Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lobbyists connected to lawmakers on food safety bill

Larry West at About.com points readers toward some earlier reporting by the Associated Press' Libby Quaid, regarding the industry-supported food safety legislation passed by the House last week:
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a controversial bill—backed by the food industry and supported by several key lawmakers whose family members or close friends are food-industry lobbyists—which would wipe out more than 200 state laws that mandate local inspections and require safety labels on food products to warn consumers about everything from mercury in fish to pesticides in vegetables. The bill would establish a weaker national standard that many state officials believe would undermine public health.

Besides the provisions of the bill itself, what is fueling the current controversy is the discovery of close personal ties between several House members and key food-industry lobbyists. According to reports filed with Congress and brought to light by the Associated Press, lobbyists for the bill include Abigail Blunt, the wife of House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who works for Altria, the parent company of Kraft Foods, two formers staffers to House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Brad Card, brother of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and former chief aide to Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y. Brad Card has lobbied on these issues for the Food Products Association, which is headed by former Democratic congressman Cal Dooley of California.

Mason Wiggins, one of the former Boehner staffers, also lobbies for the Food Products Association. The other former Boehner staffer, Brenda Reese, is a lobbyist for the American Beverage Association.

“This helps explain why the food industry has blocked any efforts to have hearings,” said Ben Cohen, attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in an interview with the Associated Press. “They think they’ve got it greased by using well-connected lobbyists to slip this thing through the full House without following the normal procedures.”
Thanks to Margaret Wilde (mom) for the link suggestion.