Dow Chemical Out of Step
With Public Opinion on Eve of Merger:
INFACT Challenges Chemical Giant Over Political Influence
MIDLAND, Mich., May 11, 2000 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- As the 2000 U.S. elections continue on a pace to shatter spending records set just four years ago, representatives of the corporate watchdog organization INFACT are once again speaking out at Dow Chemical's Annual Shareholder Meeting to challenge the chemical giant's influence-peddling practices. INFACT inducted Dow into its Hall of Shame in 1996 for manipulating public policy at the expense of public health and environmental safety. Dow now plans to expand its sphere of influence through a merger with Union Carbide, to be discussed with stockholders at today's meeting.
"Last year we had begun to hear statements from Dow suggesting that the corporation was separating itself from Hall of Shamers like Philip Morris. However, recent evidence raises concerns that Dow is headed in the wrong direction," says INFACT Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey. Activists called the corporation yesterday, expressing these concerns prior to the Annual Meeting and questioning how the merger of these two corporations can be in the public interest.
Dow is a member of at least 80 trade associations and front groups, the effect of which is to cover the trail leading from the corporation to a specific legislative agenda or public relations campaign. Dow, its subsidiaries, and individuals associated with the corporation have shelled out $175,750 in soft money contributions so far in the 1999-2000 election cycle, and Dow's five Political Action Committees have given an additional $70,000. The combined contributions of Dow, Union Carbide and just three of Dow's trade associations -- the Chemical Manufacturers Association, American Crop Protection Association, and American Plastics Council -- total over $530,000 in soft and PAC money in the current election cycle.
Dow and its subsidiaries had 31 registered federal lobbyists in 1999. The Chemical Manufacturers Association employed an additional 56 lobbyists. Union Carbide is known as a big player in Washington for a corporation its size, reporting over $1 million in lobbying expenditures from 1997 to 1998 on issues such as nuclear energy, hazardous waste, consumer product safety, and labor. Union Carbide is responsible for one of the worst industrial disasters in history -- in Bhopal, India in 1984 -- which has killed more than 16,000 people to date, according to local estimates.
"Dow is out of step with public opinion regarding the corrupting effects of corporate influence in our democracy," says INFACT Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey. According to a poll conducted for INFACT late last year, two-thirds (67%) of US adults believe that the political influence of giant corporations, such as tobacco companies, weakens our democracy. And The New York Times reported last week that 31 corporations that had given six-figure soft money contributions in each of the past three election cycles have not donated in 1999-2000 -- some admitting that soft money plays an unhealthy role in the political process.
"Dow's actions are speaking louder than its promising words. Dow is acting more like Philip Morris than a corporation that's serious about meeting INFACT's Public Challenge," says Mulvey. The tobacco industry has pledged to spend $7 million on the 2000 elections, and two weeks ago Philip Morris was a lead sponsor of a record-breaking $21.3 million fundraising event for the Republican Party. INFACT is challenging Dow Chemical and other Hall of Shame corporations to stop interfering in the development and implementation of legislation affecting public and environmental health and safety, end financial contributions to political candidates and parties, and stop using public relations to set the terms of debate on public policy issues.
Founded in 1977, INFACT's purpose is to stop life-threatening abuses by transnational corporations and increase their accountability to people around the world. INFACT is known for the successful Nestle and GE Boycotts. For more information about INFACT, visit www.infact.org.
Contacts: Kathryn Mulvey in Boston, (617)
Lucinda Wykle-Rosenberg, cell phone: 617-842-0738 in Midland
(C) 2000 PR Newswire. All rights reserved.