Chemicals industry ramps up political spending for midterms

The American Chemistry Council has more than trippled its political spending ahead of the midterm elections as it fights tougher chemical regulations in Washington, according a new report from a watchdog group.

An analysis from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released Wednesday says the industry group has paid for thousands of political ads backing members of Congress from both sides of the aisle as it pushes for a "friendly overhaul of chemical safety laws."

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The report says the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has thrown money into nearly a dozen races in the House and Senate, spending about $1.8 million on more than 6,000 ads in the 2014 election cycle.

The total includes nearly $800,000 to help Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsGOP senators ask watchdog to examine Gitmo site surveys spending Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Congress set for Saudi showdown with Obama MORE (R-Kan.), who is facing a tough reelection race, and Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R).

“The American Chemistry Council’s pumped-up political advertising spending, campaign contributions, and lobbying dollars make it impossible for new chemical regulations to pass without its approval,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.

"This is a bad sign for Americans looking to Congress and state legislators to protect their communities from the dangers of toxic chemicals,” she said.

American Chemistry Council spokeswoman Anne Kolton says her organization is taking an "aggressive approach" because of the increasing focus on chemical safety reform in Congress.

"Anyone who's looking would see we have been increasing our activity on the Hill," she said.

Beyond political ads, the American Chemistry Council has also upped its lobbying efforts in recent years.

The ACC spent nearly $6 million on lobbying during the first half of 2014, on pace with the $12 million the group spent in 2013. The group’s lobbying spending has increased significantly since 2008, when the group brought in former Rep. Calvin Dooley (D-Calif.) as CEO.

The group has been heavily involved in congressional efforts to reform the nation's decades-old chemical laws.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to update the Toxic Chemicals Control Act, but are putting forward vastly different approaches.

Earlier this year, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) offered a plan that he said would strengthen chemical protections by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to focus on high-priority chemicals that pose the greatest risk to the public.

But critics say Shimkus's plan would prevent states from issuing chemical regulations that are stronger than the federal regulations, angering Democrats.