WASHINGTON - January 30 - On the eve of John Graham’s last day as administrator of the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB Watch’s regulatory policy director Robert Shull issued the following statement:
“Long before he came to Washington, Graham was well known as an industry-funded researcher who was actively involved in producing elaborate theories to justify weakening the government’s ability to protect the public. Defenders of his nomination argued that Graham would buck that trend and place the public interest over corporate special interests in his new role. Five years later, we now know just how wrong they were.
“Graham made his mark in a million little ways, working behind the scenes to weaken or eliminate protections that the public needs. During his tenure, the White House regulatory office weakened proposed rules to protect people on the road by alerting them to dangerously under-inflated tires; to reduce the risks of factory farm runoff (leaks and overflows from the 2.7 trillion gallons of manure produced every year by animal farming behemoths); to protect soil and drinking water from excessive levels of the hazardous substance manganese, and more.
“Not content with these rollbacks, Graham invited corporate special interests to nominate other regulatory protections for a hit list of safeguards to be weakened or eliminated. Graham supported industry’s wish lists, and now agencies are busily working on weakening yet more important safeguards. Safeguards at stake in this hit list include the Toxics Release Inventory, which ensures communities’ right to know about toxic substances released in their backyards; an interim rule to protect consumers of ready-to-eat meat products from Listeria, which has the highest hospitalization rate and second-highest fatality rate of all foodborne pathogens; and the Safe Drinking Water Act, which Graham called upon EPA to eviscerate by more freely granting exceptions from safe drinking water standards to water systems in poor communities.
“Graham’s most enduring and possibly most harmful legacy will be one that the public is least aware of. Graham has worked steadily over the last five years to create analytical policies that tip the scales on the side of corporate special interests and against protecting the public. From cost-benefit guidelines to a new policy on risk assessments, Graham has made sure that a bias toward industry has been built into the technical formulas and policies themselves. These analytical requirements also have the effect of burdening agencies to the point of hindering them nearly completely in their duty to protect the public. Ironically, as the head of the office created by the Paperwork Reduction Act, Graham has promulgated policies that bury the agencies in red tape.
“There is one positive aspect of his legacy: he has done more than any previous OIRA administrator to make this obscure but powerful office more transparent. Most notably, he has made sure that the activities of his office are logged on the Internet. It is now easier than ever to track the damage done to regulatory policy during his tenure.”