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Originally published July 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 23, 2009 at 5:06 PM

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Fund to fight bag fee will top $1M

A campaign deposit of $300,000 Tuesday by the Virginia-based American Chemistry Council brings to more than $1 million the group's contributions so far to the campaign to defeat Seattle's disposable bag-fee ordinance.

Seattle Times staff reporters

A group representing the nation's largest plastic producers has pumped $300,000 more into the campaign to defeat Seattle's 20-cent shopping-bag fee — and says it will add another $300,000 by the end of this week.

Tuesday's campaign deposit by the Virginia-based American Chemistry Council, whose members include ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical, follows a donation over the weekend of $500,000, and an earlier startup contribution of about half that amount, bringing the group's total donation to the campaign so far to more than $1 million.

"Truthfully, it takes money to get the facts out on this measure," said Adam Parmer, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop the Grocery Bag Tax. "We have to get the message in the hands of as many voters as we can."

The Seattle City Council passed an ordinance last year requiring supermarkets, drugstores and convenience stores to charge a 20-cent fee on disposable plastic and paper bags, the goal being to phase them out and reduce damage to the environment.

Citizens Against the Grocery Bag Tax collected enough signatures to let voters decide whether the ordinance should go into effect, and the group's Referendum 1 will appear on the Aug. 18 primary ballot.

Parmer said the money will be used for radio and direct-mail promotions to help dispel some of the myths in a battle some have characterized as Big Plastic versus the environment.

Meanwhile, the grass-roots pro-bag-fee group, the Seattle Green Bag campaign, so far has raised only about $64,000. Spokesman Rob Gala on Wednesday said even the $500,000 contribution to the opposition was overkill. And with money still pouring in, "they must know something that we don't."

"We take this as a very good sign that they've got some polling that is making them deathly afraid of Aug. 18," Gala said.

He said the cash infusions to the other side's campaign won't change his group's overall strategy or approach, which is mainly to focus on direct mail and literature drops.

Radio spots already being aired by the anti-bag-fee campaign feature a family bemoaning the financial burden of the fees, which that side says will end up costing Seattle residents $15 million a year.

The Green Bag campaign counters by saying the bag fee doesn't have to cost shoppers anything — that consumers can avoid paying it by bringing their own totes or recycled bags into stores.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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