WASHINGTON — Former San Joaquin Valley, California, congressman Cal Dooley has climbed another rung on the lobbying ladder, with a lucrative new position representing the U.S. chemical industry.
Starting in September, the Visalia-born Democrat will become president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council. The job puts Dooley atop a politically muscular trade organization whose members range from Dow and DuPont to Monsanto and 3M.
"It's an exciting opportunity for me to run a significantly larger organization," Dooley said, "and it was something I was personally intrigued by."
The job also means a hefty pay hike for the 54-year-old Capitol Hill veteran.
Since leaving Congress in 2005, Dooley has presided over a trade organization now known, after a merger, as the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Dooley earned a $758,897 salary in 2005, according to the non-profit association's IRS filings.
The American Chemistry Council president was paid $2.1 million that same year, IRS filings showed. That salary made the chemistry council's president one of the highest-paid trade organization executives in Washington, according to an annual National Journal survey.
"They made me a very attractive offer," Dooley said.
The salary gap, in turn, reflects bigger differences between the trade organizations. The Grocery Manufacturers Association reports revenues, from membership fees and other sources, of about $24 million. The American Chemistry Council reports revenues of about $122 million.
Dooley currently oversees about 100 staffers. He will oversee about 200 at his new job, primarily based in northern Virginia and Detroit.
"In many respects, it will be very similar work," Dooley noted. "(The chemistry council) does some level of advocacy, and it also does some scientific and technical work."
The advocacy tools include a political action committee, which in the past 18 months showered $278,000 on federal candidates. The American Chemistry Council also reported spending about $3 million on in-house and for-hire lobbyists last year.
Some of the council's work is highly technical, like its recently released industry survey on "polyurethane coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers." Other work is acutely political, as in its recently expressed support for increased offshore oil drilling.
"It has become clear to Americans that the United States is jeopardizing our own economy and our ability to compete globally by not moving forward with expanded domestic energy development," outgoing chemistry council president Jack N. Gerard declared last week.
Gerard will now become president of the American Petroleum Institute.
Dooley represented portions of the southern San Joaquin Valley from 1991, when he upset incumbent Republican Rep. Chip Pashayan, through 2004. A member of the House Agriculture Committee, he established himself as a pro-business advocate of free trade.
He continued pursuing similar interests with the Food Products Association and then, after its merger last year, with the larger Grocery Manufacturers Association.
"It's a tremendous loss," said Bob Schramm, lobbyist for the Western Growers Association and other California agricultural interests. "He has the industry's interests at heart. He understands the San Joaquin Valley, he understands international trade."
When he retired from Congress, Dooley acknowledged feeling like he had run out the string; after 14 years in elected office, it had become all grind and no fun. His departure from the Grocery Manufacturers Association job is different.
"It's the first time I've ever left a job that I thoroughly enjoyed," Dooley said.