Oct. 21 2004
Washington, DC — As Congress had its most significant debate in years on tobacco regulation, the tobacco industry made nearly $2.8 million in political contributions to federal candidates, political parties and political committees so far in the 2003-2004 election cycle, according to a quarterly report issued by the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and Common Cause.
The impact of tobacco industry contributions is evident in the recent debate over legislation to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products. A House-Senate conference committee killed the FDA legislation earlier this month when a majority of the Senate conferees voted for it, but a majority of House conferees did not. Conference committee members who voted against the FDA legislation received, on average, nearly five times as much in tobacco industry political action committee (PAC) contributions as those who voted for the legislation. Those voting against FDA authority received on average $27,255 in tobacco political action committee (PAC) contributions from 1999 to 2004, while those voting for the legislation received on average $5,505 in tobacco PAC contributions.
Conference committee members who voted against FDA authority and received the most tobacco industry contributions from 1999 to 2004 include Rep. Richard Burr (R-NC), $95,750; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), $49,000; Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), $47,241; Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL), $39,500; and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), $33,000. Most of the conferees who voted against FDA regulation received a majority of their tobacco industry contributions from R.J. Reynolds and other companies opposed to FDA regulation (View a breakdown of contributions to each conferee).
"Congress' failure to enact FDA regulation of tobacco shows that the tobacco industry's political muscle continues to block vital public health measures that can protect our kids from tobacco addiction and save lives," said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund. "A small minority beholden to tobacco companies thwarted the will of the public and the will of the majority in Congress at great cost to the children and health of our nation."
The report details tobacco industry contributions and lobbying expenditures so far during the 2003-2004 election cycle:
• Tobacco company PACs donated more than $1.4 million directly to federal candidates, with 74 percent ($1,112,212) of the total donations going to Republican candidates and 26 percent ($384,000) going to Democratic candidates.
• Tobacco PACs have donated nearly $1.3 million to non-candidate committees, including Democratic and Republican party committees and leadership PACs established by individual members of Congress. Of the total, $1,008,499 (77 percent) went to the Republicans, $217,000 (17 percent) to the Democrats and $74,484 (6 percent) to non-party committees.
• The tobacco industry spent nearly $10.4 million to lobby Congress in the first six months of 2004. That amounts to about $122,000 spent on lobbying for every day Congress was in session.
• The report's appendix details tobacco contributions to every current member of Congress since January 1, 1997 and current challengers. Look up contributions to a specific Member.
Altogether since 1997, the tobacco industry has contributed more than $28.7 million, including $16.8 million in soft money and more than $11.8 million in PAC contributions to candidates, parties and other political committees. Since 1999, the tobacco companies have also spent more than $112 million on lobbying the U.S. Congress.
"The tobacco industry continues to wield enormous political influence by spending millions on campaign contributions and lobbyists' salaries," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "It is disappointing that once again Congress has failed to put the interests of the public's health before Big Tobacco's agenda."
Campaign Contributions by Tobacco Interests is the latest on the tobacco industry's political influence that is issues quarterly. The report is issued by the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and Common Cause. All the contributions cited in this reported are based on data released by the FEC as of October 4, 2004.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year and costing more than $155 billion in health care bills and lost productivity. Nearly 90 percent of smokers begin at or before age 18.
The quarterly report's development and distribution are meant to provide information and analysis on the tobacco industry's extraordinary political influence, especially in regard to the U.S. Congress and the federal government. Toward this end, the report offers a range of information, including data on direct and indirect tobacco industry contributions to members of Congress, other elected officials and other candidates for elected office. Nothing in the report is meant in any way to endorse, support or oppose the election of any candidate or to indicate any support or opposition to any candidate's election by any of the sponsoring organizations.