Statement: Regarding Formation of Americans for Reform Coalition to Pass Meaningful Campaign Finance Reform

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Feb. 1 2001

Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids welcomes the formation of Americans for Reform. We deeply appreciate the continued leadership of Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold in seeking to reform our nation's campaign finance system and give government back to the people.

We join this coalition along with other public health advocates because we have witnessed first hand the corrupting influence of the current campaign finance system, which distorts the political process to protect special interests rather than the public interest. This system not only costs our nation by harming our governmental institutions — it also costs lives. There is no better example than the tobacco industry's success in 1998 in defeating the comprehensive tobacco legislation sponsored by Senator McCain. This bill was defeated in the Senate by a filibuster even though 57 Senators supported it.

Had the McCain bill passed, we would have a law today that stops the tobacco companies' blatant marketing to our children, restricts sales to kids, requires the disclosure of ingredients in tobacco products and takes other steps to protect the public health. Since this bill was defeated on June 21, 1998, more than three million kids have become new daily smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely from lung cancer, heart disease and other horrifying diseases. In that time, more than one million Americans have died of smoking-related disease, and the nation has spent $233 billion on tobacco-related health expenditures. Had Senator McCain's bill passed, we would be well on our way to reducing the terrible toll that tobacco takes on kids, families and taxpayers.

The demise of the McCain bill and other tobacco control efforts in Congress is directly related to the corrupting influence of tobacco industry money. Senators who voted with the tobacco industry to kill the McCain bill received, on average, nearly four times as much campaign contributions from the companies during their previous election cycle as Senators who voted for the bill. And last June, when the House of Representatives voted to continue the Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco industry, Members who voted to stop the lawsuit took, on average, nearly seven times as much tobacco company contributions as Members who supported it.

The stakes are high, and the need for reform never greater. That's why the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, together with the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, recently ran advertisements in the Washington Post, New York Times, Washington Times and other national publications highlighting the millions of dollars in political contributions made by the tobacco industry in the last election cycle. Make no mistake, Big Tobacco expects a return on its investment. They want to kill the federal tobacco lawsuit and block effective authority for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco to protect the public health.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is committed to campaign finance reform, and we are dedicated to working through Americans for Reform and with Senators McCain and Feingold to accomplish this task.

 

Media Contacts