State Sen. Lois Wolk, a Davis Democrat with a strong pro-environment record, is the object of a thank-you mailer to constituents from a company worried about California eventually banning plastic carryout bags.
The mailer, which was sent to some of Wolk's constituents in late October, praises the senator for voting against a bill that would have banned plastic carryout bags from grocery and drug stores and allowed stores to charge for paper bags.
"Many legislators -- like Senator Wolk -- understand that Californians want clean air, water, oceans and hillsides. But they also understand that without jobs, we can't pay for any of the resource preservation or services we value so highly," says the mailer paid for by the South Carolina-based Hilex Poly Co.
The bag manufacturer lobbied heavily against Assembly Bill 1998, a proposed ban that legislators voted down in August. Hilex Poly had plans to send out more thank-you mailers in districts of other Democratic legislators who also voted against the bill, company sources said.
Hilex Poly sent out another mailer last month attacking state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, a San Luis Obispo Republican, who abstained from voting on the bag bill. Instead of praising him, however, the mailer attacked Blakeslee, who has said he is open to reshaping legislation to curb plastic-bag pollution.
Wolk isn't happy about the glowing mailer in her district.
"I didn't know about it and don't like it, or independent expenditures at all," Wolk said of the mailer. "They are wasting their money, especially since I am not up for election until 2012."
The mailer says Wolk "voted to reflect the opinion of an overwhelming majority of district and California voters" who opposed the bag ban.
"It was presumptuous of them to say why I voted the way I did," Wolk said. "They got it wrong. My floor speech was on target -- no windfall for grocers and no local preemption."
Wolk spoke against the bill on the Senate floor, objecting because it would have allowed grocery chains to profit from paper-bag charges and could have made some local ordinances subordinate to state law.
Hilex Poly and the American Chemistry Council, of which the bag company is a member, have donated thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Democratic and GOP legislators in California and to both state political parties.
In mid-October, Hilex Poly gave $25,000 to the Sacramento County Democratic Central Committee; $3,900 to Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick; and $12,500 to the California Republican Party.
Wolk said that California grocery store interests had a lot to gain from Assembly Bill 1998 and that they too have poured thousands into campaign contributions.
The California Grocers Association gave the state Democratic Party $10,000 on Oct. 16, state records show.
Wolk said, "I would be glad to work on a better solution (to plastic bags) that more closely resembles the successful bottle (recycling) bill in California -- the key to which is a redemption value assigned to the product. That way you encourage recycling and litter cleanup at the same time."