CFC: Did chemical lobbyists violate the law?

by Richard Holober, Market Watch

The Consumer Federation of California is calling on California
regulators to investigate a chemical industry front group named Citizens
for Fire Safety for possible violations of California law when it paid
an expert witness who provided false testimony to legislators.

Government Code Section 86205 states "no lobbyist or lobbying firm may
deceive or attempt to deceive any elected state officer, legislative
official, agency official, or state candidate with regard to any
material fact pertinent to any pending or proposed legislative or
administrative action."

Last month, the Chicago Tribune reported
that Citizens for Fire Safety paid Dr. David Heimbach, a University of
Washington medical school professor, to travel to Sacramento in 2009 and
2011 to testify against proposed legislation modifying state furniture
fire safety regulations. Dr. Heimbach twice told legislators how he held
a dying seven week old infant who was horribly burned when a pillow she
was lying on burst into flames after a candle ignited it. He lectured
lawmakers that the pillow was not treated with toxic fire retardant
chemicals. He warned that a proposed non-toxic fire safety regulation
would only lead to more tragic deaths.

Dr. Heimbach recently
admitted that he made up the story of the dying infant, excusing the
fable as "an anecdotal story rather than anything I would say was
absolutely true under oath, because I wasn’t under oath." Dr. Heimbach
acknowledged that Citizens for Fire Safety paid for his travel to
Sacramento as well as paying consulting fees for his testimony.

law enforcement officials should not ignore this revelation of chemical
industry payments to an expert witness who lied to legislators.
Regulators have a duty to investigate the chemical industry’s possible
violation of a law prohibiting lobbyists from deceiving lawmakers,"
stated Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of

Yesterday it was reported that the University of
Washington admonished Dr. Heimbach for failing to report or to seek
university approval for his paid consulting work for Citizens for Fire
Safety for his California testimony and for testimony before the Alaska
legislature in 2010. At the time of his paid testimony, Dr. Heimbach
served as a professor of surgery at UW and as a physician at UW’s
Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He has subsequently retired from
both university positions.

Citizens for Fire Safety is funded by
three manufacturers of brominated and chlorinated fire retardant
chemicals: Albemarle, ICL Industrial Products and Chemtura. Citizens for
Fire Safety has blocked the efforts of a coalition of consumer groups,
firefighters, health professionals, environmental groups and concerned
parents to revise a 1975 furniture flammability rule that has saturated
California homes with toxic flame retardants linked to human health
effects, including neurological harm and reproductive damage. Citizens
for Fire Safety and related groups have spent $23 million in lobbying
expenses and campaign contributions in California in the past five years
– stopping five separate attempts to replace the 37 year old regulation
with a modern, non-toxic fire safety rule.