Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
April 28, 2010  
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Introduces Legislation to Close 'Revolving Door' Between NHTSA, Automakers  

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today introduced legislation that would close the “revolving door” between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and automobile companies.

Senator Boxer said, “I am deeply concerned about the all-too-cozy relationship between former NHTSA officials and the auto industry. My legislation would address this ‘revolving door’ by preventing automakers from having undue influence on agency decisions.”

The legislation would bar former NHTSA employees from working for auto manufacturers in any capacity that required written or oral communication with the agency for three years.

The revolving door issue has come to light during recent inquiries into the safety of Toyota vehicles. As the Washington Post recently reported, “Dozens of former federal officials are playing leading roles in helping carmakers handle federal investigations of auto defects, including those for Toyota’s runaway-acceleration problems.” Concerns have been raised that former NHTSA employees are using their influence to benefit automotive manufacturers and impeding the enforcement of safety standards and regulations.

Senator Boxer’s bill would apply to high-ranking NHTSA officials, as well as individuals whose responsibilities during their last year at the agency included any motor vehicle safety-related program.

Individuals who violate the revolving door prohibition would be subject to current penalties under government-wide ethics laws. Those penalties stand at $55,000 for an individual. Manufacturers would also be subject to civil penalties including a fine of $100,000 or more.

The legislation has the support of leading consumer and transportation safety advocates including Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen; Jacqueline S. Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety; Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America; Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars; Andrew McGuire, executive director of the Trauma Foundation; Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety; and Ellen Bloom, federal policy director for Consumers Union.