Top spenders

The chemical industry spends big money to lobby California legislators on flame-retardant bills

Liza Gross is a freelance writer and a senior editor at the journal PLoS Biology.

The chemical industry spent at least $23.2 million to lobby California officials and donate to legislators’ campaigns over the past five years, when five flame-retardant bills were rejected by the Legislature.

The top spenders were:

• Burson-Marsteller spent more than $6.6 million on behalf of the industry trade group Bromine Science and Environmental Forum, mostly on “other payments to influence” during just one quarter in 2007, when legislators were considering Assembly Bill 706, which would have banned all brominated and chlorinated flame retardants. In its lobbying disclosure report, the firm listed two flame-retardant bills and lobbying activities directed at regulatory agencies “re: flame retardants.” BSEF paid $317,500 in 2007 to Sacramento lobbying firms Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller Governmental Relations and KP Public Affairs.

• The American Chemistry Council, which promotes the chemical industry through political engagement, communications and scientific research, spent $5.6 million on lobbying and donated $100,000 to legislators’ campaigns. The council said on its website: “In 2010, ACC helped defeat, amend or stall more than 300 flawed bills dealing with chemicals and plastics in 44 states.” In California, the council targeted four flame-retardant bills, in addition to lobbying on many other chemical issues.

• The California Manufacturer’s and Technology Association, which testifies, lobbies and advocates for manufacturers, spent nearly $6.2 million on lobbying and “activity expenses” to benefit state officials, and donated at least $114,000. State lobbying records show the group targeted each of the five flame-retardant bills.

• Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, an industry-funded nonprofit, spent more than $3.8 million on lobbying and activity expenses, including $1.4 million to lobbying firms Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller Governmental Relations and KP Public Affairs. Between January and July of 2011, the institute paid $150,000 to Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller to lobby against Senate Bill 147.

• The top U.S. flame-retardant producers, Albemarle Corp. and Chemtura Corp., donated $128,500 to lawmakers, plus at least $152,575 to political-action committees. In addition, the companies together paid more than $131,500 to KP Public Affairs since 2009.

• Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm that has represented Chemtura and the American Chemistry Council, donated at least $236,000. Several Greenberg Traurig lawyers specialize in advising chemical manufacturers on regulatory and legislative issues related to health and safety concerns about its products. The firm advertises on its website that its attorneys and governmental affairs professionals “persuaded the California State Legislature to adopt a rational safety factor for reproductive toxicants.”