Study links push for rule delay to campaign cash

Sixteen Senate Republicans who sought to lengthen consideration of a long-delayed worker safety rule collected thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from industry opponents of the regulations, according to a new study.

MapLight, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics, found the lawmakers have received a combined $151,266 from groups with stated objections to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s plan to reduce workers’ exposure to silica dust.

The substance, common at construction sites and shipyards, has been linked to numerous health problems, including silicosis and lung cancer. Once implemented, the new regulations would save nearly 700 lives per year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually, according to OSHA estimates.

Still, development of a more stringent standard has taken years.

OSHA issued draft regulations in August, starting the clock on a public comment period meant to inform the final language.

In November, the senators sent a letter to Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, who oversees OSHA, asking him to “provide stakeholders a full 90-day extension to give them adequate time to fully review this complex proposal and provide valuable feedback.”

The lawmakers also requested that OSHA convene a panel to study the proposal’s potential impact on small businesses. MapLight’s analysis looked at contributions from business groups opposing the rule, beginning 120 days before the date the letter was sent.

The full study, including details of the contributions and the text of the letter is available here.