This Time It’s an Industry Lackey Taking the Top Post at the Consumer Products Safety Commission
When a popular coffeemaker was found to be defective and burned more than 100 people, four of five members of the Consumer Products Safety Commission voted to fine the manufacturer. One member voted not to. Now, Trump wants her running the place.
Trump is trying to turn the independent federal agency that is supposed to protect consumers back into what it once was—a sleepy little agency where industries that harmed people could call the agency and work things out.
Trump has nominated Ann Marie Buerkle, an attorney and one-term former New York congresswoman, to chair the commission. Buerkle, a Republican and now the acting chair, has served on the commission since 2013.
“We can accomplish our mission of safety much better and much more effectively if we partner with everyone, with all of the stakeholders because they have a lot to offer,” Buerkle said.
Buerkle is sometimes the sole pro-business vote among the five commissioners. The four other commissioners—three Democrats and a Republican—voted to fine Home Depot $5.7 million to settle allegations that the business knowingly sold hazardous recalled products such as portable heaters, welding torches and stepladders. Buerkle wanted to fine Home Depot $1 million.
She also was the lone vote against a $5.8 million fine, the commission’s second-highest penalty ever, for Keurig Green Mountain Inc., to settle allegations that the company knowingly failed to report defects. At least 100 consumers suffered burns from hot water, coffee and coffee grounds spraying out of the brewers.
“We have serious reservations about whether the amount will have any meaningful deterrent effect on Keurig or other multi-billion dollar companies who are well-positioned to dismiss this size penalty as a small cost of doing business,” the four other commissioners said in a joint statement.
The commission has a $125 million budget and jurisdiction over most consumer products except cars, food, medicine and guns. The commissioners serve staggered seven-year terms.
Trump will get another chance to nominate a pro-business commissioner when the term of Democrat Marietta Robinson expires in October. The former chairman, Elliot Kaye, a Democrat, was demoted by Trump but has chosen to stay on the commission. Kaye’s term expires in October 2020.
The commission is investigating the deaths of a 2-year-old and a 10-year-old in a fire started by a hoverboard and working to write regulations on portable generators and table saws.
“I believe it’s incumbent upon us to keep pushing forward and hopefully have the time we need to finally provide consumers with the relief they deserve on many of these hazards,” Kaye said.
Congress passed the law after a series by the Chicago Tribune exposed deaths of children from products the agency failed to keep off the market. Kaye, the former chairman, has said he thinks of his two sons in his work on the commission.
“We think regulation plays a key role in keeping children safe,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger. “We would hate to go backward on that, as well as not have the resolve to address new problems as they come up.”
Featured Photo: “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Fox Searchlight)