Oct. 25 2000
Washington, DC — As Congress nears adjournment, it is outrageous that the Republican Congressional leadership has made it a priority to fight for special protection for one of its largest political contributors, the tobacco industry. The leadership is insisting that the final Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill include a provision blocking funding for the Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which the Justice Department has said would force it to drop the lawsuit. It is a testament to the influence of Big Tobacco's political money that the leadership is persisting in its effort to kill the lawsuit even after a recent federal court ruling that the case has sufficient merit to proceed. This effort represents blatant and improper congressional interference with the judicial process. It would deny the American people their day in court where the tobacco industry can be held accountable for decades of deception and intentional wrongdoing.
The tobacco industry is one of the most generous political contributors to the Republican Party, contributing nearly $3.2 million in soft money and $940,759 from political action committees so far this election cycle (compared to $508,000 in soft money and $438,040 in PAC funds to the Democratic Party). The Republican Congressional leadership's effort to kill the federal tobacco lawsuit shows that the tobacco industry is certainly getting its money's worth. Political contributions should not buy special legal protections.
We urge the President to stand firm in fighting for funding for the lawsuit and to state publicly that he will veto any bill that does not provide the necessary funds. The President's legacy and the Administration's record on tobacco are at stake at this crucial moment. The federal tobacco lawsuit is a critical component of the President's historic effort to take on the tobacco industry and reduce the toll of tobacco-related death and disease in the United States. This Administration's legacy of progressive leadership on tobacco will be seriously damaged if the federal tobacco lawsuit is dropped because of lack of funds.