According to a new report from Common Cause, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported spending $2.8 million on political advertising so far in the 2011-12 election cycle. Scores of candidates “fighting for jobs” and “cutting government regulation” were funded by the ACC. The ACC is the trade group that represents big chemical companies like Dow Chemical and Exxon Mobil. In the 2011-12 election cycle the chemical industry also contributed $10 million to candidates for federal office and gave $388,000 to congressional leadership PACs.
Chemical companies are investing in a Congress that will represent their interests, and the money continues to flow after these officials take office. In 2011 the ACC spent $10.8 million lobbying Congress and for the first half of 2012 has spent $14.8 million. On top of this, individual chemical companies, including Dow Chemical and DuPont, have invested significant resources in lobbying Congress to the tune of $81.6 million to lobby the 112th Congress!
Why are big chemical companies spending big bucks on elections and lobbying? The chemical industry is trying to prevent reform of the outdated and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA does a poor job of regulating the over 80,000 chemicals used in commerce, with only 5 chemicals restricted in its 35-year history. For the first time in 35 years, TSCA reform saw some positive momentum with the passage of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2012. This legislation requires basic safety data on all chemicals and prioritizes the phase out of the worst chemicals, ones that are toxic and build up in the environment, in the food system and in the human body.
Reforming TSCA could also affect the future of another new industry by providing a route for evaluating the toxicity of and regulating the chemicals used in high-pressure hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” according to the EPA. The ACC views fracking as a boon to the chemical industry because it provides improved access to shale gas as a critical new source for energy and liquid natural gas for highly toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC ). According to a previous Common Cause report, oil and gas companies spent $747 million over ten years to preserve the provision in the 2005 Energy Act that exempts fracking from EPA review.
While citizens might not have the spending power of the ACC, we can fight to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the door to lavish corporate campaign spending. Hundreds of groups, including the IATP, have joined United for the People, a coalition working to overturn Citizens United.
You can also let your Congressional representatives know you care about addressing toxic chemicals. Ask them to support action to protect American families from toxic chemicals. Let Congress know that you reject Big Chemical's agenda and support the Safe Chemicals Agenda!