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:
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.