California plastics companies have formed a political action committee that aims to boost the industry's political profile in a state that poses increasing challenges from government. The PAC, Plastics California, is the industry's second in California, and formed with support from the American Plastics Council. The industry's other PAC is affiliated with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., based in Washington.
SPI severed its joint state government affairs partnership with APC last year when relations between the two soured, and it remains to be seen whether the two PACs will divide industry dollars and political clout, or whether the industry is diverse enough to support both efforts.
Most officials involved with the PACs said the industry is big enough to support both, and both PACs have similar interests.
"I don't see them competing on issues," said David Jolly, who sits on the board of both PACs and is regional manager of government affairs for Dart Container Corp. "Both have a different donor base. SPI is basically SPI membership. Plastics California has companies that are outside of SPI."
Frank Devore, who sits on the SPI PAC board and is a consultant with TP Plastic Consulting in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., said two PACs could double the money the industry raises but said "the jury is still out as to whether we are shooting ourselves in the foot a bit."
The Plastics California PAC formed because SPI's PAC had not raised enough money in the past few years to be effective, said Roger Bernstein, vice president of state government affairs with the APC in Arlington, Va.
The PAC intends to raise $75,000 to $100,000 by the fall, he said. APC approached SPI about forming a joint PAC but SPI did not make a counter offer, he said.
"We felt the need to proceed and facilitate something that would be effective," he said. "We've not received word of an official rejection [from SPI] but I think that is what's happened. We wish SPI well in its endeavors and we hope that collectively we can raise the profile of the industry."
The chairman of SPI's PAC, Ed Laird, president of Coatings Resource Corp. in Huntington Beach, Calif., could not be reached for comment because of a family illness, a company official said.
An SPI spokeswoman would only say that the SPI has its PAC "under assessment." The PAC has sent out fund-raising letters recently, and board members said it expects to go forward.
The new Plastics California PAC has picked up some significant support from the California Film Extruders and Converters Association in Newport Beach, Calif., which has a seat on its board.
CFECA members have pledged more than $10,000 thus far, and CFECA agreed to match that with a $10,000 donation of its own, said Executive Director Norma Fox.
CFECA is always concerned about activities at the state's Air Quality Management Districts but legislatively does not have any significant fights, she said.
"Right now, we are in a good place and we want to keep it that way," she said.
California has become a hot state for the industry legislatively, including passing an expanded bottle bill last year, and debating things like new recycled-content requirements and children's health legislation.
Jolly, who is based in San Diego, said the new PAC does not have specific legislative goals.
"We are trying to get the word out about the positive effects of plastics in our society," he said.
In particular, though, industry officials said they need to reach out to moderate Democrats, since that party now controls the governor's office and both branches of the state Legislature.
"Part of this process is trying to help those who are at least willing to listen and don't have knee-jerk reactions to your industry," Bernstein said.
Bernstein said the SPI PAC has not been successful in raising money from resin companies. The APC-affiliated PAC has board members from Dow Chemical Co. and Eastman Chemical Co.