Baroody Under Attack

Posted May 8, 2007 at 6:50pm

Michael Baroody, the top lobbyist at the National Association of Manufacturers, can’t seem to catch a break. Although many industry insiders expected him to get the association’s top slot back in 2004, it ultimately went to former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R). And now Baroody, who has been nominated to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has become a cause célèbre for public interest groups. [IMGCAP(1)]

On Tuesday, Public Citizen released its latest report blasting Baroody’s nomination, saying the NAM executive vice president has fought to weaken the CPSC’s rules used to keep consumers safe from defective products.

“In the report, we looked at NAM’s role in watering down a key guidance that the CPSC was considering,” said Laura MacCleery, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. The guidance dealt with when companies would need to give notice to the CPSC that they have discovered a defect in a product. Such notice can lead to fines and, in some cases, product recalls.

Baroody himself, MacCleery said, “doesn’t leave a paper trail, but it’s fair enough to say as a lobbyist he was in on the strategy.”

Baroody would not comment on the accusations, but NAM spokesman Hank Cox said the consumer groups’ effort against Baroody is unfounded and “simply based on the fact that he works for the NAM, which like most business groups generally wants more flexible regulations and fewer reporting requirements.”

Before he can assume the chairmanship of the CPSC, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee also must approve Baroody’s nomination. But that hearing date has been moved around, although sources said it possibly could come at the end of this month. “I think his nomination is in trouble,” MacCleery said of the changes in the hearing date. A Senate Commerce official said the hearing has not been scheduled.

According to the Public Citizen report, NAM and its allies successfully lobbied to weaken the commission’s Substantial Product Hazard reporting guidelines, adding criteria to the test used to determine whether a product is defective and potentially dangerous. Alleged violations of reporting guidelines, says Public Citizen, accounted for $33 million of the $40 million in civil fines collected by the CPSC since 1997. The report says that NAM members and affiliates accounted for $18 million of those payments.

Cox called the opposition to Baroody “unfortunate” and out of proportion, adding: “If Mike Baroody is confirmed, within a year, they will be singing his praises. He is a straight shooter. He does not treat career employees with disdain. He listens to them and makes fair decisions based upon the law.”

Choose Your Own Adventure. Democratic lobbyists eager to hear the particulars of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s policy positions as the New York Senator gears up her presidential campaign need only pull out their checkbooks.

Clinton’s campaign is hosting donors for an “issues breakout session” on the morning of June 6. For $500, attendees can choose briefings on education, energy and the environment, health care, and telecommunications and technology, among others, according to a copy of the invite. An extra $500 allows donors to stick around for breakfast with the candidate.

“It’s somewhat unusual, but it’s appreciated,” one lobbyist, a Clinton supporter, said of the fundraiser.

But several ethics lawyers said events tying policy discussions to fundraising appeals are hardly uncommon — and well within ethics strictures — as long as they don’t mention specific pieces of legislation in the invite. Clinton’s camp didn’t return a call for comment.

Foreign Agent Files. Rosemont Associates, the firm of former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), has filed a new agreement to represent the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States. According to the registration filed with the Justice Department, Torricelli will help TECRO build relationships with Members of Congress and key staffers as well as encourage “Congress to act favorably on legislation of interest and benefit to Taiwan.” The agreement also states that Torricelli will invite Members of Congress to visit Taiwan.

For that, Torricelli’s Rosemont will collect $15,000 a month.

TECRO also made sure to add a clause in its contract with Rosemont that the firm would have to notify TECRO if it decided to represent the People’s Republic of China.

Speaking of China, the country’s Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters has inked a deal with Vinson & Elkins for $40,000 for work related to the group’s visit to Washington, D.C., this month. The work includes “identifying officials, think tank representatives and others … it would be appropriate for the delegation to meet,” in addition to preparing white papers and talking points on the Chinese steel industry “for use in the meetings during the visit to Washington, D.C.”

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has another law and lobbying firm on its team. The country’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry has tapped Miller & Chevalier to represent it. No word on how much money is changing hands, though, because a filing with the Justice Department said the work is not part of a formal written contract. It does say that Miller & Chevalier — and its David Christy, a former attorney with the World Trade Organization — will “assist the foreign principal in its relationship with the World Trade Organization and its trading partners with respect to trade issues.”

Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Health care companies looking for help with Democratic leadership have a new ally downtown. Linchpin Strategies, a boutique, four-year-old consulting shop that focuses on health education and disability issues, is jumping into the lobbying game. Firm president Catriona MacDonald, a former aide to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), said the initial work will focus on servicing existing clients, which include the Blind Entrepreneurs Alliance, the Landmine Survivors Network, Hanger Orthopedic and prosthetics manufacturer Otto Bock.

Joining MacDonald is Douglas McCormick, formerly a partner with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, and Ron Oxley, a former Department of Defense official.

K Street Moves. Nan North, formerly with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, has joined Greenberg Traurig’s government affairs department focusing on health policy.