The impetus for launching this blog, as my colleague Reid Wilson wrote in our introductory post was that “the real action is increasingly taking place outside the Beltway, in state capitals, city halls and county offices across the nation.” Smart policies are created at the local level; innovation is increasingly bottom-up.
But there’s a side effect and it’s one we hope to track as well: The groups that have always sought to influence policy on the right, left and down the middle are following the action, too. The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Public Integrity just issued a detailed report on one such effort: a multimillion-dollar chemical-industry organization that’s fighting regulations one state at a time.
In Connecticut, the national American Chemistry Council was able to defeat a measure that would have allowed the state to list chemicals that are dangerous to children.
For the American Chemistry Council, it was another in a string of victories in state houses from Maine to Washington State — and part of a vigorous campaign to smother toxics reform bills filed in states fed up with logjams at the Environmental Protection Agency. Connecticut is just one snapshot of a larger picture in state capitals across the U.S., a Center for Public Integrity examination found.
The group is upfront about the effort. “We’re an advocacy organization,” a spokesman told the Center. And the ACC even listed it’s ability to “defeat, amend or postpone the passage of more than 300 flawed bills dealing with chemicals and plastics in 44 states,” in its 2010 tax return.
From city halls to state houses, the ACC sometimes maintains strikingly close ties to political power. In Baltimore, where the chemistry council helped delay a potential city ban on Styrofoam cups and containers, the mayor officiated at the wedding of an ACC lobbyist.
In Maine, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, Patricia Aho, was an ACC lobbyist before taking office in 2011. In the 2011-12 session, Aho registered as the ACC’s principal lobbyist on 10 different bills before her ascension to state office, records show. Her support for the organization is clear.
The Center’s report is long, detailed and worth the read. But it’s just one example of how lobbyists and advocates are following power back to state and local governments.