Dems Slam HHS for Selective Information-Sharing

Two Democratic congressmen contended Monday that the Bush administration is putting ideology over science, citing appointments to advisory committees and the removal of information from Web sites.

Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Sherrod Brown of Ohio demanded explanations in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

They complained that information about the effectiveness of condoms had been removed from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site; that experts serving on advisory committees were being replaced because their views do not match the administration's; and that HHS is singling out AIDS groups with probing audits.

In addition, they said, information showing that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer was removed from a National Institutes of Health Web site. "Scientific information ... has been removed, apparently because it does not fit with the administration's ideological agenda,'' Waxman and Brown wrote.

They charged that "ideology has replaced scientific qualifications'' as HHS chooses members of advisory committees. Among other examples, they pointed to a report on a CDC advisory committee on safe lead levels for children. The report found that nominations of respected academics had been withdrawn and replaced with consultants to the industry.

"We are deeply concerned that stacking advisory committees with individuals whose qualifications are ideological rather than scientific will fundamentally undermine the integrity of scientific decision-making at our leading public health agencies,'' the Democrats wrote.

HHS spokesman Bill Pierce said it is Thompson's prerogative to appoint whomever he chooses for advisory committees. By contrast, he said, Waxman and Brown "would like all of us to follow their agenda, their liberal agenda, on these issues.''

"They should stop looking for conspiracy theories,'' Pierce added.