Federal regulatory commissioners met with industry representatives 10 times as often as with consumer spokespersons during 1976, according to a Common Cause report released yesterday.
Forty-six per cent of the commissioners' meetings with outside groups were with industry representatives, while only 4 per cent were with spokespersons for consumer and other non-industry groups, according to the report, which is based on a study of 39 commissioners' appointment records.
Forty-four per cent of the 39 commissioners who opened their appointment books for Common Cause recorded no consumer contacts during the year.
The report said the findings raise "serious questions of agency bias." It called the preponderance of industry-agency contact "a serious imbalance in the viewpoints presented to federal regulatory commissioners."
Common Cause is a political action organization that says it lobbies for citizens' interests.
Federal Communications Commission member John H. Quello released a statement yesterday criticizing what he called "the over-simplistic conclusions" in the study.
Quello - who according to the study had 61 contacts with industry representatives and 8 with non-industry spokespersons, - said he rejected "the presumption that commissioners are unduly influenced by an appointment or a meeting."
His statement pointed out that most industry groups met with his agency to compete not with consumers' views but with another industry's viewpoints.
The Common Cause report's release coincide with lobbying efforts for passage of a bill establishing an agency authorized to represent consumers in regulatory agency actions.
President Carter has endorsed establishment of a consumer protection agency, and bills providing for it have passed committees in both houses of Congress.
The report also advocated federal funding for "public intervenors," non-industry representatives who would appear before agencies to promote consumer causes. Bills which would provide $10 million a year for that purpose are deadlocked in congressional committees, according to the report.
Although entitled "With Only One Ear," the Common Cause report said it did not intend to single out individual commissioners for criticism of their heavy industry contacts, but rather to document a "trend" in representation before regulatory agencies.
"We're not saying there's any wrongdoing here," said Bruce Adams of Common Cause, "but this is a reflection of the nature of consumer interest in regulatory agency matters.
"In the consumer sector, a lot of people are affected in a limited way by agency actions, as opposed to industry where a few are affected a lot," he said.
Six of the 39 commissioners who responded to the survey pointed out that few or no consumer groups contact them for appointments, and that this, "rather than inhospitable attitudes" on the part of agencies, is the reason for the lack of contact with consumers.
The report also called for an executive other requiring commissioners and other federal officials to keep comprehensive logs of their contacts with individuals seeking to influence agency action.
A draft copy of such a regulation has been released by the White House to various federal agencies for comment. The President's order would extend the logging requirement to cabinet and independent agency officials.
The Common Cause survey, which covered 50 commissioners in 11 regulatory agencies, comes on the heels of a July congressional study of formal agency proceedings. The congressional study also found that public participation in regulatory agency proceedings accounts for only one-tenth of outside participation, with industry making 10 times as many formal appearances.