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Study: Obama Watering Down More Lobbyist-Opposed Health, Environmental & Public Safety Regulations than Bush

November 30, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in US Government, White House with 0 Comments

President Obama has weakened more lobbyist-opposed regulations than his predecesor George W. Bush at this point in his presidency, a new study has found.

The more things change… (Photo: Eric Draper)

According to Bloomberg Business Week, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has altered 76% of agency rules submitted for review during the Obama administration, compared with 64% under George W. Bush at this point in his tenure. The study, conducted by the Center for Progressive Reform, is titled “Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment.” It details how the OIRA’s 1,080 meetings over the past ten years have been heavily dominated by business interests, who made up 65% of meeting participants, as compared to 12% who represented public interest groups.

Some 30 groups met with the OIRA during the ten-year period studied; 17 of these were from industry. Among them: the American Chemistry Council, Exxon Mobil and the American Forest and Paper Association. A mere five environmental groups met with the office.

“A steady stream of industry lobbyists — appearing some 3,760 times over the ten-year period we studied — uses OIRA as a court of last resort when they fail to convince experts at agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to weaken pending regulations,” the report says.

Those meetings matter– the study found that groups who sat down with the OIRA were 29% more likely to receive favorable regulation change than those who did not.

The study found that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules were the most frequent target of watering down, with regulations changed 84% of the time. For other government agencies, the rules were changed 65% of the time.

“We are disappointed because we thought President Obama had great potential,” Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, told Bloomberg Business Week. “He promised us he would be transparent, but he is just as bad as Bush.”

This isn’t likely to stop fact-challenged Republicans from slamming Obama for what they believe is the stifling of economic growth and job creation due to an onerous regulatory burden. And despite the greater rate of weakening regulations, the average yearly cost of those regulations has risen under Obama.

Still, this study is further proof that regardless of political party, the office of the presidency serves the interests of corporations first and foremost, with public health, safety and the environment taking a back seat to the almighty dollar no matter who occupies the White House.

Steinzor expressed disappointment that Obama, who campaigned promising to bring transparency to the White House and to curtail the influence of lobbyists, has carried on with business as usual.

“To us this is a sharp departure from what we were promised when this president was elected,” Steinzor told the Guardian. “From sound practice what we really want is for the experts to be making decisions at government agencies – the toxicologists, the pediatricians, the geologists. That’s what modern government is supposed to be about, not having the decisions made by an office that is not accountable for what it does.”

“What Obama meant to us, what a transformative presidency meant was that the lobbyists wouldn’t control government any more,” she added. “We would be transparent to a fault. We would run a transparency presidency and we would have very protective rules. We have arguably in this specific case not gotten any of this and it is disappointing.”

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