Guest Column: Why Schmidt is Pushing Pesticide

(* David Krikorian is a businessman from Madeira who twice ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Jean Schmidt to represent Ohio's 2nd Congressional District. Schmidt is suing Krikorian for defamation, after he called her a “puppet” of special interests for accepting large amounts of cash from the Turkish government. Meanwhile, the Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating Schmidt’s receipt of legal assistance from a Turkish-American interest group.)

CityBeat recently reported that an "odd coupling" of Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, a Republican, and State Rep. Dale Mallory, a Democrat, held a joint press conference publicly calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its 2007 decision banning the pesticide Propoxur so that it can be used to combat bedbugs in apartments and homes.—-

The EPA banned the pesticide for residential use in 2007 citing “negative health effects on children, linked to nervous system issues.”

Of Schmidt’s 33 itemized contributions from individuals on her 2011 first-quarter financial disclosure form with the Federal Elections Commission, 18 came from an executive or owner of a pest control company. In addition to those individual contributors, two pest control industry Political Action Committees (PACs) contributed a whopping 28 percent of her first quarter PAC contributions.

So far in 2011, the pest control industry is, by far, the single-largest funding source for Schmidt.

The only thing potentially odd about the Schmidt-Mallory team-up is if Mallory had received more campaign cash than Schmidt. Although I was not present at the press conference, I am confident Schmidt did not tell the assembled masses of her recent fundraising windfall.

Bedbugs are a serious problem especially in poor urban areas. For some reason, bedbugs — which had all but vanished as a problem in the United States a few decades ago — has come back with a vengeance. There is no consensus among scientists that Propoxur is effective long-term or that it's safe.

In fact, some scientists suggest that bedbugs would become resistant to the toxic pesticide anyway.

Society has a vested interest in this matter. Perhaps Propoxur should be reinstated for use against bedbugs. I don't know the answer but what I do know is that the decision/deal-making process is flawed. The EPA, which can be fairly criticized as a political bureaucracy, has little to gain by banning a pesticide. Perhaps the EPA's analysis of Propoxur was compromised in some systemic way. Perhaps, as the industry suggests, the EPA is out of touch with the realities of bedbugs.

The questions come down to: Who bears the consequence of the decision and for whose benefit is the decision made? The public bears the consequence of a bad decision on a toxic pesticide. If exposure to the pesticide causes problems in children, the families and communities, as well as government agencies serving those children, bear the cost.

So it comes down to pressure. The industry will spend millions lobbying Congress and the EPA to change the law. If the EPA reinstates Propoxur, pest control firms will generate substantial new sales and, for a period of time, bedbug infestations might subside.

In that instance, the money they contributed to Schmidt and others will be considered a well-spent cost of doing business.

Schmidt gets her funding source while the people bear the risk of whether her judgments on the toxicity of a banned pesticide are accurate and unbiased. For the people it amounts to another cost of doing business in the best government money can buy.

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