USA: Government agency is dangerously close to business


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A US government agency intended to assist small businesses is instead operating as an unquestioning promoter of a deadly business lobby wishlist. A report from the independent Center for Effective Government says the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy is supposed to ensure that federal agencies evaluate the small business impacts of the rules they adopt. Instead it has been weighing in on issues including scientific assessments of the cancer risks of formaldehyde, styrene, and chromium.

But instead of scrutinising the evidence, it has just regurgitated industry briefings. The Centre says by the Office of Advocacy’s own admission, it lacks the scientific expertise to evaluate the merits of these scientific assessments. “We found that the Office of Advocacy’s comments on these assessments raised no issues of specific concern to small business and relied almost exclusively on talking points provided by trade associations dominated by big chemical companies.

Between 2005 and 2012, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and its members spent over $333 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies on, among other things, a protracted campaign to prevent government agencies from designating formaldehyde, styrene, and chromium as carcinogens.The Formaldehyde Council, Styrene Industry Research Council, and Chrome Coalition spent millions more.

These groups asked the Office of Advocacy for assistance, and the Office became their willing partner.” According to the Center: “We conclude that the Office of Advocacy’s decision to comment on scientific assessments of the cancer risks of certain chemicals constitutes a significant and unwarranted expansion of its role and reach beyond its statutory responsibilities. We recommend that Congress ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the Office of Advocacy and exert more rigorous oversight of its activities to ensure its work does not undermine the efforts of other federal agencies to fulfil the goals Congress has assigned them.” (by Rory O’Neill

 Center for Effective Government news release and report: Small businesses, public health, and scientific integrity: Whose interests does the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration serve?

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