After introducing 12 bills suspending tariffs on chemicals entering the country, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick has come under fire after eight of the bills would potentially benefit the company of a campaign donor.
The bills, which would amend the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, would benefit United Color
Manufacturing Inc., a dye and pigment firm located in Newtown.
Thomas Nowakowski, the company’s owner, has donated more than $26,000 to Fitzpatrick since 2002, and $150,000 to Republican candidates and organizations over the same time period.
In addition, Nowakowski’s wife Carmella and his son Thomas Jr. donated $5,500 to Fitzpatrick prior to his proposal of the 12 tariff-related bills.
Fitzpatrick’s campaign refused to comment on the issue without a response from his opponent Kathy Boockvar, who was unavailable.
The controversy over Fitzpatrick’s potential earmarks comes amid growing recognition of tariff earmarks’ prevalence in the House of Representatives. Under Republican party rules, legislators can’t provide earmarks of any kind in proposed bills.
Under Fitzpatrick’s bills, the 6- to 7-percent duty on chemical imports would be suspended temporarily. Proponents of the bill – including Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) – argue that lowering tariffs would allow American manufacturers to be globally competitive.
United Color Manufacturing first proposed the bills to Sen. Casey, who introduced the Senate version of Fizpatrick’s bills. Unlike Republicans, Democrats haven’t banned earmarks in tariff suspensions, though they have prohibited their inclusion in spending bills.
In an article from Roll Call, Casey’s spokesperson April Mellody said Fitzpatrick’s bills benefit Pennsylvania directly in the world market.
“Senator Casey introduced these bills to help level the playing field for Pennsylvania manufacturers,” Mellody said.
“These companies face unfair global competition…This company is sustaining Pennsylvania jobs and the Senator wants to make sure they have the tools they need to grow and retain their workforce.”
Nowakowski echoed Casey’s stance on the proposals in the same Roll Call article, saying that American companies are placed at a disadvantage because of regulations and labor laws, and that Fitzpatrick’s proposals ease some of these burdens.
“A lot of our competition comes from China, comes from India, comes from Mexico,” Nowakowski said.
“And basically, the rules and regulations are less over there. The wages are less over there.”
Despite the controversy over Fitzpatrick’s bills, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has pushed for legislation like Fitzpatrick’s in a larger bill.
Fitzpatrick and Camp’s legislative proposals have raised a debate within the Republican Party of the scope of the ban on earmarks.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) argued that tariff proposals present a clear-cut case of earmarking as defined by the party’s ban.
Rogers’ point of contention laid in the lack of fairness between committees in terms of earmarking, since legislators can’t provide spending earmarks in appropriations bill.