If you doubt the feud between the American Plastics Council and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. matters, look at what´s happening with the industry´s political fund-raising efforts in California.
California´s political climate has been quite difficult for the plastics industry in the last couple of years, yet relations between the two political action committees affiliated with each trade group seem to be degenerating.
The head of SPI´s PAC, Ed Laird, accused APC of helping to form a new PAC this year because it "clearly wanted to put the SPI PAC out of business."
He also suggested that APC´s PAC should describe itself as "big resin companies back East," alluding to the dominance of resin companies in APC´s membership.
In our opinion, that´s unwarranted rhetoric.
The new PAC, called Plastics California, is led by an official from injection molder and thermoformer Berry Plastics Corp., who said the PAC formed because SPI´s was not raising enough money to be effective.
The largest single contribution, $10,000, came from the California Film Extruders and Converters Association, not from resin companies. (Although several resin manufacturers did give $5,000 each.)
It may be that the APC-affiliated PAC is raising more money than SPI because APC´s staff in Sacramento is focused on politics, working day to day on legislation.
Laird´s comments reflect that bad feelings do remain from the failed merger talks between the two groups, and the subsequent departure of much of the resin industry from SPI. That has weakened SPI, and in the case of California, hurt its ability to tap the big resin company donations for political causes.
At the time of the merger talks, we editorialized against APC´s proposed merger plan because it represented a power grab on the part of the resin industry and would weaken industry cohesion.
However, this situation is different.
Environmental issues are taking renewed prominence in California, and the industry needs stronger political fund raising. It´s a fact that SPI´s PAC had been very quiet in the last few years, and judging by recent fund-raising reports, it´s still struggling. It spent $17,000 to raise $24,500 in the first six months of 2000, although it promised changes.
Laird and those involved with SPI´s PAC have given a lot of time and money to the industry, and that effort should be recognized. The same applies to the people working with the new PAC. The experience and expertise they´ve gained is very valuable.
We´re not going to try to unravel the finger pointing, and having two PACs is not necessarily bad. It could lead to more fund raising and more influence for the industry.
But the risk, acknowledged by some involved, is that the existing climate of competition will hurt the industry´s interests in the state if the brush fire is not put out.