CPR Archive for Rena Steinzor

The Grassley Crusade against Medical Ghostwriting: Let's Not Burn Witches at the Stake

by Rena Steinzor | August 21, 2009

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), of late in the news for his role as power player in the health care debate, has long enjoyed a reputation as a Republican maverick. One reason for that reputation is his highly publicized crusade to improve ethics in the medical profession, specifically with respect to “ghost writing” of medical journal articles. In recent years, it’s become disturbingly common for pharmaceutical companies to hire public relations firms to write summaries of scientific research supporting their products and then pay hefty fees to high-profile academic researchers who sign the drafts and submit them for publication without disclosing their affiliation with their corporate sponsors.

Grassley’s campaign was first featured on the front page of the New York Times in June 2008, with an exposé on a Harvard child psychiatrist who failed to disclose the money he earned from manufacturers of antipsychotic medicines for pushing their use for children. The newspaper has also reported on a spate of ghost-written articles pushing the use of hormone replacement therapy for women. On Wednesday, it was Grassley’s demand that the National Institutes of Health crack down on the practice. Specifically, he wants to know what that august institution plans to do about its own individual researchers, as well as the primary investigators on its grants who have violated “medical ethics.”

Ghost-writing is a troubling practice in the context of academic research, and the failure to disclose such affiliations violates ...

Cass Sunstein and Change We Can Believe In; Bush Administration Traditions Continue at OMB; Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water and Interagency Review

by Rena Steinzor | August 14, 2009
By now, followers of the controversy over the appointment of Cass Sunstein to serve as Obama Administration “regulatory czar” can do little but shake their heads in astonishment. The controversy over the Harvard professor’s nomination to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has taken on a picaresque quality, as one bizarre delay follows another. The latest development in the Sunstein saga is reportedly the placement of another, as-yet unidentified senatorial hold on the nomination, perhaps at the behest of ...

Regulatory Czar Sunstein's First Days

by Rena Steinzor | July 27, 2009
Michael Livermore is right to suggest that environmentalists should be focused on Cass Sunstein’s first official day as regulatory czar for the Obama Administration. After months of delay over the Harvard professor’s eclectic and provocative writings, he will eventually take office if he can placate cattle ranchers concerned about his views on animal rights. Whatever their level of paranoia about Sunstein’s ability to grant animals standing to bring lawsuits, the likely character of his reign was more accurately predicted by ...

Wanted: A Wise Latina

by Rena Steinzor | July 23, 2009
This post is co-written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz. Just as the traditional media finished a breathless cycle of reporting on how prospective Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had renounced her claim that a “wise Latina” would make different decisions than a white man, an article in USA Today reminded us of the need for many more wise Latinas in the corridors of power in Washington. According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor ...

Sunstein Watch: The Nominee Breaks Silence to Placate Cattle Ranchers; He Isn’t Sonia Sotomayor

by Rena Steinzor | July 14, 2009
Bowing to right-wing political pressure, Cass Sunstein, nominee for “regulatory czar” in the Obama Administration, broke months of official silence to plead his case with the cattle ranchers and agribusiness lobby who have engineered a hold on the nomination by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).  Sunstein’s move was all the more troubling because his absence from the public eye has included an across-the-board refusal to meet with or respond to any inquiries from a wide range of progressive groups and mainstream ...

Responsibility Without Accountability: Failed Cleanup in the Chesapeake Bay

by Rena Steinzor | July 02, 2009
The Chesapeake Bay watershed covers 64,000 square miles, measuring 200 miles in length and 35 miles at its widest point. The watershed is one of the most beautiful and economically productive in the world. Tourism, which depends to a large extent on the preservation of pristine environmental conditions, contributes billions of dollars to the economies of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. As Shana Jones recently wrote on CPRBlog, the Bay is plagued by so-called “nutrient loading,” a condition where a ...

Sunstein Nomination Approved by Senate Committee

by Rena Steinzor | July 02, 2009
As expected, Cass Sunstein's nomination for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) was approved Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) alone voted against confirmation (we’re guessing his vote was not motivated by concerns over Sunstein’s past support for cost-benefit analysis and strengthening the institution of centralized regulatory review.) Sunstein is expected to be approved by the full Senate soon. What now? In his confirmation hearing, Sunstein pledged ...

Big Trouble on Climate Change: President Obama and the Loss of Momentum

by Rena Steinzor | June 12, 2009
This past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine had a terrific piece by Matt Bai on the Obama White House and how it is “taking” Capitol Hill, one battle at a time. After extolling the team of congressional insiders Obama has assembled, and emphasizing the importance of their attentiveness to key players on the issue du jour -- health care reform -- Bai predicts that Obama will be compelled to wade up to his neck in the messy details of the ...

Cass Sunstein Hits the Senate and Climate Change Hits the Media Fan

by Rena Steinzor | May 13, 2009
Cass Sunstein had his confirmation hearing Tuesday; it was well-attended and anti-climactic. President Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) testified for about an hour, and Senate approval of the nomination seems assured. Ironically, in a perfect example of timing being everything, at about the same hour that Sunstein took his seat in front of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, a story hit the media ...

Sunstein at the Helm

by Rena Steinzor | May 13, 2009
With his attractive family and a phalanx of top aides in tow, Professor Cass Sunstein had a cordial, 45-minute hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee yesterday. He was introduced by former student and current Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) who praised Sunstein as a teacher, mentor, and eclectic thinker, all qualities for which he is rightly known. Ironically, however, the remainder of the hearing could be summarized as efforts by the three Senators in attendance— Chairman Joseph ...

What I Will be Listening for at the Cass Sunstein Confirmation Hearing

by Rena Steinzor | May 06, 2009
Cass Sunstein, President Obama's controversial nominee for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), will go before the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for his confirmation hearing on Tuesday (May 12). The “Regulatory Czar,” as this position is known, wields enormous influence over the substance of federal regulations affecting matters as diverse as public health and safety, the environment, and education. Professor Sunstein's nomination has attracted attention from the public interest community, largely focused on ...

The First 100 Days: On the Environment, a President to be Proud of; An Agenda Just Beyond Reach

by Rena Steinzor | April 28, 2009
Inside the Washington Beltway, we are awash in stories about President Obama’s first 100 days. Some are comparative—how is Obama doing in relationship to Franklin Roosevelt at the same point in his first term? Some are pure spin—“[we’re competent and we love each other!]" opines Rahm Emanuel, the obviously biased Obama chief of staff. And some are substantive—has he kept his campaign promises and, if not, how many more miles does he have to go before he sleeps? On the ...

Reacting to Cass Sunstein's Nomination

by Rena Steinzor | April 20, 2009
According to media accounts, President Obama today nominated Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein to be the director of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- the so-called "regulatory czar."  CPR President Rena Steinzor reacts to the news: I welcome Cass Sunstein’s nomination to be the Obama Administration’s regulatory czar. His past support for cost-benefit analysis as a method of regulatory impact analysis – even as practiced by the Bush Administration – raises a host of questions about the direction ...

The People's Agents: Rewarding Polluters with a Plaque on the Wall

by Rena Steinzor | April 14, 2009
Say you live in an urban neighborhood where crime is worrisome but not overwhelming. The police are chronically understaffed, with no money to walk the beat, and instead depend on what we might call a “deterrence-based enforcement system” – making high-profile arrests, prosecuting the worst violators, and relying on the resulting publicity to frighten others from taking up a life of crime. Now suppose a group of trade associations representing local “businesses,” that is to say drug dealers and thieves, ...

Still Your Grandma's Cost-Benefit Analysis: Well-meaning Effort by Resources for the Future Falls Short of the Mark

by Rena Steinzor | March 31, 2009
Two years ago, a pair of well-meaning economists, Richard Morgenstern and Winston Harrington, who work at the moderate think tank Resources for the Future (RFF) got a large grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation to convene a group of well-credentialed academics to consider how to improve “cost-benefit analysis” (CBA). Unfortunately, their long-awaited report, released at a briefing today is a mouse that tries to roar, but doesn’t quite. The reforms proposed in the final chapter – and that are never ...

The People's Agents: Sulfur in the Home, Brought to You by Drywall from China

by Rena Steinzor | March 27, 2009
Dangerous consumer products just can't seem to stay out of the news lately. The newest revelations are on drywall imported from China. Time reports the horrifying story of a 67-year-old dance teacher named Danie Beck whose two-story townhouse was lined with Chinese drywall. Beck smelled horrific odors shortly after moving in, and then began experiencing dizzy spells, insomnia, and sore joints. Eventually, she discovered the source of her misery: the drywall had somehow ended up with high levels of sulfur ...

The People's Agents: When the Fox Guards the Hen House...and Is Paid by Perdue

by Rena Steinzor | March 20, 2009
The financial cataclysm gripping the country is often (and rightly) blamed on a lax system of public and private oversight of financial institutions. On the private side, investors trusted huge auditing companies like Arthur Anderson to rate multinational corporations for fiscal soundness. Meanwhile, Arthur Anderson also took handsome fees from the same corporations to conduct those audits.  Such self-dealing makes no sense to most Americans.  No one lets us administer our own driving tests, much less check our own tax ...

Delivering Health, Safety, and a Clean Environment: CPR Submits Comments for New Executive Order on Regulatory Review

by Rena Steinzor | March 17, 2009
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) invited public comments on the design of its new Executive Order on regulatory review, and CPR has now submitted our recommendations. We urged the Obama Administration to make fundamental changes in how OMB and prospective “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein operate. We're hopeful that the new Administration will convert OMB from a regulatory Siberia into the guarantor of dramatically improved government protection of public health, safety, and the environment. If we have learned anything ...

Also from Rena Steinzor

Rena Steinzor is a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and a past president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.

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