Monday, January 23, 2006

"Nason's limited experience in motor vehicle safety suggests a political favor--or a simple lack of interest in the agency--by President Bush."

Lobbyists Grouse At Nomination of Lobbyist to Safety Agency

January 23, 2006

Copyright 2007

The Bush Administration's nomination of a 35-year-old Capitol Hill lawyer and lobbyist to run the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has tongues wagging among Washington's lobbyists and pump primers.

"Maybe she has talents not yet obvious to the outside world," stabbed one auto industry lobbyist commenting on Nicole Nason's nomination to be head of NHTSA.

Nason's resume includes almost three years as assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation for governmental affairs where she worked as DOT's congressional lobbyist.

She has also worked on the staff of anti-abortion hero Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois and former Rep. Porter Goss of Florida, who is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Her limited experience in motor vehicle safety, which is NHTSA's primary task, suggests a political favor -- or a simple lack of interest in the agency -- by President Bush. Nason's not talking until the confirmation hearings, which have not been scheduled.

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook has pointed out that as head of NHTSA Nason would be in the position of implementing measures she had opposed as a lobbyist for DOT.

Coming to Nason's defense was Alan C. McMillan, president of the National Safety Council.

"Ms. Nason was instrumental in leading Department of Transportation efforts to include incentives for states to pass primary seat belt laws in the final transportation reauthorization bill passed by Congress and signed into law last year. These incentives will result in more lives saved," McMillan said.

"In addition, Ms. Nason's experience with and support of the law enforcement community in her previous role as assistant commissioner for the U.S. Customs Service will be critical as NHTSA Administrator.

Several important decisions face NHTSA in this year. The agency is about to finish work on new side-impact crash standards and roof strength regulations. There is a major overhaul of the government's fuel economy program in the works as well.

Ralph Nader has criticized the automobile safety agency as nothing more than a lap dog for the auto industry. The consumer advocate said NHTSA "is now a consulting agency to Detroit" and federal regulation is essentially dead.

Before being named to the DOT post, Nason was Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Customs Service. Earlier, she was Government Affairs Counsel at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. She is a graduate of American University and earned her law degree from Case Western Reserve University Law School.

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