SafeChemicalPolicy.org

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

Follow the money in the Koch wiki.

SafeChemicalPolicy.org is a website created by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in coalition with a number of other organizations. The website states that it provides "a balanced, science-based understanding" of issues related to regulation of chemicals in the environment and in consumer products, but its claims overall oppose environmental and consumer protections and downplay the risks to health and ecology associated with some chemicals as well as promoting a general skepticism of science.[1]

CEI is an advocacy group that has long-held ties to the tobacco industry and more recently to climate change denial. Many of its campaigns have sought to oppose or overturn laws and policies that protect public health and the environment, including tobacco regulations and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on air and water quality. It often presents itself as an advocate of "sound science" in the development of public policy. However, many CEI projects dispute existing scientific evidence, and it has a history of making claims that are later debunked. For more, see Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Many of the groups listed as coalition members on the Safe Chemical Policy website have ties to the Koch Network and/or are members of the State Policy Network.

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Mission

The website's goal is to counteract consumer protection and environmentalist campaigns to limit public exposure to chemicals that may be harmful such as some pesticides, food additives, and chemicals used in industrial processes like fracking. The site itself presents exposure to such chemicals as simply part of modern life, normalizing chemical exposure and downplaying risks to public health and the environment:

"When our children experience the joy of jumping into a cool swimming pool, they also dive into a sea of chemicals--chlorine and other products used to keep the water clean. Whether we drink water from a plastic bottle or the tap, we consume a host of trace chemicals and heavy metals. We consume pesticides found in fresh store-bought produce, processed food, and breathe them in the air. The simple reality is that modern living means living with chemicals."[2]

Safe Chemical Policy claims to offer "a balanced, science-based understanding of these issues," but in fact takes a clear stance against regulating industrial chemical use and presents campaigns to limit chemical use and exposures as a threat to well-being. It states that "we don't need to fear modern chemical technologies. In fact, we should fear the campaigns to ban, regulate, or otherwise deprive consumers of the benefits associated with the modern technologies that clean our water, help produce and preserve our food, sanitize our hospitals, make our medicines, and reduce risks associated with dangerous pests."[2]

Targets

As of March 2015, Safe Chemical Policy listed the following "target" chemicals about which it promises to give "the real, science-based scoop" and "the WHOLE story--both the risks and the benefits." It also stated that it is working on "additional fact sheets."[3]

  • Arsenic
  • Bisphenol A
  • Chlorine
  • Formaldehyde
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Mercury
  • Radon
  • Styrene

As of March 2015, the site mainly linked to information hosted on the CEI website about these chemicals, appearing to repurpose old CEI materials. For example, "Chlorine" links to a March 1996 report authored by Michelle Malkin, now a prominent right-wing blogger, and Michael Fumento,[4] a former CEI fellow who was let go from a columnist position in 2006 after failing to disclose payments from Monsanto, which he had frequently praised in his column.[5] "Mercury" links to a 2008 CEI report by Morgan Wildermuth and Gregory Conko, who has also advocated against tobacco regulation.

Funding, Industry Ties, and Lack of Disclosure

Nowhere does SafeChemicalPolicy.org appear to report the funding that CEI and other coalition members have received from companies with a direct interest in reducing environmental and consumer protections. On its "Donate" page, the site states that "Safechemicalpolicy.org is a project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which depends on charitable donations to support it's [sic] programs."[6] CEI does not disclose its donors, but Washington Monthly reported in 1999 that the group received some 40 percent of its funding from corporate donors.[7] Known corporate and trade group contributors have included the American Petroleum Institute, the American Plastics Council, the Chlorine Chemistry Council, Exxon Mobil, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Phillip Morris, Pfizer, and Texaco. For more, see Competitive Enterprise Institute.

CEI received at least $350,599 from family foundations of the Koch brothers between 1998 and 2012, and $2,172,600 from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, donor-advised funds that have channeled hundreds of millions to climate change denial groups.[8] The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation contributed $1,365,000 to CEI between 1998 and 2013, including $150,000 specifically directed "To Support the Death by Regulation Project."

Other CEI donors have included the Scaife foundations, the Coors-tied Castle Rock Foundation, JM Foundation, Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking, Philip M. McKenna Foundation, John William Pope Foundation, Rodney Fund, Lowndes Foundation, Crossroads GPS, Searle Freedom Trust, Aequus Foundation, the Koch-tied American Future Fund, Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation, Chase Foundation of Virginia, Earhart Foundation, Jaquelin Hume Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, National Christian Foundation, Randolph Foundation, the SPN-tied Roe Foundation, Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation, Vernon K. Krieble Foundation, and William H. Donner Foundation.[9]

For information on the funding of coalition members, see each group's SourceWatch page.

List of Coalition Members

As of March 2015, the following were listed as members of the website coalition:[10]

Use of Scientific Language

The website explicitly claims to offer a "science-based understanding" of issues. A significant section of the site focuses on explaining scientific terminology and what it calls "alarmist vocabulary." But in many cases, the site's use of scientific and technological terminology is misleading and focuses on the limitations and drawbacks of various research approaches, such that the overall effect is to cast doubt on scientific studies.

For example, "data mining" commonly refers to any process in which people use computers to discover patterns in large sets of data, and is used for purposes ranging from mass surveillance.[11] to marketing.[12] However, Safe Chemical Policy has a different definition: "While useful data is sometimes available in these [existing large] databases, sometimes researchers manipulate data to achieve desired results in a process that some call 'data mining.'"[13]

The site's description of "peer review" describes the process correctly, but spends twice as much space describing the "limitations" of peer review, basing its critique on a blog post by William M. Briggs, a "consultant" for the Heartland Institute.[14]

The page on "sample size" begins not with a definition of the term, but with the statement, "Myriad news headlines suggest that trace chemicals in consumer product are dangerous based on epidemiological studies that rely on small population samples. Because these studies are often really inconclusive and because the news reports do not rely on the weight of evidence available, media reports often offer misleading information about actual risks."[15]

Scientific language tends to be cautious and to avoid implying that claims are stronger than data can currently support. Terms like "suggests" or "association" often indicate preliminary results or avenues to pursue in future research. But Safe Chemical Policy's website labels these terms "alarmist vocabulary." Its page on "association," for example, begins by stating, "It's not hard to see why 'guilt by association' is unfair."[16]

Domain Registration

The Safe Chemical Policy domain was registered to CEI senior fellow Angela Logomasini in 2011. The contact information listed is for Vintage Wine Consulting, a business operated by Logomasini.[17][18] It is unclear why the website is not registered to CEI.

Copy Protection

As of March 2015, the Safe Chemical Policy website did not allow users to select text, and right-clicking objects in the page caused a warning message to pop up. The page uses a "copy protect" plugin that is designed to make it more difficult for other sites to steal content produced by bloggers.[19]

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. Safe Chemical Policy, "About," organizational website, accessed March 3, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Safe Chemical Policy, "About," organizational website, accessed March 5, 2015.
  3. Safe Chemical Policy, "Chemical Targets," organizational website, accessed March 5, 2015.
  4. Michelle Malkin and Michael Fumento, "Rachel's Folly: The End of Chlorine," report, March 1996, accessed March 5, 2015.
  5. BusinessWeek, archived by PR Watch, "Fumento's Genetically Engineered Columns," January 13, 2006.
  6. Safe Chemical Policy, "Donate," organizational website, accessed March 5, 2015.
  7. David Callahan, "The Think Tank As Flack: How Microsoft and other corporations use conservative policy groups," Washington Monthly, November 1999.
  8. Suzanne Goldenberg, "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks," The Guardian, February 14, 2013.
  9. American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, Recipient: Competitive Enterprise Institute, ConservativeTransparency.org database of conservative funders and recipients, accessed March 2015.
  10. Safe Chemical Policy, "Coalition," organizational website, accessed March 3, 2015.
  11. Glenn Greenwald, "NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama," The Guardian, June 27, 2013.
  12. Constance L. Hays, "What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits," The New York Times, November 14, 2004.
  13. Safe Chemical Policy, "Data Mining," organizational website, accessed March 3, 2015.
  14. Safe Chemical Policy, "Peer Review," organizational website, accessed March 5, 2015.
  15. Safe Chemical Policy, "Sample Size," organizational website, accessed March 5, 2015.
  16. Safe Chemical Policy, "Association," organizational website, accessed March 5, 2015.
  17. Whois.net, domain search, search results, March 5, 2015.
  18. Competitive Enterprise Institute, "Angela Logomasini," organizational biography, accessed March 5, 2015.
  19. Chetan Gole, "WP-CopyProtect," organizational website, accessed March 5, 2015.