The woman who headed the Reagan Consumer Product Safety Commission transition team leads an organization that claims the American consumer is "often the victim of policies which deny him his inherent right of free choice in the name of public health and safety."
She is Barbara A. Keating-Edh, founder and president of Consumer Alert Inc., a nonprofit tax-exempt group largely financed by business groups. She refused "absolutely" to be interviewed.
CA in its nearly three years of existence has taken anti-regulatory stands on a number of issues, opposing restrictions on TV advertising aimed at children, for example, and bans on nitrites in bacon and antibiotics in animal feeds.
Its board chairman is Tufts University professor John Sununu, an "adviser on science and technology" to right-wing former New Hampshire governor Meldrim Thomson.
Its advisory council has included Drs. Thomas H. Jukes and Elizabeth M. Whelan, who have defended the food industry's use of chemicals such as the carcinogen DES; former treasury secretary William E. Simon; Richard O. Simpson, CPSC chairman in the Nixon administration; Accuracy in Media Chairman Reed Irvine, and Milton Copulos of the Heritage Foundation, a far-right think tank.
CA's receipts in the 21-month period from its formation through Dec. 31, 1978, totaled $127,789, according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Forty percent -- $53,000 -- came from Precision Valve Corp. of Yonkers, N.Y. It makes the aerosol valve perfected by its chairman and president, Robert Abplanalp, the close friend of former president Richard Nixon.
Other donors included Pfizer Chemical, $2,500; Stauffer Chemical, $1,000; National Soft Drink Association, $3,000; the Adolph Coors Foundation (Coors beer), which for years provided the bulk of the Heritage Foundation's income $5,000, and the John M. Olin Foundation (Olin Corp., chemicals) also $5,000. In 1979 or 1980 the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation, built on the Mellon industrial (steel, oil, aluminum) and banking fortune gave $25,000 to CA.
Keating-Edh, a onetime aide to Sen. James L. Buckley (Con.-N.Y.) and herself once Conservative Party candidate for the Senate from New York, is a 42-year-old widowed mother whose Marine Corps husband was killed in Vietnam. Recently remarried -- to Lennarth Edh, owner of an electrical business -- she runs the Modesto, Calif., office of Catholic Refugee Immigration Services. She reportedly wants to remain in Modesto, at least for the time being. None of the five seats on the CPSC is due to become vacant until October 1982.
Her transition report on the CPSC, which has power to regulate a broad span of consumer products, was made last week. Its contents have not been divulged.
Keating-Edh once told an interviewer there was no connection between her group's sources of income and the stands it took. She said she takes only "no-strings-attached grants . . . for general operation. . . . Once it comes in here it's clean money." But several of the companies that have supported her group have had brushes with the kind of federal regulation the group opposes. Precision Valve is the leading example.
In papers filed with the IRS to support CA's tax-exempt status, Keating-Edh reported that CA got contributions from Precision Valve of $53,000.
$13,000 in 1977 and $40,000 in 1978.
The CPSC, in one of numerous actions affecting the chemical industry, joined two other federal agencies in February 1978 in banning chemicals called chlorofluorcarbons as aerosol propellants because they deplete the earth's ozone layer and thereby increase the risk of skin cancer.
To start up CA in April 1977, the then Barbara Keating told the IRS, she got a $50,000 loan. Asked by the agency for details, she identified the guarantor as Precision Valve and submitted a budget showing a three-year repayment schedule of $1,375 plus $180 interest per month. The loan may have been forgiven in whole or in part, but this is unclear.
Precision Valve's Abplanalp did not respond to inquiries on this. Neither did CA treasurer Arthur J. Finkelstein, head of a Mount Kisco, N.Y., polling firm that did a national survey for CA showing that consumers oppose air bags when informed of their purported disadvantages. He and Keating-Edh have declined to say who paid for the survey.
August G. Fromuth, a co-founder and former executive director of CA described in its publications as "formerly associate administrator of a chemical industry trade association," also did not respond to inquiries. In Manchester, N. H., however, his wife said he had been "a lobbyist . . . on the aerosol issue" for the Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, of which Precision Valve is a member. Declining to talk about possible connections between Abplanalp and her husband, she said he left CA in 1978. CA is "Barbara's baby," she said.
Keating-Edh has said the stimulus to form CA was the unpopular ignition interlock system, which required a driver to fasten his seat belt in order to start his car. She has suggested this was another product of regulation.
"Probably Mr. Nader favored the ignition interlock," she told Ralph Nader aide Russell Mokhiber in a taped interview last April. Actually, he didn't; the system was pushed by Ford Motor Co. as part of its campaign against air bags.
Asked if CA had "dealt with any abuses by Fortune 500 or 1,000 companies," Keating replied, "There's a couple of things we're working on now." Mokhiber inquired, "Is there any place for the federal government in mandatory safety laws?" "I really don't know," she said.
CA's income in its first 21 months included $9,821 in "honorariums for speaking." The summer 1978 speaking engagements listed for Keating in a CA publication "included the Cowbelle's Convention, National Livestock and Meat Banquet, and the National Cattlemen's Luncheon." Later in 1978 she was the keynote speaker before the National Association of Meat Canners and spoke before the National Broiler Council and the Mississippi Poultry Association. Meat and poultry producers were targets of federal regulations on drugs in animal feeds.
In Connecticut, CA opposed state legislation to deter nonreturnable beverage containers, as did soft-drink companies in the trade association that gave CA $3,000.