A consumer advocacy group asked a Senate committee yesterday for an investigation to determine whether the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission used government facilities to promote the anti-abortion movement.
The same group also charged that CPSC Chairman Terrence M. Scanlon provided internal agency information to companies that were targets of CPSC investigations for safety violations. Scanlon denied both allegations.
Public Citizen, a national public interest group founded by Ralph Nader, called on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to initiate a federal investigation into the activities of Scanlon, who was nominated by Reagan in December in a recess appointment.
Sen. Robert W. Kasten (R-Wis.), who chairs the committee's consumer subcommittee and is holding confirmation hearings on Scanlon's nomination, asked Scanlon to submit a response to the charges, which were made by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.
Claybrook said she based the allegations on "persistent comments by commission staff."
Scanlon, who left the Senate hearing before Claybrook testified, later responded to her charges through a spokesman. "The charges are groundless, and I will respond to the committee as requested," he said. Scanlon would not comment in more detail on Claybrook's specific charges. "Mr. Scanlon is not fit by philosophy or temperament to regulate consumer products," Claybrook said. The allegations appeared to surprise Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who introduced Scanlon and supports his nomination. "If these charges are true, it's a whole new ball game," Inouye said after the hearing.
Claybrook charged that Scanlon used CPSC staff and facilities to carry on activity on behalf of the anti-abortion movement. "There is concern among CPSC staff that he has used CPSC facilities to further his right-to-life activities," Claybrook said. "There is sufficient cause for an investigation by the Inspector General."
When asked in January if he was involved in the right-to-life movement, Scanlon said that he "may still be involved on paper," but that he hasn't been active since he has been on the commission. Scanlon also emphasized that his right-to-life activity represented his religious views and had nothing to do with his position as the agency's chairman.
Claybrook also charged Scanlon with "secret communications with more than half a dozen companies" that were potential targets for regulatory and enforcement activity by the commission, but she would not specify which companies. Claybrook called for a General Accounting Office investigation into this allegation. Claybrook said that Scanlon held closed meetings, controlled information and released misleading press statements. "The CPSC staff is uninvolved, uninformed and afraid to state the facts," Claybrook said.
Several other consumer groups -- the Consumer Federation of America, Congress Watch and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group -- also spoke out against Scanlon's confirmation.
Scanlon, 46, is a deregulator who vigorously supports the use of voluntary standards over mandatory ones for industry. He has been a member of the CPSC since March 1983 and formerly served in the Commerce Department's minority business development agency. His term as a commissioner expires in 1989.
Kasten's subcommittee also is holding confirmation hearings on the nomination of Anne Graham to the open seat on the commission. Graham, 36, is the assistant secretary of education for legislation and public affairs. She was White House deputy special assistant for communications in 1981 and served as a press secretary for two years for Sen. Harrison H. Schmitt (R-N.M.).