Politics & Government

Manufacturers step in to defend plastic bags in California

With California lawmakers poised to vote on a historic effort to phase out plastic grocery bags, the American Chemistry Council is going all out to stop the proposal before the Tuesday legislative deadline.

The Virginia-based interest group, whose members include Exxon, Dow and plastic bag manufacturers, is a well-known player in California, where it has battled environmental bills and anti-plastic city ordinances it contends hurt businesses or limit consumer choice.

The council has marshaled an expensive TV and radio ad campaign against the bag bill, unleashed a flurry of fresh donations to politicians and assembled teams of high-powered lobbyists with ties to Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol.

This month alone, at least seven state senators – including four Democrats whose votes could prove crucial – have received campaign donations directly from the council or council affiliates Exxon and the South Carolina-based bag manufacturer Hilex Poly Co.

Hilex Poly Co. also gave $10,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee of California on Aug. 5. The next day, Exxon gave the Republican Party $10,000, among other donations it has made.

At least two other Democratic senators with key votes were given donations in June.

"We try to build relationships and support," said Tim Shestek, the American Chemistry Council's director of state and local public affairs.

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