Consumer Groups Want White House Office Restored

Leaders of seven consumer groups, including Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and the Consumer Federation of America, sent a letter Dec. 11 listing six major pro-consumer priorities they want to see in place soon after Barack Obama takes office. The letter was addressed to Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and copied to two leaders of the Republican minority, Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell.

The attached agenda from the groups starts with a request to restore the Office of Consumer Affairs in the White House. "Such an office, run by a prominent advisor to the president, would clearly demonstrate the critical nature consumer protection issues play in restoring and maintaining a sound economy. As inadequate consumer protection has permeated so many of the crises the nation faces and the work of so many different federal agencies, having a strong, centralized consumer voice in the White House is all the more critical," the letter states. "The United States Office of Consumer Affairs (USOCA) was established by Executive Order by President Nixon. Under pressure from Congress, the Clinton Administration allowed the office to be closed. The office should be reinstated as it existed under the Carter Administration, the time when it was most effective."

The other priorities listed in the agenda are curbing Wall Street "excesses" and "abusive and predatory lending," protecting consumers from price-gouging in energy markets and giving households access to alternative emergency and efficiency, reinstating consumer legal rights, guaranteeing high-quality health care that is safe and affordable to everyone, and ensuring the U.S. food supply and products are safe.

The leaders signing the letter were Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America; Jim Guest, president and CEO of Consumers Union; Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates; Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League; Willard P. Ogburn, executive director of the National Consumer Law Center; Andra Delattre, executive director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group; and Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, who announced last week that she will be stepping down after 27 years in that post.

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