The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. needs to make some decisions about how much effort to put into political fund raising. Its national political action committee, PlasticsPAC, remains microscopic by the standards of Washington PACs, raising and spending about $10,000 in each federal election.
Trade groups much smaller than SPI have larger PACs. For example, the National Tooling & Machining Association, with a smaller staff and budget, raises and spends about $30,000 in each election, and it keeps a reserve on hand of about $75,000.
SPI's PAC only started in 1996, and in the early going it can take time and significant staff commitment to get a political action committee off the ground. PACs have strict rules governing fund raising, for example, like requiring that solicitors get someone's permission before even asking for money.
But SPI's PAC remains too small to be of much use.
The group has not made fund raising a priority, and has been distracted by internal reorganizations and the defection of some large member companies and business units. In part, the PAC is a casualty of SPI's uncertainty about its mission and its squabbling with the American Plastics Council.
SPI officials say they plan to increase the size of their PAC — a good step. A PAC is only one tool of lobbyists, and the contributions SPI might be able to muster are not going to buy any legislation. But it will increase access.
SPI and APC also need to find a way to work together on California fund raising. APC has been making plans to set up its own industry PAC in California.
SPI has had a PAC there for a decade, but it's been languishing lately and needs to step up, if the industry wants a greater voice there. The state, which passed an expanded bottle bill last year, is of growing concern to the industry.
Given APC's expertise in state lobbying and its greater resources in California, it should take the lead — but the two groups should work together.