Donald Trump is still president and he’s still nominating vile people to lead the agencies that they personally want to destroy. The latest nominee in this horror show is Dana Baiocco, an attorney who built a career defending companies with unsafe products, to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC). Baiocco will have her confirmation hearing on the hill on Wednesday.
Even though the conventional wisdom on Trump is that he’s erratic and unpredictable, when it comes to nominating people to lead vital government agencies, you can almost always expect him to pick exactly the wrong person for the job. A selection of his nominees includes:
- Tom Price, a man known for possible pharmaceutical insider trading, for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price has already resigned.
- Rick Perry, a man who wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, for Secretary of Energy
- Scott Pruitt, a man who thinks that people who want to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency are “justified,” for EPA administrator.
You can pretty much pick a name from the entire list of Trump political appointments, and you’ll find a reason that they are unqualified for the job. For Dana Baiocco, Trump’s nominee for Commissioner of the CSPC, not only has she spent years taking money from some terrible product safety offenders, but her husband Andrew Susko currently defends companies from lawsuits as well.
As a partner at the law firm Jones Day, Baiocco has most prominently been at odds with the CSPC when she represented Yamaha in lawsuits related to its Rhino ATVs. Numerous complaints were lodged against Yamaha over the years due to safety concerns that the vehicles were prone to rolling over on their passengers. According to The Intercept:
Fifty-nine people died in similar accidents involving the vehicle between 2003, when it was introduced to the market, and 2009.
Yamaha was also sued by the family of another boy, Zechariah Racaud, who suffered kidney damage when he was trapped beneath a Rhino in 2007, and by a Pennsylvania man named Gilbert Orchard, whose leg was pinned under a Rhino. [In all] cases [the plaintiffs] argued that the company was aware that its ATV was particularly prone to tipping over and trapping passengers beneath it.
Baiocco defended Yamaha in these cases on the grounds that the company didn’t have “sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations.” Yamaha continued making and selling Rhinos — and riders continued to get pinned under them.
In 2009, the CPSC helped Yamaha implement a free repair program to improve the safety issues involved with the Rhino ATV, it advised the public not to use the vehicles, and eventually, in 2013, the company bowed to pressure and discontinued production of the deadly product.
Among the other upstanding clients that were named in Dana Baiocco’s disclosure forms, you’ll find:
- Volkswagen AG, which notoriously cheated on its diesel emissions tests.
- Electrolux, a manufacturer of electric and gas ovens that are allegedly fire hazards.
- Tobacco company RJ Reynolds. Need we say more?
- Daikin Industries, an air conditioning manufacturer that paid out millions in a settlement in Alabama last year over contaminated drinking water.
- Honeywell Safety Products, a company that was successfully sued by the family of a cleanup worker who developed mesothelioma following their exposure to asbestos at the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
- Lyft inc, the ride-sharing startup that’s currently working on self-driving cars, a field that’s bound to offer plenty of consumer safety concerns.
Then, there’s Baiocco’s husband, Andrew Susko, an attorney with White and Williams who has represented Ikea in a lawsuit brought against the furniture manufacturer by the parents of a child who was killed when one of the company’s dressers toppled over on her. The CPSC led a recall of the 29 million dressers that were determined to be hazards.
And now, if all goes well, this power couple will be making their way through life on opposite sides of the moral divide in consumer safety, united by their history of taking money for defending corporations.
As part of her filings with the CSPC last month, Baiocco vowed to recuse herself in “any particular matter in which I know that I have a financial interest directly” or any matters relating to her husband’s law firm. But when a person lists 19 major corporations and organizations along with numerous subsidiaries on her financial disclosures, the careful wording of “in which I know that I have a financial interest directly,” gives little reassurance.