Obama’s Weird Choice for CSPC


President Obama has made it clear he wants the Consumer Products Safety Commission to do a better job protecting the public from killer baby cribs and asbestos-tainted CSI toys. He’s proposed doubling the commission’s budget and expanding the commission from three to five members. All of which makes his naming today of Inez Moore Tenenbaum as the commission chair seem even weirder.

Tenenbaum is a South Carolina politico who did two terms as the state’s elected schools superintendent. Her resume is heavy on education and politics. She ran for the Senate in 2004, but aside from a stint doing public interest law in the 1980s, she’s not a big name in the consumer protection world. She was on the short list, in fact, for secretary of education. The CSPC post seems like a consolation prize. Apparently Obama owes Tenenbaum big time for helping him win the South Carolina primary. She and her husband are heavy democratic donors (nearly $27,000 in federal contributions in the 2008 election cycle) and she endorsed Obama early, when it was still the “risky” vote. On stage after winning the South Carolina primary, Obama hugged first his wife and then Tenenbaum.

While she’s probably not an ideal choice for the job, Tenenbaum is still likely to be an improvement over the current chair, Nancy Nord, whose corporate ties have been well documented and whose attempt to fight a budget increase for her own agency didn’t go over too well with Congress. Tenenbaum’s eight years of fighting public school bureaucracy might even be good training for her assignment to clean house at the beleagured CSPC.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.