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January 11, 1976 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-01-11

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Sunday, . onudry 11, 1976

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Pager Five

Sunday1 January 11, 1976 THE MICHIGAN DAILY r.'cge Five

Advisory

committees: Corporate

meddlers

(Continued from Page 3)
ledge some problems, insist the
institution provides government'
with unfettered opinion that it
would otherwise never get.
Moreover, they claim, the com-
mittees . serve as . important
sounding boards and think-
tanks for new ideas., But critics,
such as Metcalf, fear the po-
tential for abuse still outweighs
the .benefits the groups purport-
edly provide.
"Everybody on the advisory'
committees uses the back-
room," charges Washington, D.
C. public interest attorney Rich-
ard Frank. And a member of
several advisory groups points
out that big business leaders
take time to serve on the panels
-often without pay - becausey
"They get a forum where they
know they will get an open
and receptive response to their
problems."
Except for their low profiles,
these groups have little in com-
mon. While some committees
are very powerful, others serve
merely-as window - idressing.
Membership varies from a
handful to a crowd large enough
to fill a theater. And although
some committees allow public
representation, most still draw
their ranks exclusively from
limited private sectors.

1 INTIL RECENTLY, for in-
v stance, the National Petro-
leui Council's membership
list - which numbers over 150
- read like a Who's Who of the
oil industry.,Whilo outside pres.-
sure forced the Council to add
a score of consumer and en-
vironmental representatives,
most of these members con-
cede they are consistently out-
gunned by the oil companies.
"The energy industry can
outexpertise the environment-
alists," s a y s Thomas Stoel,
who has served on an advisory
committee dealing with natural
gas resources. He adds that any
engineer assisting the environ-
mental groups on the commit-
tee would he blacklisted by the
oil companies.
An advisory committee pro-
viding the Commerce Depart-
ment with recommendations on
the textile market contains only
leaders from industry and la-
bor unions - both of which
haye interests favoring higher
prices for domestic textiles and
still tariffs on imports. Thed35-
person committee has no one
from a consumer group-a fact
the chairman dismisses by ask-
ing rhetorically: "Just who is
a consumer and who represents
them?"

Federal officials understand
the game that's being played
with the advisory committees,I
and they readily embrace the
ground rules 'without question.
In the case of the multi-na-
tional trade negotiations, the
industrialists provide informa-
tion "the government cannot or
does not get elsewhere" and
which is consequently taken at
face value even though it
comes from sources with deep-
ly vested interests. "We sim-
ply assume they know what
they are talking about," says
the Commerce Department's
Louis Murphy, who could eas-
ily be George "Please Don't
'Squeeze the Charmin" Whip-
ple's younger brother. Murphy
oversees about a dozen advis-
ory committees from a crowd-
ed office chock-full of secretar-
ies laboring over typewriters
and secret reports that seem to
be treated with about as much
respect as last semester's his-
tory notes.
TN GENERAL -- there are a
few notable exceptions -
the selection of advisory com-
mittee" members is a closed
process that breeds cronfism
and political wheeling and deal-
ing. One government bureau-'
crat reluctantly says that the
committee with which he works
contains "only friends of the,
president". During the Kennedy!
and Johnson administrations'
that meant labor unions were
rather amply represented, but
with Nixon's election, those
men saw their appointments
terminated and . big business
was back in business on that
advisorv committee.
A retired school teacher from
rral Tllinois sheenishly admits
that she served on a Depart-'
ment of Health, Education, and
Welfare advisory board pri-
marily because "a close friend
of mine who worked in Presi-
dent Nixon's re-election cam-
paign got me the position." Butj
she confidently praises the
worth of the committee which
analyzed unique approaches to
elementary school education be-
ing tried in the various parts of
the country.
A YOUNG WOMAN who
worked on the committee's
supportive staff, however, says
that the group's reports were
ignored by the higher-ups in

HEW. Essentially the only,
thing the members accomplish-
ed with any , regularity was
wasting the taxpayers money
junketing from place to place
every couple of months.
Of course, all aspects of gov-
ernment are plagued by waste
and efficiency. But it seems as
if there is so much fat in the
advisory committees that the.
collective system should suffer'
from a record case of harden-
ing of the arteries by now.
Last April, the Department of
Defense - one of the greatest

loaded with ex-Pentagon offic-
ials and several persons who
served on the original commit-!
tees.
JOSEPH HELLER would be
proud - he couldn't have
written it any better.
In a sense, these examples of
willful secrecy, waste, and spe-
cial interest power-mongering
are isolated incidents. Yet they,
are not uncommon - thus
forming the tableau of advisory
committees in action. Secrecy
in government is necessary un-
der some circumstances but
that privilege has been abused

'Advisory committees rate nary a line of
commentary in most political textbooks
which conscientiously dissect the tradi-
tional branches of government. But the
boards have become so rervasive that they
have to be considered a branch in their
own right. A branch that was grafted onto
the tree late but flourished once there.'

mittees have an easier timej
escaping the scrutiny to, which
other agencies of government
are regularly subjected.
Strengthening the current leg-
islation regarding advisory com-
mittees is one possible way of
correcting the deficiencies. But
that assumes the system is one
that deserves to survive - a
premise disputed by its most
rabid opponents.
In the event advisory com-
mittees aredisbanded whole-
sale, some genuinely useful
ones, such as those of the Con-
sumer Product Safety Commis-
sion, would be lost. The com-
mission, which determines if,
.new products on the market are
dangerous, requires a numer-
ical balance be struck -between
the consumer and industry rep-
resentatives on its three ad-
visory boards. Also, the com-
mission widely advertises for
new committee members when
a vacancy occurs and carefully
reviews the applicants.
Nonetheless, in general, ad-
visory committees stand as a
threat to open, democratic gov-
errnent. And all too oftengthe
threats become reality. As Sen-
ator Metcalf concludes: "I
hope the government quits this
business of always setting up
advisory committees. We have
to make government believe
that it has to operate in the
open."

III

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An Old Tradition,
A New Way of Life.
Register for Sororities Rush; Call 663-
4505, or go to the Fishbowl, Noon-4,
J on. 12-14.

j WOAMWOI
JANUARY 6-31
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WEEKDAYS 10-6
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sponsors UM-IWY UNON GALLERY &RESIDENTIAL, COLLEGE

II11

('

ATTEND MASS MEETING:
3rd Floor League
JAN. 14 7:30 p.m.

Giovanni: A poet of
intellectual extremes

money wasters known to mod- in this instance by sheer mag-
ern man - established an ad- nitude, if nothing else. Of the
visory committee to review re- 3,626 committee meetings held'
commendations on weapons last year, 1,332 were partially
systems developments made by or completely closed to the pub-
two other advisory committees. lic.

II

(Continued from Pn e.3)
person who has learned the art
-f strategic compromise. She
is able to bend with the person-
ality and of each individual she
deals with - white or black --
in order to communicate. Cool
and confident, her broad social'
anger, mellows on a personal
level, as she retains a basic
commitment to people that can'
inject humor and compassion
into the most "revolutionary"
situation.
/ and he said: you're pret-
ty full or yourself aint 1
chu
so she replied; show ino
someone not full of her-
self and
I'll show you a hungry per,-
$On/
Crush
all smokes
dead out.

(Note: Excerpts from Giovan-
ni's poetry come from her
books, Black Talk, Black Feel-
ing, Black Judgement, Re:
Creation, My House, and The
Woman and the Men. The two
small photographs on page
three are reprinted with per-
mission from "Encore Ameri-
can and Worldwide News." The
larger photograph is reprinted
from The Women and the Men.)

The first groups had already
finished their work to the tune
of nearly a million dollars. But
the DOD will dole out another.;
several hundred grand to
"learn what went into the orig-,
inal reports," according to its
chairman Admiral Eli Reich.
On top of that, the new panel is

Advisory committees are an
arm of government which seeks
out information from private
concerns and then keeps the'
material under tight wraps in
too many cases. And that sec-
recy has caused most of the
other problems. Because of
their cloistered ways, the com-

'r

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fI
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