The Daily Beast last month examined the extent to which former industry officials have become regulators of their former industries:
Nearly a year since he won election, the president has turned federal agencies over to the private industries that they regulate. And he has done so to a degree that ethics groups say they have never witnessed.
The Daily Beast examined 341 nominations the president has made to Senate-confirmed administration positions. Of those, more than half (179) have some notable conflict of interest, according to a comprehensive review of public records. One hundred and five nominees worked in the industries that they were being tasked with regulating; 63 lobbied for, were lawyers for, or otherwise represented industry members that they were being tasked with regulating; and 11 received payments or campaign donations from members of the industry that they were being tasked with regulating.
That’s quite a record.
An update on some of the Trump-appointed foxes
Michael Doursin (to head chemical safety at the EPA)
I first wrote about Michael Doursin here when he was nominated by the Trump administration to oversee chemical safety at the EPA. With ties to the chemical industry, Koch Industries, and the company involved in the 2014 Charleston water crisis, Doursin appeared to be one of the last persons that should have been chosen to be a watchdog at the EPA.
Amazingly, given the Republicans’ rubber-stamp for such nominees, his appointment may be in trouble. According to The Intercept, Doursin may not make it:
Resistance to his nomination is coming from red states that have been directly harmed by chemicals Dourson has defended on behalf of industry. The senators from West Virginia, for example, might have been expected to fall in line behind Dourson. But in a hearing last month, West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito questioned the nominee about his involvement with two chemicals that have affected her state: PFOA and MCHM, both of which, Capito said, had “very much touched the lives of my fellow West Virginians.”
. . . . Joe Manchin, announced his intention to vote against Dourson last month. Though a Democrat, Manchin often votes with Republicans, but not this time. West Virginia is “unfortunately familiar with the dangers that can arise when we neglect to properly comply with and enforce our chemical regulations,” Manchin said in a statement.
Manchin is a definite “no” vote. Capito, despite her reservations, has not committed:
Capito, who didn’t respond to inquiries for this story, has yet to announce how she will vote.
My hunch is that, as with her health care non-vote, our local “profile in courage” hopes the nominee will go away and she won’t have to commit to either side.
Former Murray Energy lobbyist for the #2 position at the EPA
The opposition to Andrew Wheeler, who worked for Murray Energy as a lobbyist until August, is being led by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). According to Think Progress, here’s what happened at his hearing last week:
Testifying at his confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Andrew Wheeler said Murray Energy was one of his lobbying clients while working at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels. But Wheeler said he de-registered himself as a Murray Energy lobbyist in August.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), in his questioning of Wheeler, said Robert Murray, the head of Murray Energy, “has said that he has a three-page plan that is being implemented by Scott Pruitt at the EPA. He said they’re already through the first page.”
. . . . Whitehouse contended it’s significant if the CEO of a coal company “has given his regulator a three-page plan” and “takes credit for having gotten through the first page of it already.”
With Wheeler’s nomination, “We have a candidate for deputy administrator who said he’s seen it and can confirm it exists. I think the American people are entitled to an EPA that is not following a coal company’s three-page plan but is following wherever the best interests of the American people lead,” Whitehouse said.
(I last wrote about Wheeler here.)
Zatezola to head mine safety
David Zatezola, the former mine owner with a questionable safety record (see here), who was nominated to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration, will likely be confirmed. (Possibly today.) Senator Manchin has said that he will vote against the nominee.
New fox to be added
President Trump just added another industry insider to regulate the industry they once served. Alex Azar from drug maker Eli Lilly was nominated by the president to head Health and Human Services. As Axios explains:
President Trump has said drug companies are "getting away with murder" and vowed to bring down their prices. But Alex Azar, his pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department, is a 10-year veteran of pharma giant Eli Lilly, and has endorsed the same free-market philosophy as other conservative business leaders.
The bottom line: There's no indication in Azar's words or deeds that he's likely to pursue large-scale pricing reforms.