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Big Tobacco?s Lobbying Expenses Hit $35.5 Million

March 18, 1998

Big Tobacco?s Lobbying Expenses Hit $35.5 Million

1997 Total Payments Show Industry Hired 169 Outside Lobbyists

Washington, D.C. — Public Citizen today released Burning Down the Houses, a new report analyzing the tobacco industry?s lobbying activities in 1997. The report shows that Big Tobacco employed a legion of over 200 lobbyists and spent $35.5 million lobbying Congress and the Executive Branch. Much of this money was spent hiring 169 outside lobbyists who are identified in the report.

According to Public Citizen, the increase in Big Tobacco?s lobbying activities is related to the industry?s massive campaign to persuade Congress and the American public to support a national tobacco deal that would give the companies unprecedented special protections from legal liability for its lethal products. In an effort to persuade Congress to approve their deal, tobacco companies spent record amounts in 1997 pushing their agenda in the halls of Congress and hiring high-priced, high-influence outside lobbyists to do the same. This stepped-up lobbying effort by Big Tobacco included $35.5 million in expenditures in 1997 — a 23% percent increase from 1996 — the equivalent of more than $66,000 per member of Congress. Tobacco companies also besieged the Capitol with 208 lobbyists in 1997 — 86 more than the year before — the equivalent of 1 lobbyist for every 2? members of Congress. Not only do they employ a huge number of lobbyists, but this year they are deploying many big-name Washington insiders. Big Tobacco?s lobbying army included former U.S. Senators and Representatives, ex-staffers for current Members of key committees, and big political fund-raisers. The industry is counting on its record expenditures and these hired guns to persuade Congress to sign off on its deal.

“Big Tobacco is hiring some expensive guns to foist its dirty deal on Congress,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.

The tobacco industry?s hired guns include big names like Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand — the law firm of former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and George Mitchell, as well as former Texas Governor Ann Richards — who were paid $10.3 million for their efforts on behalf of Big Tobacco. An additional $1.7 million went to former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour?s lobbying firm. Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell, headed by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, is among the heavy-hitters most recently retained by the tobacco industry.

“It?s time for members of Congress to stand up to Big Tobacco, and its high-priced lobbyists, and oppose the industry?s dangerous deal on this crucial public health issue,” Claybrook said. “Congress must not let the tobacco manufacturers buy their way out of responsibility for their reckless business practices and the harm caused by their dangerous products. No matter how much Big Tobacco spends inside the Beltway to peddle its deal, the voters back home will not stomach another sweetheart deal for this deadly, deceptive industry.”