Congressional support for federal pesticide rollbacks and campaign contributions

Brian Bilbray leads the San Diego delegation in contributions from poison Pac's

provided by the Environmental Health Coalition
ampaign contributions from pesticide manufacturers, agribusiness, food corporations and farm groups are the most reliable indicator of support for proposed federal legislation that would roll back current pesticide standards, finds a report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The two bills currently at issue are H.R. 1627 and S. 1166, the U.S. House and Senate versions of the Bliley-Roberts "Food Quality Protection Act," which despite its title would actually make America's food considerably more dangerous.
The report, ironically named Pay To Spray, found that the Food Chain Coalition contributed $13.4 million to members of the House and Senate between 1992 and 1996, with significantly more money going to sponsors of the bill and members of key committees. The report concluded that Coalition contributions were a more reliable indicator of support for the bill than constituent interest, defined as high pesticide use in a congressional district. The Food Chain Coalition is a group of over 230 corporations, trade associations and organizations representing all aspects of the U.S. pesticide and food industries that stand to gain financially from passage of the Act.
Analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) records shows that the 241 sponsors of the Act received an average of $28,000 in PAC contributions from the Food Chain Coalition between November 1992 and April 1996. Non-sponsors, on average, received only $13,000. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), a sponsor of the Act and member of the House Commerce Committee, received $27,000 from the Food Chain Coalition since he declared his candidacy for the 1994 election. Rep. Bilbray's campaign contributions were more than double the House average of $13,000 for non-sponsors of the bill.
By contrast, Representatives Packard, Cunningham and Hunter, the other members of the San Diego delegation who are sponsors of the bill, received between $6,750 and $14,850. None of these members are also on the House Commerce Committee, which has preliminary decision-making power over this bill. Representative Bob Filner, who is neither a sponsor nor a Commerce Committee member, received $5,750.
"This report is a disturbing look at the golden rule of politics - 'those with the gold rule.' With the current Congress, the poison PACs have gotten what they paid for," said Paula Forbis of the Environmental Health Coalition, which released the report in San Diego. Added Donna Frye, of Surfers Tired of Pollution (STOP), "In the absence of public outcry for more pesticides in food, it's difficult not to conclude that the poison PACs have many representatives, including Brian Bilbray, in their pocket. PAC money from the pesticide manufacturers is a systemic poison to the legislative process."
"Pesticides are linked to various cancers, neurological problems, reproductive difficulties, and other health problems," Forbis continued. "For that reason several local government agencies, such as the San Diego Unified School District, have adopted Integrated Pest Management programs to reduce the exposure of schoolchildren to pesticides. By supporting this bill, Rep. Bilbray is taking away this local control and ensuring that his constituents will be exposed to even higher levels of dangerous pesticides than they are now."
Copies of the report can be obtained by calling the Environmental Working Group at (202) 667-6982. Pay to Spray is also available on the World Wide Web at