Up from the depths of deception: The chemical industry’s “astroturf” group loses a member, the Ocean Futures Society

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Remember all of my earlier posts about the industry front group, the Coalition for Chemical Safety?  My major complaint was, not that the chemical industry was organizing itself or even seeking support from others, but rather that it was doing so through deception:  Pretending to be something it was not.  Never revealing who is behind the coalition, who’s paying the bills.  Never revealing it was put together by one of the nation’s premier “astroturf” PR firms.  And most importantly, not coming clean about its real identity to the businesses and organizations it approaches to sign up.

Well, the Ocean Futures Society, an ocean protection group founded and led by Jean-Michel Cousteau, has just identified itself as one of the duped groups taken in by the Coalition for Chemical Safety (CCS). 

In an article posted today on Huffington Post, Holly Lohuis reveals how the Ocean Futures Society (OFS) was approached to join CCS, but was never told it was a front group of the chemical industry or that the coalition was backed by interests whose positions are wholly at odds with those of her group.  OFS supports, for example, elimination of brominated flame retardants, the concentration of which, Holly points out, are doubling every three years in populations of harbor seals and killer whales in the Pacific Northwest.

Says Holly:  “Once I was convinced I was being duped, I withdrew OFS support from the front group and joined the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition.”  She further notes:  “Unlike the front group, they have nothing to hide.”

Holly calls for an “honest dialogue” between all interests that have a stake in chemicals policy reform, noting that Dow Chemical was the main sponsor of her group’s PBS Ocean Adventures television series.

She adds:  “Fake grassroots groups like CCS are a distraction from the real work before us.  Any group that serves to confuse the public and to dupe committed people like me is harming our chances to secure urgently needed reform of our nation’s toxic chemical laws.”

Honest dialogue versus continued deception.  Seems like the chemical industry has an important choice to make.

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  1. Posted March 24, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    In my role as executive director of the Coalition for Chemical Safety, I responded to the Huffington Post article yesterday but I wanted to briefly respond here simply to clarify the facts.
    The Coalition for Chemical Safety did not approach OFS to join. In fact OFS approached the Coalition and signed up as a member via our website (http://www.coalitionforchemsafety.com). As is often our practice, a representative of the Coalition contacted OFS and very clearly stated who we were, who our members were and what we were about.

    After hearing us out, OFS opted to withdraw its membership.

    In other words, the Coalition was open and transparent and lost a member for it and that is fine with us. That in no way comports with my definition of someone who was “duped.” In fact, it is quite the opposite.

    What this kind of soap opera has to do with the urgent business of reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act, I do not know. If you agree that reform is needed and you agree that it must protect public safety, promote American innovation and preserve American jobs you agree with the Coalition – irrespective of what group you choose to join.

  2. Judy Robinson
    Posted March 24, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Mr. Householder’s comparison is ridiculous. He says if you are for reform that must “protect public safety, promote American innovation and preserve American jobs” then you agree with his industry-backed Coalition.


    That’s like saying if you believe in freedom, personal choice, and preserving American jobs then you agree tobacco should be sold to 9th graders.

    Let’s stop the platitudes and election year jargon and confirm there’s a BIG DIFFERENCE between Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and the Coalition for Chemical Safety. Mr. Householder may say both want the same thing but I trust only Safer Chemicals Healthy Families to advocate for the true means to that end. http://www.saferchemicals.org

  3. Posted March 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Joe: Given the account you just provided above, it would appear to corroborate my basic complaint about the Coalition for Chemical Safety: that there is a big difference between what your website states and conveys about your coalition and the real story as to who you are and what you’re about — which, I take on face value, was what your representative conveyed to OFS and led OFS to quickly withdraw its membership.

    So if only you’d get your public website in line with your apparently more accurate private description of what CCS is all about, the final episode of this particular soap opera could be aired and forgotten, and we could all move on to that “honest dialogue” about the shape of TSCA reform.

    Best regards,

  4. Posted July 9, 2010 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    The mere fact that "Mr. Householder" doesn't use his real name is proof of their attempts at deception. If they're really as transparent as he says, he'd have used his real name.