Move triggers local backlash
Industry spends 50 million in lobbying elected officials for 2011
WASHINGTON, DC – The American Chemical Council (ACC), the largest trade group for chemical manufacturers such as Dow and Exxon Mobil, has launched an unusual new ad campaign in support of key members of Congress, prompting concern that the ads are a reward for blocking new consumer safeguards pending in Congress.
“In recent months, ACC has pulled out all the stops to prevent the federal government from reviewing the safety of chemicals before they end up in our homes,” said Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a broad health and environmental coalition supporting the Safe Chemicals Act.
“Now they are praising key members of Congress with feel-good ads, but the industry’s credibility with the public is so low that the ads may backfire.”
Indeed the ACC’s campaign seemed to come as a shock to at least one of the recipients, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. In a recent interview on CBS Channel11 in Anchorage, the Senator expressed bewilderment as to the reason behind the ads. Local watchdogs also expressed concern.
“Senator Murkowski has a history of supporting the health needs of the Alaska Native community,” said Vi Waghiyi, Native Village of Savoonga Tribal Member and Environmental Health and Justice Program Director with Alaska Community Action on Toxics.
“Alaska Native leaders have expressed to her the urgency of the Safe Chemicals Act, which among other reforms would reduce the chemical contamination of our traditional foods. As some of the people on earth most exposed to toxic chemicals, we want to know where she stands on the Safe Chemicals Act.”
Waghiyi also pointed out that the Alaska Federation of Natives, the largest representative annual gathering in the U.S. of Native peoples, called on Murkowski to endorse the Safe Chemicals Act.
In Houston, Spanish-language ads praising Democratic Representative Gene Green also raised eyebrows, given the industry opposition to reforms that would improve the health of area residents.
“It’s known that Representative Green is often concerned about the Latino vote in a primary and that he is on the Committee that oversees chemical policy,” said Juan Parras of TEJAS in Houston, an organization that works to reduce the health impacts of the area’s heavy pollution. “The questions raised by these ads will do him more harm than good.”
Parras also reported hearing a radio version of the ad in Spanish, where only the tagline highlighting the industry sponsorship was in English. “Why the deception?” he asked.
Advocates in Pennsylvania were also surprised to find ads running for Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA).
“We are hopeful that the chemical industry’s significant spending on behalf of Congressman Murphy is not an attempt to further delay chemical reform efforts in Washington,”said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis from local Pittsburgh group, Women for a Healthy Environment.
“As a powerful member of Congress, we are hopeful that Tim Murphy is not so easily influenced by influxes of spending. The health of our kids, our families, and future generations depends on his leadership.”
Chart Detailing American Chemistry Council Spending Since November 2011: Figures compiled by independent auditor for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.