head of the commission, which has been working under an acting chairman for nearly a year.

"We will immediately begin the process to identify another qualified and committed leader to serve at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We hope that our next nominee will be afforded a fair and dignified confirmation process," Lawrimore said.

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