CHEMICAL INDUSTRY POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES (PAC's) have given about $300,000 in campaign contributions to members of the senate finance Committee, which this week will consider "superfund" legislation to make chemical manufacturers liable for cleanup costs and damages resulting from hazardous waste dumps and toxic chemical spills.
Eighteen of the 20 members of the Finance Committee have received campaign money from chemical PACs; 15 of them got more than $5,000 each. Of the two members who received no chemical PAC funds, one -- Abraham Ribicoff (D-conn.) -- is retiring, and the other -- David boren (D-okla.) -- accepts no PAC contributions. Boren, however, did accept at least $4,200 as direct contributions from executives of energy companies that also manufacture chemicals.
In recent years, chemical manufacturing firms and their trade associations, operating under campaign laws, have formed 143 PACs to raise and spend money to influence elections. Through mid-October of this year, the chemical PACs have reported spending $2.67 million in the 1980 campaigns.
Rep. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) got more money from chemical PACs than any other candidate this year, $73,950. Grassley defeated Democratic Sen. John Culver, sponsor of the superfund bill, in the election this month.
Like Grassley, most of the candidates who have received the largest amounts thus far this year are Republicans who defeated Democratic senators. They included Rep. Steve Symms (R-Idaho), who won Sen. Frank Church's seat with the help of $70,350 from chemical PACs, Rep. James Abdnor (R-S.D.), who got $59,075 from chemical PACs in his successful bid to unseat Sen. George McGovern, and Rep. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.), who benefited from $54,649 in chemical money as he defeated Sen. Birch Bayh.
Chemical PACs also reported giving large amounts to incumbents through October of this year, and the largest amounts went to the leadership of the Finance Committee. Chairman Russell Long (D-La.) received $54,900 from chemical PACs, more than any other incumbent seeking reelection this year, though he had only nominal opposition.
The committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Bob Dole (Kan.), who will become chairman of the committee next year, got $23,000 from chemical PACs to help finance his easy reelection campaign. Sen. Herman Talmadge of Georgia, ranking Democrat on the committee, got $30,845 from chemical PACs, but lost his reelection campaign.
In addition to the leadership of the Finance Committee, several other members have received large amounts of chemical PAC money during or since their most recent election campaigns this year, or in 1976 or 1978.
Freshman Republican Dave Durenberger of Minnesota, for example, has received $62,775 from the PACs of chemical manufacturers.
In a phone interview Friday, Durenberger said the money "hasn't had any effect on me . . . . These people contributed in the hope that I'd be a senator, and not on the condition that I'd vote for their legislation."
Durenberger said the money presents no conflict of interest for him, adding, "Whoever wants to contribute to my campaign is free to do so."
As to the possibility that other members of the committee might be influenced in voting on legislation that affects the fortunes of their benefactors in the chemical industry, Durenberger said, "What I can't answer for these guys is whether they went through a screening process at a particular PAC, whether they were asked before they got the money if they support superfund. But knowing the guys on the Republican side the way I do, it's hard to believe the contributions would make a difference in the way they vote."
Nine Finance Committee members have gotten more than $10,000 from chemical PACs. Democrat Billy Bradley of New Jersey received $19,400 from chemical industry sources.
Democratic lame duck Mike Gravel of Alaska, defeated in his primary election, received $17,678 from chemical manufacturers' PACs, and Republican Bob Packwood of Oregon got $17,300.
The chemical PACs also gave $11,800 to Democrat Lloyd Bentsen of Texas and $11,750 to Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.