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Pay to Spray

Campaign Contributions and Pesticide Legislation

Chapter 3: Pro-Pesticide Money and Pesticide Use in Congressional Districts

June 2, 1996

Pay to Spray: Chapter 3: Pro-Pesticide Money and Pesticide Use in Congressional Districts

As an additional measure of the influence of PAC dollars on support for industry backed pesticide legislation, EWG examined co-sponsorship and PAC contributions in relation to agricultural pesticide use in congressional districts. Members of Congress representing constituents who apply significant amounts of pesticides face clear and well demonstrated political pressure to support legislation that will ease restrictions on pesticide use. At the same time, many members co-sponsoring H.R. 1627 represent districts with little or no pesticide use, while they receive significant sums of campaign money from industries that perceive a direct financial interest in weakening public health and environmental protections in current law. For purposes of this analysis, pesticide use serves as a proxy measure for constituent interest in support of H.R. 1627 and S. 1166.

Pesticide Use vs. PAC Cash

The House. EWG compared the intensity of estimated pesticide use (pounds per square mile) in congressional districts, to PAC contributions from the Food Chain Coalition and co-sponsorship of H.R. 1627.

As might be expected, members representing districts with the most intensive pesticide use are more likely to cosponsor H.R. 1627 than members with little or no pesticide use in their districts. But, members from districts with heavy pesticide use also receive substantial amounts of money from Food Chain Coalition PACs; about $29,500 on average since November 1992.

Overall, money correlated far more strongly with co-sponsorship of H.R. 1627, than did heavy use of pesticides in a member's district. In fact, average pesticide use in the districts of members not sponsoring H.R. 1627 was higher than pesticide use in the districts of nearly half (117) of the H.R. 1627 co-sponsors.

To better understand the influence of PAC dollars, co-sponsors were analyzed in terms of those with above average and below average pesticide use in their districts. Co-sponsorship of H.R. 1627 correlated far more strongly with money received from Food Chain Coalition PACs than it did with pesticide use.

Agricultural pesticides are used at an average rate of 279 pounds per square mile across the land area of the United States. Pesticide use in the districts of H.R. 1627 co-sponsors ranged from a high of 5,200 pounds per square mile in the district of Richard Pombo (R-CA), to a low of zero (no reported agricultural pesticide use) in 17 congressional districts.

Pesticide use in the districts of co-sponsors with higher than the mean national level of pesticide use, averaged 932 pounds per square mile - more than 7 times the intensity of pesticide use in co-sponsor districts with lower than average pesticide use, which averaged 122 pounds per square mile. Food Chain Coalition PAC contributions to these two groups of co-sponsors, however, were about the same at nearly $29,500 for the co-sponsors with above average pesticide use, vs. $27,500 for co-sponsors representing districts with below average pesticide use. Food Chain Coalition PAC contributions, not pesticide use by constituents, is the common denominator among co-sponsors of H.R. 1627.

Pesticide use in the districts of House members who have not sponsored H.R. 1627, was twice as heavy as pesticide use in the districts of co-sponsors with below average pesticide use; 243 pounds per square mile for non co-sponsors, vs. 122 of pounds per square mile for co-sponsors. Again, higher pesticide use in the home district does not necessarily translate into support for H.R. 1627 (Figure 6).

In contrast, PAC contributions do. Co-sponsors representing districts with below average pesticide use received more than twice the campaign dollars from Food Chain Coalition PACs, than did those House members not sponsoring H.R. 1627 - $27,500 vs. $12,800. Prime examples of this phenomenon are three House co-sponsors with no reported agricultural pesticide use in their districts. These members, Don Young (R-AK), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), and Thomas Manton (D-NY) received an average of $30,400 from Food Chain Coalition PACs, and all co-sponsor H.R. 1627.

The Commerce Committee. The finding that PAC contributions influence co-sponsorship more than pesticide use was even more pronounced on the Commerce Committee than for the House of Representatives as a whole.

As with the full House, Commerce Committee members representing districts with the most intensive pesticide use are more likely to cosponsor H.R. 1627 than members with little or no pesticide use in their districts. These members also receive substantial amounts of money from Food Chain Coalition PACs.

As with the full House, money correlated far more strongly with co-sponsorship of H.R. 1627, than did heavy use of pesticides in a members district. Average pesticide use in the districts of Commerce Committee members not sponsoring H.R. 1627 was higher than pesticide use in the districts of nearly half of the H.R. 1627 co-sponsors on the Commerce Committee.

Pesticides are used at an average rate of 320 pounds per square mile in congressional districts represented on the Commerce Committee. Pesticide use in the districts of H.R. 1627 co-sponsors ranged from a high of 2,302 pounds per square mile in the district of Micheal Bilirakis (R-FL), to a low of zero (no reported agricultural pesticide use) in the districts of Thomas Manton (D-NY), and Edolphus Towns (D-NY).

Pesticide use in the districts of co-sponsors with higher than the mean level of pesticide use averaged 870 pounds per square mile, more than ten times the intensity of pesticide use in co-sponsor districts with lower than average pesticide use, which averaged 78 pounds per square mile. Food Chain Coalition PAC contributions to these two groups of co-sponsors, however, were about the same at nearly $40,400 for the members with above average pesticide use, vs. $39,200 for members representing districts with below average pesticide use.

Estimated pesticide use in the districts of Commerce Committee members who have not sponsored H.R. 1627, was twice that of pesticide use in the districts of co-sponsors with below average pesticide use; 163 pounds per square mile for committee non co-sponsors, vs. 78 pounds per square mile for committee co-sponsors with below average use. Higher pesticide use in this case does not translate into support for H.R. 1627.

In contrast, PAC contributions do. Co-sponsors representing districts with below average pesticide use received more than two and one half times the campaign dollars from Food Chain Coalition PACs, than did members not sponsoring H.R. 1627 - $39,200 vs. $15,500. Prime examples of this phenomenon on the Commerce Committee are Thomas Manton (D-NY) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY), who have no agricultural pesticide use in their districts, but received $28,250, and $35,800 from Food Chain Coalition PACs respectively, and are both co-sponsors of industry supported H.R. 1627.