INFACT's Hall of Shame

Dow Chemical (Dow), the second-largest US-based chemical corporation with over $20 billion in revenues, will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year. The chemical giant's history is blemished with the production, marketing, or cover-up of information related to dangerous products such as Agent Orange and the pesticides DBCP and Dursban. Today Dow faces thousands of lawsuits related to silicone breast implants. The corporation is also under fire as the world's largest producer of chlorine (a byproduct of which is dioxin), and as a major source of chemicals that contribute to global climate change and other health and environmental problems.

On the surface, 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.

The Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA), of which Dow is a leading member, is one of the key arms through which Dow exerts control over environmental and public health policy. The CMA has its own PAC, which contributes at least $25,000 per year. The CMA has a lobbying force of some 50 people, in addition to Dow's 51 lobbyists at the federal level alone. The CMA spent $4.68 million lobbying in Washington in just the first half of 1996. Dow spent an additional $1 million lobbying in the first half of 1996.

Dow and its front groups are also a force at the state level. Dow has 36 registered lobbyists in just 13 states. The CMA, Chemical Industry Council, and Chemical Specialty Manufacturing Association have at least 23 lobbyists in just eight states.

When the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, the chemical industry helped shape the legislative agenda, to create a more "business-friendly" regulatory environment. The objectives included Superfund reform, regulatory reform, product liability reform, OSHA reform, undermining the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and defunding the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory agencies.

Corporate coalitions and trade associations, many with their own lobbyists, influence public policy at both the state and the federal level. With this convenient corporate veil, Dow can maintain its environmentally-friendly image while working to undermine environmental and public health protections. The following are a few of the trade associations and corporate front groups of which Dow is a member:

•Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations •American Tort Reform Association •Business Roundtable •Chemical Manufacturers Association •Chlorine Chemistry Council •Global Climate Coalition •The Coalition for Improved Environmental Audits

Each of the above groups is working to undo public health or environmental legislation, through US or international bodies like the World Trade Organization. Dow is also one of the leading contributors to conservative think tanks behind a campaign to roll back the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) authority to protect public health. DowElanco, a subsidiary, gave $52,500 between 1992 and 1995 to think tanks orchestrating the anti-FDA campaign.

Recently, Dow has turned to radio and TV advertising to promote its "corporate citizenship." The ads include a TV spot promoting the benefits of silicone products, which is airing in New Orleans, where a breast implant trial is being held. This ad, sponsored by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, was produced by the American Tort Reform Association (see above list of front groups). University of Houston law professor Joseph Sanders said, "It may be that [corporate defendants] are able to buy themselves something that should not be for sale."

Dow has developed software that can rapidly identify employees in key Congressional districts in order to generate "grassroots" political pressure by its plant workers.

In 1995 Dow "loaned" one of its scientists, Dale Humbert, as staff for the House Commerce Committee–the same committee that oversees the EPA and the FDA.

Dow has a representative, Dave Buzzelli, on the unelected President's Council on Sustainable Development. Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute and member of Dow's Corporate Environmental Advisory Council, also serves on the President's Council. The Council on Sustainable Development was set up to develop policies on manufacturing, managing natural resources, and sustainable communities.

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