Campaign Contributions and Pesticide Legislation
Pay to Spray: Chapter 1: Pesticide Industry Special Interest Groups
The Food Chain Coalition is comprised of over 230 corporations, trade associations and organizations representing all aspects of the U.S. pesticide and food industries, including farmers, pesticide manufacturers, farm suppliers, food processors and retailers. Led by the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) and the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Food Chain Coalition includes organizations such as the American Crop Protection Association (ACPA), representing pesticide manufacturers, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Inc. (GMA), representing large food corporations, the National Cattleman's Association, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association (UFFVA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (see Appendix A).
The Food Chain Coalition, along with many of its member associations, actively supports the weakening of pesticide laws embodied in The Food Quality Protection Act, H.R. 1627, sponsored by Thomas Bliley (R-VA) and S. 1166 sponsored by Richard Lugar (R-IN).
The legislation would substantially weaken protections for infants and children from pesticides in food. It would:
- Repeal the Delaney Clause of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act 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 protections for infants and children. For the first time ever, the bill would require the EPA to weigh agribusiness profits against the dollar value of the risks to the public health, for each individual use of a pesticide. The bill explicitly allows the profits of farmers in just one state to justify risks to infants and children (or any other segment of the public), that would otherwise exceed a neglible risk level.
- Reverse the current burden of proof so that EPA would have to prove that a pesticide is unsafe before taking action to protect the public. This would replace the current standard that requires pesticide manufacturers to prove that new pesticides are safe before they are used.
- Prohibit states from setting food safety standards that are more strict than the Federal standard.
- Make it extremely burdensome for the United States to have tougher pesticide food residue tolerances than the international standards set by the CODEX Commission.
- 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.
A number of the more politically active trade organizations in the Food Chain Coalition have testified at recent hearings in support of H.R. 1627 and S. 1166, including ACPA, GMA, NFPA, and the American Farm Bureau Federation. In a February 1996 letter to Congress, the Food Chain Coalition called for "urgent" reform of the Delaney clause in order to "prevent the needless loss of many safe and essential crop protection tools". The "crop protection tools" referred to are cancer causing pesticides that were named in a recent court ordered settlement between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council over enforcement of the Delaney clause. Pursuant to that agreement, the EPA agreed to ban the use of 37 cancer-causing pesticides on some crops for use in processed foods and review the safety of about 40 others. The EPA estimates that only 10 percent of the uses of these pesticides will be affected by these actions.
Political Action Committees (PACs) are a product of campaign reform law enacted in the 1970s. They allow corporations, unions, banks, and other organizations to sidestep longstanding prohibitions on the use of funds for political purposes, by collecting voluntary contributions from members or employees for distributon to political candidates. A key provision of federal election law allows corporations and unions to use general treasury funds to administer PACs and to pay the costs of soliciting contributions to PACs from employees, stockholders, and their family members.
Most large corporations have PACs. Some, for example Dow Chemical, have as many as ten. Most trade associations also have PACs. To trace the full influence of trade association PACs, it is necessary to analyze the contributions made by each of the corporate members of each association.
For this analysis, EWG identified all PACs associated with member companies and associations in the Food Chain Coalition and traced their campaign contributions to members of Congress since the November 1992 elections. Campaign contributions were then compared to co-sponsorship of industry supported legislation in both the House and Senate. Lastly, co-sponsorship and campaign contributions from Food Chain Coalition PACs were analyzed in relation to agricultural pesticide use in congressional districts.
Identifying the Food Chain PACs
The PACs included in this report are members of either the Food Chain Coalition, the Farm Bureau, ACPA, GMA or NFPA with the addition of three chemical association PACs - the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Chemical Producers and Distributors Association and the Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, Inc. - that have testified recently in favor of H.R. 1627 or S. 1166. Many companies are members of more than one of these associations.
Membership lists for trade associations typically are available only to members and industry. EWG obtained a list of members of the Food Chain Coalition published in May 1994, then added to that list signatories to recent letters the Coalition has sent to Congress. A World Wide Web search yielded additional membership information.
EWG also included in the Food Chain Coalition companies listed in publicly available directories from the GMA and ACPA and a list of the NFPA board of directors found in their annual report.
The latest reference, from the ACPA Home Page, claims that the Food Chain Coalition has more than 230 members. Not all of these members, however, have PACs and not all members with PACs made contributions to members of Congress since the November 1992 election. In total, 170 Food Chain Coalition PACs were identified for this report, 145 of which gave $13.4 million to members of Congress since November 1992. These 145 PACs were linked to 97 Food Chain Coalition corporations or trade associations.
Campaign Contribution Data
Data on campaign contributions from PACs and individuals are available to the public from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The FEC records include the name of the PAC, the parent company that sponsors the PAC (if any), the location of that company's headquarters, the date of the contribution, the recipient and the office that the candidate is seeking.
This analysis examines Food Chain Coalition PAC contributions that were reported to the FEC after the 1992 November elections. The subsequent three and one half years contain two distinct election cycles, one for 1994 and the other for 1996. Limiting the analysis to the 1994 and 1996 election cycles ensures that Food Chain Coalition campaign contributions made to the large number of House members defeated in 1994, do not distort the analysis. With few exceptions*, all members of the present House of Representatives were elected or reelected in 1994.
Campaign contributions reported to the FEC after April 22, 1996 are not included in this analysis. Because most contributions occur in the six months immediately preceding the election, the total amount of campaign money received from Food Chain Coalition PACs by current House and Senate members, will increase substantially by November 1996.
(*The exceptions being members who have replaced others who have left office suddenly or moved to the Senate midterm.)