President Obama has made it clear he wants the Consumer Products Safety Commission to do a better job protecting the public from killer baby cribs and asbestos-tainted CSI toys. He’s proposed doubling the commission’s budget and expanding the commission from three to five members. All of which makes his naming today of Inez Moore Tenenbaum as the commission chair seem even weirder.
Tenenbaum is a South Carolina politico who did two terms as the state’s elected schools superintendent. Her resume is heavy on education and politics. She ran for the Senate in 2004, but aside from a stint doing public interest law in the 1980s, she’s not a big name in the consumer protection world. She was on the short list, in fact, for secretary of education. The CSPC post seems like a consolation prize. Apparently Obama owes Tenenbaum big time for helping him win the South Carolina primary. She and her husband are heavy democratic donors (nearly $27,000 in federal contributions in the 2008 election cycle) and she endorsed Obama early, when it was still the “risky” vote. On stage after winning the South Carolina primary, Obama hugged first his wife and then Tenenbaum.
While she’s probably not an ideal choice for the job, Tenenbaum is still likely to be an improvement over the current chair, Nancy Nord, whose corporate ties have been well documented and whose attempt to fight a budget increase for her own agency didn’t go over too well with Congress. Tenenbaum’s eight years of fighting public school bureaucracy might even be good training for her assignment to clean house at the beleagured CSPC.