A REGULATORY renaissance in the Bush administration may be
slowing as the White House brings more scrutiny to bear on federal
"We are looking at ways to work more closely with the heads of
various agencies to insure an overall coordination of policy," says
one White House official.
The move comes after many months of complaints by business groups
and conservatives who were an important part of President Bush's
political coalition in 1988.
There is "a sense of regulators crawling out of the woodwork
where they were hiding during the 1980s," says Dan Mitchell, a
senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation - the conservative think
tank in Washington that provided many of the intellectual
underpinnings for federal policy during the Reagan administration.
Consumer advocates have been hailing "the bold moves" of such
agencies as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
Firearms (BATF) which have all garnered many headlines for a number
of recent regulatory actions.
Tough legal actions
Procter & Gamble dropped the word "fresh" from the label of its
Citrus Hill orange juice after the FDA on April 24 got a court order
seizing a shipment because the juice itself is actually made from
By making an example of one of the most common brand names in the
American kitchen, the FDA has gotten the rest of the food industry
to say: all right, things we might have done... , we won't take
those chances any more, notes Peter Barton Hutt, an attorney at
Covington and Burling in Washington, who served as the FDA's chief
counsel during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
The Adolph Coors Brewing Company is now phasing out its
commercials proclaiming that Coors Light beer "won't slow you down,"
after the BATF took enforcement action.
"Obviously beer contains alcohol and it does slow you down," says
Bruce Silverglade, an attorney at the Center for Science in the
Public Interest - a New York- based organization that has long
campaigned for limits on beer, wine, and liquor advertising.
The FTC has also been stepping up its enforcement activities.
This year, in separate cases against Volvo and the Louis Galoob Toy
Company, the FTC not only cited the manufacturers for making
misleading advertising claims, but also their ad agencies. An FTC
attorney said these were the first cases in six years in which an ad
agency was held responsible for the commercial speech of its
Record high spending
Overall, consumer advocates agree that the level of enforcement
muscle in many federal agencies has, until recently, vastly
increased during the Bush years.
The president's budget proposal for 1992 calls for an increase in
regulatory spending to more than $13 billion which, even when
adjusted for inflation, is a record high, according to a report from
the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington
University in St. Louis.
And with 122,400 government workers expected to be part of the
regulatory bureaucracy next year, "staffing figures are now higher
than they were at the end of the Carter administration," the study
notes. In addition, a new law, the Americans with Disabilities Act,
requires businesses to spend money to accommodate people with
This record has left many business leaders concerned that, as
Jeffrey Perlman, the manager of legal and regulatory affairs at the
United States Chamber of Commerce, put it: "We were going into a
stage of re-regulation."
But with the new initiative at the White House to scrutinize
regulatory agencies more closely, many liberals, environmentalists,
and consumer advocates are now the ones complaining.
" There is a cutting back," says Joan Claybrook, the president of
Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.
"In the beginning," she says, "President Bush didn't pay a lot of
attention" to what regulators were doing. …