- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

Manufacturers of toys and other children's products say they will have little influence in Washington as the battle unfolds over the appointment of a new member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, although their industry has perhaps the most at stake over the nomination.

Agency chief Ann Brown said this week that she would resign from the commission Nov. 1, leaving a vacant post. The Bush administration has said it won't wait that long and is exploring the possibility of demoting or firing Mrs. Brown.

President Bush had nominated 10-year commission veteran Mary Sheila Gall, but the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week voted against her appointment 12-11 along party lines.

It was the first agency chief rejection for Mr. Bush amid a public political battle unusual for the little-noticed agency that oversees consumer products.

Toy industry officials are unhappy with Miss Gall's rejection but said they will accept whoever is eventually appointed with little fuss.

"We don't have any heft in Washington," said Aaron Locker, legal counsel for the Toy Industry Association, a trade group that represents the toy industry. "We did let it be known that we supported Gall."

The Washington lobbying firm of Denny Miller McBee Associates lobbied for Miss Gall's appointment on behalf of the toy industry, said Tim Lovain, the firm's vice president and general counsel.

The Toy Industry Association gave $80,000 each year between 1997 and 1999 to the Washington lobbying firm of Denny Miller McBee Associates, according to records from the Center for Responsive Politics. More recent figures were not available, but the association remains on the lobbying firm's client list.

Toy companies give relatively little in "soft money." Mattel Inc., the manufacturer of Barbie and other popular toys, contributed $44,000 to political parties between 1999 and 2000. Hasbro contributed just $5,000. By comparison, software giant Microsoft contributed more than $2.3 million in soft money during the same period, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The toy industry's lobbying efforts vary depending on the issue, Mr. Lovain said.

"When we had a toy safety bill, we did a lot of work for them," he said.

Mr. Locker indicated that the Toy Industry Association would lobby for any candidate with Miss Gall's credentials. He said they had no one in particular in mind yet.

"It should not be a shoot from the hip, lead-by-press-release type of person," Mr. Locker said.

Other industry spokesmen said they would likely support whoever was appointed.

"We've been open to whoever they've chosen to nominate" in previous years, said Jennifer Szwalek, a spokeswoman for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. "We just want to work with someone who will work with us."

Laurie Oravec, spokeswoman for Fisher-Price, conveyed a similar sentiment.

"No matter who the chairman is, we plan to work with them cooperatively," she said. "The CPSC has a very important role in government, and we feel we can have an effective relationship that works."

Many industry representatives denounced Congress' rejection of Miss Gall, who was appointed to the commission by President George Bush in 1991 and re-appointed for a seven-year term by President Clinton in 1999. She has been criticized by consumer groups and Senate Democrats as not being tough enough on the industry.

During the confirmation battle, she was accused as being too lenient on the manufacturers. She has been accused by some consumer advocates as having a too-lenient regulatory record. Senate Democrats said the same last week during the hearing in which in they rejected her nomination.

In 1994, she cast the lone vote against regulation of baby walkers linked to numerous emergency room visits. Last year, she was adamant in her opposition of regulating baby bath seats linked to drownings. In both cases she argued that poor parental supervision, not faulty products, were responsible. She reversed her vote on the baby bath seat issue earlier this year.

Industry representatives said they supported her nomination because of her work style, which Ms. Szwalek described as "hands on."

Mr. Locker said attempts to characterize Miss Gall as anti-regulatory have been unfair.

The Democrats "slandered her in that hearing," he said. "They did a terrible thing to her."

"I thought Gall would have been an outstanding appointment," Mr. Locker said. "It was totally partisan. Look at the vote."

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