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2011-11-30

Report: Obama Has Weakened More Lobbyist-Opposed Health, Public Safety Regulations than Bush

Guests

Rena Steinzor, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is the lead author of the report, "Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment."

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A new report shows that despite a campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the Obama White House has weakened regulation in favor of corporate interests more than the Bush administration. The study, "Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment," examines more than a thousand meetings that took place over a decade between lobbyists and a little-known regulatory office, then checks to see how proposed rules were weakened to accommodate industry requests. It found the Obama White House changed rules 76 percent of the time, while Bush changed them just 64 percent of the time. EPA rules were changed at a significantly higher rate: 84 percent. We speak to the report’s lead author, Rena Steinzor, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and president of the Center for Progressive Reform. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end on a new report that shows, despite President Obama’s campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the White House has weakened regulation in favor of corporate interests even more than the Bush administration. The study examines more that a thousand meetings that took place over a decade between lobbyists and a little-known regulatory office, then checks to see how proposed rules were weakened to accommodate industry requests. It found the Obama White House changed rules 76 percent of the time, while the Bush administration changed them just 64 percent of the time. EPA rules were changed at a significantly higher rate: 84 percent.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Much of this is due to the man Obama appointed to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, through which all proposed regulation must pass. Cass Sunstein is know for his academic work on the risks of overregulation.

Well, for more, we’re joined from Washington, D.C., by Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She’s the lead author of this exhaustive report, "Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment."

Rena, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this report?

RENA STEINZOR: Well, the report deals with issues that are familiar and of concern to every American: smog in our cities, collapsing mine shafts that kill workers in West Virginia, the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, salmonella in peanut paste, a whole variety of public health threats that agencies of the government were set up to avoid. Unfortunately, although we expected a bright new future with President Obama, he has disappointed us in this area to a large extent, inserting politics and pandering to special interests rather than letting science and technology reign.

AMY GOODMAN: Rena Steinzor, the issue of the smog regulations that so blindsided the administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson?

RENA STEINZOR: Yes, Lisa Jackson was—when she was appointed, there was tremendous relief and joy in the community of public health experts and environmentalists who watch EPA. And she immediately stepped in to try and get a lot of these rules, which were mandated by Congress, back on track and promised to repair the damage that was left by George W. Bush. But this small office in the White House, which panders to special interests, stepped in and was the President’s point person—point agency to destroy her efforts to strengthen these protections. And anyone who lives in a major American city knows "code red" days when children are not allowed to play outside because the air pollution is so bad. That’s—

AMY GOODMAN: We have 15 seconds, if you can summarize what happened.

RENA STEINZOR: It’s really remarkable that an effort to clean up smog in American cities should be killed by an office at the White House that caters to special interests.

AMY GOODMAN: Rena Steinzor, we will link to your report, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, lead author in this report, "Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment."

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