WASHINGTON (AP) - Two Democratic senators said Thursday the White House should withdraw the nomination of manufacturers' lobbyist Michael Baroody to run the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A third senator, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, said Baroody has pursued a number of anti-consumer activities with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which will pay the lobbyist $150,000 when he leaves for his new government post.
Baroody's background clearly illustrates that he cannot provide needed leadership at an agency ''serving a critical child safety and public health mission,'' Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Richard Durbin of Illinois wrote President Bush.
The White House said that Baroody has offered on four occasions to discuss his commitment to consumer safety with Nelson.
''It's unfortunate that Sens. Nelson and Durbin have decided to judge Mr. Baroody by press reports instead of personal conversations,'' said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore.
The White House and the NAM have emphasized that the $150,000 payment that would go to Baroody was arranged with senior managers at the manufacturers association in January 2006, long before he was considered for the consumer agency.
However, a change was made to his agreement early this year when he was under consideration.
Lawrimore said: ''I have been assured the change did not involve the amount of Mr. Baroody's severance package. It regarded the timing.''
The payment falls in the category of ''extraordinary'' under federal ethics rules, meaning that it is paid on the basis of a determination made after it became known to the employer, in this case NAM, that Baroody was being considered for a government position.
''It's my understanding that the term 'extraordinary' was used out of an abundance of caution because of the timing issue,'' said Lawrimore. ''The amount of the severance package was determined in January 2006 and has not changed.''
Under federal regulations, Baroody is barred for two years from participating in any particular matter in which the manufactures association is a party. However, he may participate in matters involving members of NAM.
Baroody ''will take all steps necessary to avoid any conflict of interest,'' Lawrimore said.