Toy execs back more funding for oversight
Toy industry officials were contrite Wednesday in their first appearance before Congress after the recent recall of millions of toys because...
WASHINGTON — Toy industry officials were contrite Wednesday in their first appearance before Congress after the recent recall of millions of toys because of lead paint and other hazards.
"On behalf of Mattel, I apologize sincerely to each and every parent. I can't change the past, but I can change the way we do things," said Robert Eckert, Mattel's chief executive, referring to Mattel's recall of 21 million toys, including Barbie play sets and Batman action figures.
The testimony came as Congress considers improving product-safety oversight by increasing funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and lifting the cap on penalties for companies that wait too long to report problems with products.
Seeking to calm consumer fears, toy retailers and manufacturers have expanded safety inspections. Mattel has begun testing paint and finished products before they are shipped to stores, Eckert testified. Gerald Storch, chief executive at Toys "R" Us, said his company had increased testing for a variety of hazards and has made it easier for consumers to return recalled toys even if they didn't buy them at Toys "R" Us.
The toy executives said they support increased funding for the CPSC, which critics contend has been hobbled by budget cuts, the absence of a permanent chairman and weak enforcement power.
Commissioner Thomas Moore testified that during the past three years, the agency has shrunk by 15 percent. The CPSC employs only one full-time toy tester, and its testing facilities in Gaithersburg, Md., are so woefully out of date that acting Chairman Nancy Nord said Wednesday that some of the buildings are "not up to code."
In recent days, the Toy Industry Association has expressed support for congressional efforts to impose mandatory safety-testing standards. Companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Wal-Mart have announced their own measures, with toy maker Step2 saying Wednesday it intends to expand its labeling next week to make sure consumers know a product's foreign origins.
Ex-governor to seek Warner's Senate seat
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner intends to run for the Senate next year, Democratic officials said Wednesday, ensuring his party a competitive race for a seat long in Republican hands.
Warner scheduled an e-mail announcement of his plans for today. The seat is held by Republican Sen. John Warner, no relation, who recently said he will retire at the end of his current term after 30 years in office.
The officials who discussed former Gov. Warner's intentions did so on condition of anonymity.
Sen. Warner's decision to retire assured a competitive race for his seat, and Rep. Tom Davis and former Gov. Jim Gilmore are potential Republican contenders for the seat.
Reid opposes Olson as attorney general
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that Democrats would block former Solicitor General Theodore Olson from becoming attorney general, kicking off a spirited nomination debate even before the White House has named a candidate.
"Ted Olson will not be confirmed," said Reid, D-Nev. "I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general."
The remarks by Reid and other Democrats about Olson in recent days underscore the challenges the White House faces in finding a replacement for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who will leave office Friday after months of confrontations with Congress over the firings of U.S. attorneys and other issues.
White House officials said Wednesday that President Bush has not chosen a nominee to replace Gonzales.
Many Democrats view Olson as a partisan figure with alleged ties to a conservative magazine's investigation of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 1990s.
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