The House and Senate are currently scheduled to be in session together only 12 days before recessing to campaign for the November elections. This gives lawmakers little time to address even the most urgent policy issues.

To avert another government shutdown, however, Congress must pass legislation to authorize funding for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1.  It is expected that a stopgap measure will be used to kick the issue into the lame duck, at which point members will be mollified by their reelection and distracted by the holiday recess. 


This practice of governing-by-stopgap has become commonplace, and is a key reason why abuses of taxpayer dollars go unscrutinized for years.

How else, one wonders, has the government been able to spend the last decade shelling out millions in taxpayer dollars to  “independent” scientists for ongoing studies on chemicals the government has already deemed safe? 

Data from the National Institutes of Health shows that since 2000, nearly $170 million in grants has been doled out to focus on researching one chemical – bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is used to manufacture hard plastics and epoxy resins. It is used in food packaging and containers to prevent spoilage and breakage, increase shelf life, and make containers reusable.  But it has come under fire from anti-chemical activists for alleged negative effects on human health, despite regulators around the world insisting BPA is safe. Tax dollars funneled to anti-BPA causes through the NIH are helping keep anti-BPA hysteria alive. 

To be sure, the U.S. agency in charge of regulating BPA has asserted for years that the compound is safe. On its own website, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conclusively answers the question of whether BPA is safe with one word: “Yes.” This is consistent with the positions of FDA’s counterparts around the world, including regulatory agencies in Canada, Japan, Germany, and the European Union.

Given this unequivocal determination, why are American taxpayers underwriting efforts to actively undermine matters that have been settled by FDA itself? Why is one executive branch agency spending millions of dollars to attack the findings of another agency?

Consider: Over the past four years, spending on BPA research more than doubled, rising from $51 million between FY2000-2009 to more than $120 million between FY2010-2014.

Curiously, the hike in spending coincides with the FDA’s authoritative body on the subject, the National Toxicology Program, releasing a report in 2009 that unequivocally states: “there is no direct evidence that exposure of people to bisphenol A adversely affects reproduction or development.” The release of a decisive report should raise questions about why the government is spending more, not less, on researching the same findings over the following years.

Funding scientists who are devoted to undoing the work of regulatory experts raises serious questions about the integrity of our regulatory regime. Is science informing our regulators? Or is taxpayer-funded activism prevailing over careful analysis? 

It appears to be the latter. For instance, half of the researchers listed as signatories to a 2009 letter criticizing the FDA's commitment to the National Toxicology Program were then awarded tens of millions in research funding from NIEHS. And, as Trevor Butterwoth has pointed out at Forbes, many of those researchers criticizing FDA’s approach used NIEHS grant money to conduct research using the same methodologies: “One can only imagine how difficult it must be for Prins, vom Saal and Zoeller to have to accept millions of dollars in taxpayer money for precisely the kind of research they’d said is pointless and should, as a matter of urgency, be halted at the FDA.”

Unsurprisingly, the authors’ work largely sought to contradict the FDA’s findings. The result is hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted as activists in one government agency seeks to undermine the regulatory role of another.

When lawmakers return in September to debate funding for the next fiscal year, they should do so with an eye to this kind of waste. Proponents of big government are interested in spending more, and spending to advance an agenda. Using tax dollars to undermine scientific conclusions that are a product of years of vigorous publicly funded study is taxpayer-funded activism the country cannot afford.

Duppler is the executive director of the Cost of Government Center, an affiliate of Americans for Tax Reform that focuses on budget and regulatory issues. Follow her on Twitter @Mduppler