Jun. 21 2001
Washington, DC — It is an outrageous conflict of interest that President Bush and the Republican Party are continuing to solicit campaign contributions from the tobacco industry at the same time that the Bush Administration prepares to enter settlement negotiations with several tobacco companies over the federal tobacco lawsuit. On the very day that newspaper headlines delivered news of the Administration's settlement plans, The New York Times reported that tobacco industry lobbyists are on the organizing committee for a Republican fundraiser next week that is expected to raise more than $15 million for the party's House and Senate campaign committees. The President will be the guest of honor at this "black tie and boots" gala. Can the American people have any confidence that the Administration will fight for them while negotiating with Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds when the President is raising millions of dollars from the tobacco companies and their representatives?
While we continue to believe that the Administration should abandon its settlement plans and aggressively pursue the lawsuit, we believe it is inappropriate for the President and his party to solicit tobacco money while settlement talks are ongoing. We call on the President to immediately order his party's fundraising committees to stop soliciting or accepting tobacco campaign contributions and to return any received for next week's fundraiser.
The Administration bears the burden of proof in showing that it is acting in the people's interest given the $7 million in tobacco campaign contributions the Republican Party received in the last election. The Administration's record to date is one of protecting the tobacco industry, not the public health. The Administration has failed to ensure adequate funding to continue the federal tobacco lawsuit, sought to weaken the proposed international tobacco treaty (the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), appointed key regulators at the Federal Trade Commission who have worked for the tobacco industry, and proposed reducing the tobacco prevention budget of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the chairs of the Republican House and Senate campaign committees, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), are the primary sponsors of legislation that takes the industry's approach to tobacco regulation, particularly that advocated by Philip Morris. These are the same two committees that will benefit from next week's tobacco-backed fundraiser.
It's time for President Bush to say no to Big Tobacco's cash and to start protecting the public health.