When a new Administration comes to Washington, the media devotes a lot of resources to coverage of appointees to Cabinet-level positions. The American public quickly gets a pretty good idea about who these
officials are, what they have done and what they might do as key members of an incoming Administration.
Unfortunately, this same media scrutiny is often missing in the coverage of so-called second level appointees?the under and assistant secretaries of Cabinet offices, the heads of bureaus and agencies and key employees slipped quietly into other decision-making roles in the bureaucracy.
It is unlikely that many citizens following the formation of the Bush Administration have heard the name of John Graham uttered. No headlines and no prominently displayed biographical sketches in major
media have given the public any clue about this nominee.
Yet, Mr. Graham, if he is confirmed by the U. S. Senate, will hold enormous power as Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He will, in effect, be a regulatory czar with authority over the fate of regulations issued by all government agencies including those involving public health, safety and environmental protections.
At OMB, Mr. Graham would be the classic example of the old cliche about the “fox guarding the henhouse.” As founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, he has supported major corporations in efforts to halt or delay the issuance of protective regulations across a broad front.
His Center is funded by more than 100 large corporations and trade associations including Dow, 3M, Dupont, Monsanto, Exxon, the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the American Automobile Manufacturers Association,
the American Chemistry Council and the American Petroleum Institute. The Center’s Executive Board is similarly dominated by corporate executives with a self-interest in undercutting health and safety regulations.
These investments in John Graham’s Center have paid big dividends for Corporate America’s campaign against regulation. In the early 1990’s, for example, Graham solicited contributions from Philip Morris and let the company’s public relations staff review draft chapters of his book on second hand smoke. Internal memorandums at Philip Morris later revealed that the company relied on Graham’s strategy to discredit the
Environmental Protection Agency’s correct assessment of the cancer-causing effects of second-hand smoke.
As Public Citizen says in a report on the Harvard Center, Graham’s methodology “appears to be informed more by the wishes of his corporate backers than by anything recognizable as science'” The report?accompanied by ample supporting data–finds that Graham’s research conclusions have been frequently marred by his inflation of industry costs and underestimation of the public benefits.
The record is clear. John Graham, using Harvard’s prestige, has been front and center as a critically important player in a long industry-supported campaign to discredit federal agencies and to block the regulatory process. And as Public Citizen says the debates over the safety of pesticides, injury prevention, pollution, second-hand smoke, toxic chemicals and contamination of our food and water have all been victims of the so-called research of Graham’s Harvard Center.
The prestige of the Harvard name obviously gave Graham’s arguments and thus the positions of his corporate donors great weight in the battle against health, safety and environmental regulations. Should he be confirmed by the Senate, these same arguments will have the weight of the White House behind them when the decisions are made about the health and safety of the American people.
The Senate should reject this nomination and shut one of big business’s back doors to the Bush White House.