Toy companies. Hasbro. Mattel. Thanks guys. But I'm sure it was “all for the children.”
Is this disproportionate impact on the smaller businesses an “unintended consequence,” as many now say? When you look at the lobbying records, it doesn’t look so.
Mattel—whose leaded toys kicked off this whole scare—beefed up its lobbying effort when the legislation appeared. The company’s lobbying budget, which had been steady at $120,000 per year from 2002 through 2006 ballooned to $540,000 in 2007 and $650,000 in 2008—a 442% increase from two years earlier.
In late August 2007, Mattel, the largest toymaker in the world, hired a new lobbying firm, Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, to lobby on the bill. One of their lobbyists on this issue was Sheila Murphy, recently the legislative director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic member of the Commerce Committee’s Consumer Affairs subcommittee. Klobuchar became a cosponsor of the bill in late September 2007.
Hasbro, the world’s No. 2 toymaker, had never had a Washington lobbyist, according to federal lobbying filings, before October 2007, when the company hired the Duberstein Group, headed by Ken Dubertstein, the former White House Chief of Staff under Ronald Reagan. Since then, Hasbro has spent $500,000 on lobbying.
But these industry giants weren’t resisting regulation—they were embracing it. Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industry Association—of whom Mattel is the biggest member—told this columnist “we were early proponents of adopting mandatory laws to require toy testing.”
The regulations give the big toymakers a federal stamp of approval, and they make it harder for upstarts to challenge the big guys—or even survive. Without the regulation, parents might put more trust in a local, independent toymaker they know. After the regulation goes into effect, that toymaker is out of work.