Dow leads Bush & Co in a toxic tango

“This is a nation born over 200 years ago,” explained former Chairman Frank Popoff at the 1998 Dow Chemical Company AGM. “It only works when business dialogues with government.” What once appeared to be an admirably frank disclosure is today shown to be a coy evasion of the actualité: Dow hasn’t just been conversing with US officials, it’s been quick stepping them into a dance of slow death.

The ‘nation’ Popoff referred to appears to be missing its democracy and – alert to the dangers posed by public health protection measures anywhere in the world – Dow has been looking to hide its European counterpart under the same Bush. An astounding new report by US House Representative Henry Waxman details how Dow and the US chemical industry have employed several departments and agencies of the US government, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, in a sweeping campaign to drastically to curtail European Union efforts to protect the health of its citizens. “The documents described in this report provide a case study in how a powerful special interest can influence the nation’s foreign policy. The chemical industry is one of President Bush’s biggest political supporters. As the documents reveal, the industry succeeded in using its access and influence to persuade the Administration to intervene to weaken a major environmental initiative in Europe.”

‘An empty hand is no lure for a hawk’

The report explains how, in 2001, the European Union developed a set of proposals, the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH), that would require the chemical industry to provide basic health and environmental data for the tens of thousands of chemicals currently on the market that have never been properly evaluated.

In order to guarantee the gelding of ‘REACH’, Dow has not so much chewed the fat with the current US government, it has taken it firmly into a pre-election ‘caminata’, Dow director Barbara Franklin launching the dance as national co-chair of the “George Bush for President Committee” while the rest of the chemical industry cobbled together a whopping $16.6 million grease for the Republican Party; then on through a post-election ‘la salida’, (see page 4 of this report), that eventually resulted in Colin Powell’s slavish paean to the industry’s song sheet on REACH; launched into an amorous ‘la cunita’ in Athens, during which Dow officials – our old friends Andrew Liveris’k’ and Luciano “Leg It” Respini – insisted the US embark on a trade war with Europe; and finished off – potential cost to the chemical industry from REACH having fallen 82% under revised proposals – with a breathless ‘La Resolucion’, the American Chemistry Council boasting in its annual report of “significant concessions in the draft now being considered by the European parliament”.

Should we be surprised by the evidence, gathered by the Environmental Health Fund last year, of Dow’s extensive high-level influence? It’s not as if they don’t work on it, as Infact reported more than six years ago: “Dow operates a powerful lobbying machine with its deep pockets and complex network of veiled alliances with industry organizations and front groups… Dow is not among the biggest spenders in Washington. However, the chemical giant wields enormous influence in public policy, particularly on environmental and consumer issues. Much of this influence is well-hidden from the public because Dow operates through trade associations and corporate coalitions. Such deliberate concealment makes it nearly impossible to track Dow’s influence and access over key public health issues and just how much the company has interfered with public policymaking.”

Even less trackable is Dow’s personal influence with the Bush regime. Franklin’s central role in the “George Bush for President Committee”, helping to raise more than $36 million almost a year and a half before the election, is only one reason she would be on considerably more than nodding terms with Dubya. Franklin was also Bush Senior’s Commerce Secretary, and led a mission to China in 1992 that “normalized” commercial relations; is a director of the U.S./China Business Council, and the National Committee for U.S./China Relations; not to mention being a member of the President’s advisory Committee for Trade Policy & Negotiations (4 terms).

Then there’s John C Danforth, heir of the Ralston Purina fortune and Dow director, who was considered by Bush junior as foremost candidate for the vice presidency while he was leading a whitewash inquiry into the FBI’s actions at Waco.

Throw in Willy Stavropoulos and his seat on the board of the extravagantly connected American Enterprise Institute, not to mention ‘Bioethical’ board member Harold Schapiro, who was a member of the Daddy Bush’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology from 1990-1992, and the possibilities for serious undermining of the democratic process multiply enormously.

The upshot is a mortal blow to the future of human health in Europe. “The European Commission estimated that REACH could prevent 2,200 to 4,300 occupational cancer cases per year. Additionally, the Commission’s Impact Assessment estimated that the health benefits of REACH could be on the order of magnitude of $61 billion over a 30-year period.”

That was before Dow et al waltzed into the picture. As the Waxman report reveals, “From the outset, the U.S. chemical industry strongly opposed REACH. The chemical industry argued that REACH would interfere with trade, increase costs, discourage innovation, and hamper commerce. The industry maintained that REACH could discourage the sale of particular products that contained hazardous chemicals and that REACH could increase the costs of chemicals due to testing and evaluation costs.” By exerting direct influence over the administration of the most powerful nation on earth, Dow and the $250 billion chemical industry ensured that, “The Administration’s opposition to the initiative was extensive, involving multiple government agencies, cables from Secretary of State Colin Powell, and an international lobbying strategy closely coordinated with representatives from industry. Ultimately, the European Union adopted numerous changes proposed by the Administration.”

“I request a clear statement from you that the United States will not work to undermine environmental protections in other nations,” Henry Waxman said in a letter to President Bush. Perhaps he should have cut out the middle man and written straight to Stavropoulos.

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