Pay to Spray

Campaign Contributions and Pesticide Legislation

Sunday, June 2, 1996

Pay to Spray

Campaign Contributions and Pesticide Legislation

Pesticide companies, agribusiness, food corporations, and farm groups strongly support the passage of H.R. 1627 and S. 1166, the House and Senate versions of the so-called Food Quality Protection Act, which would implement an across-the-board rollback of current federal safeguards that protect the public from pesticides in the environment and the food supply. These bills would:

  • Repeal the Delaney Clause that prohibits cancer causing pesticides in processed foods, and replace it with a vague, undefined "negligible risk" standard, and a requirement to consider farmers profits on par with protection of the public health.
  • Weaken already inadequate protections for infants and children.
  • Prohibit states from setting food safety standards that are more protective than the Federal standard.
  • Do nothing to stop the "Circle of Poison", the export of pesticides which are banned in the U.S., then used abroad and returned to American consumers on imported food.
  • Do nothing to stop widespread use of weed killers that contaminate the drinking water of millions of Americans.

An integral part of the campaign to weaken pesticide laws is political campaign contributions made by political action committees (PACs) associated with these industries. Under the banner of the Food Chain Coalition, 145 pesticide, food industry, farmer, and agribusiness PACs have given almost $13.4 million ($13,381,413) to current members of Congress since November 1992.

A total of 145 Food Chain Coalition PACs gave almost $9.3 million to current members of the House since November 1992. The 241 co-sponsors of H.R. 1627 received $6.8 million (73 percent) of the $9.3 million given. On average, House members co-sponsoring H.R. 1627 received more than twice as much as House members not supporting the bill; $28,400 to co-sponsors, compared to $12,800 given to non-sponsors of the bill.

Pay to Spray analyses PAC contributions in relation to co-sponsorship of industry supported legislation, committee assignment, and by pesticide use in Congressional districts. When we compared pesticide use by Congressional district to PAC contributions and co-sponsorship of industry supported legislation, we found that campaign contributions from Food Chain Coalition members was a far more reliable predicter of support for H.R. 1627 than constituent interest, defined here as high pesticide use in a congressional district.

PAC contributions are clearly targeted to powerful members of Congress. Representative Thomas Bliley (R-VA), chairman of the Commerce Committee received more than $97,500 from Food Chain Coalition PACs since November 1992, placing him 6th among all members of the House, behind Pat Roberts (R-KS), Vic Fazio (D-CA), Charles Stenholm (D-TX), Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Kika de la Garza (D-TX). All but the Speaker, who typically does not co-sponsor legislation, are co-sponsors of H.R. 1627.

Campaign giving was further targeted to the members of the relevant committees. House Commerce Committee members that co-sponsor H.R. 1627 received $39,700 on average, compared to Commerce Committee non co-sponsors, who received only $15,500. Ten members of the committee received more than $50,000 since the November 1992 elections; eight of these are co-sponsors of H.R. 1627, one is the former chairman of the committee, John Dingell (D-MI), and the other is Wilbert "Billy" Tauzin (R-LA). Eight of the 14 members of the committee who have not sponsored H.R. 1627 received less than $5,000 from Food Chain Coalition PAC's.

In the Senate, 133 Food Chain Coalition PACs gave over $4 million to sitting Senators since November 1992. Kay Bailey Hutchinson was the largest recipient at $191,230, followed by Mike Dewine (R-OH) at $156,255 and Rick Santorum (R-PA) at $151,734 and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at $139,500. Eight Senators received over $100,000 since November 1992, nineteen received over $75,000. The average Senate incumbent (not including presidential candidate Robert Dole) got $39,758.

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