With this week's furor over the Sunshine Act. and just how open the regulatory agencies have been under the eight-month-old law, a related issue worthy of scrutiny is consumer representation before the agencies.
A recently released Common Cause study shows that a cross section of 39 regulatory commissioners who responded to a survey met with industry representatives ten times more often than with consumer advocates.
Conceding that industry "has a constitutional right to lobby government for favorable action." Common Cause nevertheless said the figures "raise serious questions of agency bias toward industry viewpoints."
According to the study:
Forty three per cent (or 1.273) of the 2.786 recorded outside contacts by the 39 commissioners were with industry representatives.
Four per cent (or 121) were with representatives of consumer or "public interest" organizations or concerned individuals.
Forty four per cent (or 17) of the 39 commissioners who made their appointment records public recorded no contact with consumer or "public interest" representatives at any during 1976.
Common Cause was not alone in its evaluation of the responsiveness of regulatory agencies to consumer input.
An October 1976 report by the House Subcommittee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce concluded:
"The actions of regulatory agencies reflect more than anything else their primary attention to the special interests of regulated industry and a lack of sufficient concern for underrepresented interests."