Another gutted agency. Bush appointed Harold Stratton in 2002 (left July 2006) to head the Consumer Products Safety Commission. As a former New Mexico attorney general and a conservative libertarian, Stratton had a history of opposition to consumer protection cases. As chairman, he resisted recalls of defective products and backed the Bush mantra of voluntary standards and self-regulation. He also hired John Mullan an attorney for the ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) industry as general counsel. Despite the fact that in 2004, 150 children died in ATV accidents and 44,000 were injured and despite his own personal conflict of interest, Mullan successfully torpedoed a ban on ATV sales for use by minors, saying that voluntary standards were working. The CPSC was initially whacked by Reagan who cut its size by half but Bush has continued the process of undermining its mandate. It is down to 420 employees and a budget of $62 million. Many of its experts have left. Compliance investigations are down 45% since 2002. It conducts investigations into only 10%-15% of incidents resulting in injury or death and now seldom checks products entering into the United States. This FEMA-tization of the CPSC has come at a cost as the numerous recent cases of defective products, especially toys, from China have shown.
In late October 2007, acting chairwoman of the CPSC and former official at the US Chamber of Commerce Nancy Nord announced her opposition to Congressional efforts to double the commission’s budget to $141 million over 7 years, increase staff by 20%, raise maximum fines from $1.8 million to $100 million, protect whistleblowers, assign laboratories to test and certify products, allow state prosecutors to enforce consumer safety law, make it easier to issue reports on defective products and go after the executives who knowingly violate the law, and ban lead in toys. In other words, anything that would make the CPSC more effective. (see also 157)