Perspective / Opinion

U.S. Chamber PAC Barges Into Local Congressional Race With Revealing Blunder; Is It Barometer On Future Votes?


(October 2, 2012) -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce political action committee has barged into the LB-OC Congressional race with ads it hopes will send LB Councilman Gary DeLong to Capitol Hill. It joins organized PACs that are working to send state Senator Alan Lowenthal to DC.

We're fairly sure that savvy voters realize that the interests of special interest PACs -- of whatever political stripe -- aren't necessarily in the public's interests. In Long Beach, police and firefighter union PACs helped elect/reelect Councilmembers who've cut police and firefighters for taxpayers. Statewide teachers unions too often fight tougher teacher accountability and rigorous student tests. Business and industry interests too often try to weaken public and regulatory oversight of their actions.

So when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce PAC cited AB 568 (a bill requiring the least restrictive restraints on pregnant prison inmates) to call Sen. Lowenthal business unfriendly, we roared with laughter. The geniuses in the U.S. Chamber PAC's command bunker probably meant SB 568, a bill by Sen. Lowenthal that sought to phase out styrofoam food containers that foul beaches statewide after rainstorms and to encourage recycling by exempting areas from the phase out where effective recycling is in place.

Sen. Lowenthal's bill was supported by every Long Beach City Councilmember except DeLong (who was absent on the endorsement vote). It was supported by multiple other CA cities, multiple environmental groups and two of CA's more conservative Republican state Senators who represented coastal areas. It was reflexively opposed by the CA Chamber Commerce (whose members include those from places like Fresno and Barstow that don't have beaches). The bill passed the Senate but was killed by Dems in the Assembly amid hard lobbying by (among others) the plastics industry.

To his credit, Councilman DeLong hasn't ducked this issue. When we asked him about the bill he gave us unflinching, straightforward reasons for his opposition and reiterated them in an op-ed (click here) so he's not hiding from the issue.

What the U.S. Chamber PAC has done is amplify this into a head-on collision. Exactly how is it moderate to be the only LB Councilmember opposed to a bill that multiple other CA coastal cities, environmental groups and even state Senate Republicans representing coastal areas wanted to see passed?

Conventional wisdom says styrofoam is trivial compared to national issues but the U.S. Chamber PAC's reaction to this bill may be a useful barometer of things to come. It's fair to ask how many future bills (on all sorts of things beyond styrofoam) -- backed by the City of Long Beach, other CA coastal cities and environmental advocates -- DeLong might oppose in Congress if the measures were opposed by the U.S. Chamber. Can candidate DeLong name three current legislative policies of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he opposes?

The same PAC-pointed question can be fairly directed to candidate Sen. Lowenthal. Can Lowenthal name three current legislative policies of any supportive organized labor PAC that he opposes?

Election day is barely a month away...with vote-by-mail ballots about to fly shortly.

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