New Studies Find Record Tobacco Industry Giving to Congress

Mar. 14 1996

Washington, DC - Two new studies released today shows tobacco industry political action committee (PAC) and soft money contributions to 'Members of Congress reached record levels in 1995, more than doubling from 1993, the previous off-election year. The studies -- by Common Cause and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group - were released today at a press conference sponsored by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and the Coalition on Smoking OR Health. The studies track tobacco-industry contributions to Members of Congress and to the political parties in 1995 and over a ten-year period. The flood of tobacco Cash follows FDA Commissioner David Kessler's investigation into the tobacco indusay's manipulation of nicotine and his February 1994 announcement that the FDA was seriously considering asserting jurisdiction over the industry. This investigation led to the announcement last year of President Clinton's and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposal to reduce tobacco use among children by restricting the marketing and sale of tobacco products. In 1995, and over the last two to three years, the tobacco industry was threatened by a number of other actions including: federal investigations by the Justice Department into whether industry executives lied to Congress about the addictiveness of tobacco, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposal to restrict workplace smoking, a Health and Human Services rule requiring a states to reduce the sales of tobacco to minors in order to receive block grant funding, state lawsuits to recover Medicaid costs of treating smoking-related illnesses, and several class-action lawsuits. According to the Common Cause study tobacco interests gave a record, off-election year total of $4.1 million in soft and PAC contributions in 1995, which is 20 percent more than they gave during election year 1994. In 1995 alone, tobacco industry soft money contributions totaled $2.8 million -- a one-year tobacco industry soft money record.

"This explosion in tobacco-industry giving last year is no coincidence," said Matthew Myers, general counsel for the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and the Coalition on Smoking OR Health. "The tobacco industry is attempting to corrput the political process with its contributions in an effort to precent the FDA from acting to protect our children."

 In January, a letter objecting to the FDA proposal was signed by 124 Members of the House of Representatives and 32 Senators. Both studies tracked the industry contributions to signers of the letters. Tobacco industry PAC contributions to the Members who signed the letter totaled $3.4 million during the past decade, including $2.4 million in PAC contributions to Representatives and $1 million to Senators, Common Cause found.

 "The three-million-dollar letter show that years of cultivating favor with legislators pays off for the tobacco industry," said Myers. "The money bought the industry pro-tobacco action by the legislators and long-standing loyalty to the industry."

 The tobacco industry also strategically targeted its contributions to members of the House and Senate Commerce committees, which have jurisdiction over FDA, paving the way for possible future action against the FDA proposal. Contributions to these Committee members for a ten-year period were almost three timnes the average contributions to other House members, according to the U.S. PIRG study.

 According to the U.S. PIRg study, Members of the House of Representatives who voted against an amendment to eliminate tobacco subsidies received large contributions from the tobacco industry. Average 1995 contributions to the 223 Representatives who voted to defeat the bi-partisan Durbin amendment were 4.5 times greater than contributions to the 199 amendment supporters. The amendment wa sponsored by Richard Durbin (D-IL), Linda Smith (R-WA), and James Hansen (R-UT).

 In order to reduce the tobacco industry's influence on Congress and on politicians at all levels, the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and the Coalition on Smoking OR Health have launched an initiative to ask elected officials and candidates to sign a pledge to stop accepting tobacco indutry contributions. Press conferences with statewide reach were held today in Indiana, Kansa/Missouri, Maine, Montana, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. The CAMPAIGN encourages citizens to call 10800-284-KIDS and voice their concerns about tobacco money to their Members and state legislators. The CAMPAIGN has launched advertising to urge Members to stop accepting tobacco money and sign the pledge. At the press conference, Martin Meehan (D-MA) signed the pledge as one of the Members of Congress to do so. James Hansen (R-UT) and Connie Morella (R-MD) are also among the first signers of the pledge.

 "We issue a call to action to citizens across the country to tell their publicly-elected officials that our children are not for sale. To ask them to stop trading our kids' lives for tobacco cash," said Myers.

 Other highlights of the studies include:

  •  According to the Common Cause study, the Republican party received $2.3 million in tobacco industry soft money in 1995, a more than four-fold increase over the $546,224 in tobacco soft money contributions to Republicans in 1993, the previous off-election year. Tobacco PACs contributed $841,120 to Republicans in 1995, compared with the $422,221 they gave Republicans in 1993. Contributions to Democrats declined $281,000 in 1995 from $477,022 in 1993.

    "Issues concerning tobacco and politics have traditionally been relatively non-partisan and tobacco-industry giving has been relatively balanced," said Myers. "But the newest data demonstrates that the tobacco industry has chosen to make this a highly partisan issue through unusually top-sided giving to one party -- the Republican party."
     
  • According to the Common Cause study, during the past decade, the 12 tobacco industry companies and lobbying groups, along with their executives, gave nearly $20.6 million in PAC soft money contributions, including nearly $10 million in PAC contributions to Congressional candidates and nearly $9 million in soft money contributions to the political parties.
     
  • House, tobacco states, top takers: According to the U.S. PIRG study, over a ten-year period (1986-1995), House Members who accepted the most tobacco industry contributions from tobacco states were: House Commerce Chairman Tom Bliley (R-VA), Charlie Rose (D-NC), L.F. Payne (D-VA), Rick Boucher (D-VA), and W.G. "Bill" Hefner (D-NC). In 1995, House Members who accepted the most contributions from tobacco states were: Payne, David Funderburk (R-NC), Bliley, and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Jim Bunning (R-KY).
     
  • House, non-tobacco state, top takers: According to the U.S. PIRG study, over the ten-year period, House Members who accepted the most tobacco industry contributions from non-tobacco states were Richard A. Gephardt (D-MO), John D. Dingell (D-MI), David E. Bonior (D-MI), Vic Fazio (D-CA), and Edolphus Towns (D-NY).
     
  • Senate, tobacco states, top takers: According to the U.S. PIRG study, over the ten-year period, Senate Members who accepted the most contributions from tobacco states were: Wendell Ford (D-KY), Jesse Jelms (R-NC), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Lauch Faircloth (R-NC). IN 1995, Senate Members who accepted the most contributions from tobacco states were: Helms, Fred Thompson (R-TN), John Warner (R-VA), McConnell, and Bill Frist (R-TN).
     
  • Senate, non-tobacco states, top takers: According to the U.S. PIRG study, over the ten-year period, Senate Members who accepted the most tobacco industry contributions from non-tobacco states were: Bob Dole (R-KS), Daniel Coats (R-IN), Trent Lott (R-MS), Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

The Coalition on Smoking OR Health is represented by the nation's three largest voluntary health organizations - the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association. The Coalition was formed in the ealry 19802 to educate public-policy makers about tobacco and disease prevention and to promote initiatives designed to reduce tobacco use.

The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is a national initiative to support the proposal by President Clinton and the FDA to keep tobacco marketing from seducing children and to make tobacco less accessibel to kids. It is an umbrella organization for may health, medical, civic, corporate, children's, and religious organizations working to reduce tobacco use among U.S. youth.

 

Media Contacts