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Big Tobacco Lobbying Costs $81,000 Per Member of Congress in First Half of 1998

Oct. 29, 1998?      

Big Tobacco Lobbying Costs $81,000 Per
Member of Congress in First Half of 1998

Industry Blows Away Previous Record

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Big Tobacco fired up an intense lobbying campaign in the first half of 1998, spending more than $43 million on high-priced, insider lobbyists — an astonishing 174 percent increase from the same period in 1997, according to a Public Citizen report released today.

“Big Tobacco paid lobbyists unprecedented amounts to keep crucial public health legislation from being passed,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “This money helped buy early deaths for thousands of teen smokers and will leave an enduring stain on our society as American families struggle with tobacco-related fatalities and injuries well into the next century.”

The $43.3 million in lobbying expenses reported by six tobacco companies and three industry trade groups breaks all previous spending records set by the tobacco industry, according to the report,Blowing Smoke, an analysis based on lobbying disclosures for the first half of the year.

“This remarkable attempt to buy influence through lobbying, while considerable, reveals only a fraction of the money Big Tobacco spent last year to thwart tobacco control legislation,” Claybrook said. “The tobacco companies spent millions on grassroots campaign expenditures that are not required to be reported. They spent at least $40 million for TV and other advertising, and another $5.6 million has been spent so far in this election cycle to influence the outcome of federal elections through soft money and PAC contributions. They spare no expense when it comes to protecting their profits, even at the cost of millions of lives.”

Of the $5.6 million in soft money and PAC contributions, $4.3 million — 77 percent — went to Republicans, and $1.3 million — 23 percent — to Democrats.

While the tobacco companies were able to block passage of a strong, pro-health tobacco control bill, they were unsuccessful in their efforts to pass a sweetheart settlement deal that would have let them off the hook for the death and disease caused by their products and for decades of lying about the dangers of tobacco. The industry sought broad protections from legal liability and once those protections were stripped from the tobacco bill, the industry began to withdraw its support for the legislation.

In the first six months of the year, according to the report:

  • Big Tobacco?s $43.3 million in lobbying expenditures represents a 174 percent increase over the first half of 1997 and a 22 percent increase over the $35.5 million spent in all of 1997. It represents a total industry expenditure averaging $81,000 per member of Congress.
  • Tobacco companies besieged the Capitol with an army of 192 lobbyists — one for every three members of Congress.These lobbyists included at least seven former senators and representatives and at least 18 ex-congressional staff members. Also included were big-name politicians, including former Texas Gov. Ann Richards and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, both Democrats, as well as former executive branch members and Haley Barbour, formerly head of the Republican National Committee.
  • Brown and Williamson was the top spender, reporting $18.2 million in expenditures in the first six months — a whopping 1,000 percent increase over the previous year?s $1.7 million in spending. Philip Morris more than doubled its lobbying expenses from the prior year, reporting $14.4 million in expenditures, compared with $7 million the year before.