I questioned in an earlier column the veracity of Sen. Orrin Hatch’s assertion — during his dust-up with Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown — that he has spent his career sticking up for the little guy.
I noted that Hatch co-sponsored with Democratic icon Ted Kennedy the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides low-cost health coverage to needy youngsters, and his work with former Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman to make affordable prescription drugs more accessible to seniors.
But he has spent much of his time protecting the profit margins of large pharmaceutical companies, and they have rewarded his efforts with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
So let’s take a look at a another Utah senator’s passion for protecting the little guy. That would be the late Frank E. “Ted” Moss, the three-term senator whom Hatch defeated in 1976.
Moss, the last Democrat to hold a U.S. Senate seat from Utah, did quite a bit in his 18 years in Washington and left a huge legacy, mainly for the little guy.
Moss was a committed conservationist and sponsored legislation creating more national parks than any legislator in history. He also became an expert on water policy and wrote a book about water conservation.
But his most significant contributions came from his work as Consumer Subcommittee chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
You know those pill bottles that require some tricky maneuvers to open the caps so kids cannot get to them?
That comes from Moss-sponsored legislation — called the Poison Prevention Packaging Act — which not only required the use of child-resistant packaging for prescription and over-the-counter drugs, but also for household chemicals and other materials that could be dangerous for children.
Thanks to PPPA, accidental deaths among children ages 5 and under decreased dramatically.
Moss also sponsored the Product Safety Act and the Toy Safety Act, which required warning notices on packages about potential harm from the products, particularly toys small enough to be choking hazards for toddlers.
Moss also secured legislation requiring that children’s pajamas be nonflammable after several youngsters died when their PJs caught fire.
He helped sponsor legislation that barred manufacturers from what had been a common practice of “disclaimer” loopholes to get out of honoring promised warranties on their products. And he sponsored a measure requiring funeral home directors to provide consumers with a detailed inventory of all charges after complaints of hidden costs imposed on grieving families.
Moss’ Senate work also is the reason cigarette packages carry warning labels. And he is the reason cigarettes cannot be advertised on radio or TV.
Moss was an early sponsor of the amendments to the Social Security Act to provide subsidized health insurance to the poor, later known as Medicaid.
He worked hard to provide federally funded hospice care as a benefit in the Medicare program, although that didn’t pass until after he left the Senate.
Moss even went undercover, posing as a low-income Medicaid patient, to find abuses that were rampant in welfare clinics and nursing homes. That led to legislation requiring higher standards in those facilities. He also exposed physicians’ abuses of the federal Medicaid program.
He was known as a champion of civil rights, women’s rights, and for the elderly and disabled.
But by 1976, when he faced Hatch, all that was overshadowed by his one great sin:
He was a Democrat.