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Big Tobacco’s Lobbying Expenses Reach $15.8 Million

Big Tobacco’s Lobbying Expenses Reach
$15.8 Million

First Half of 1997 Figure Includes $9.4 Million Paid to Outside Lobbyists

Washington, D.C., — Public Citizen today released Smoking Guns for Hire, a new report analyzing the tobacco industry’s lobbying activities in the first half of 1997. The report shows that Big Tobacco employed a legion of 186 lobbyists and spent $15.8 million in the first half of 1997 lobbying Congress and the Executive Branch. Most of this money, $9.4 million, was spent hiring 149 outside lobbyists which are identified in the report.

Philip Morris Company, Inc. led the way in all categories, with $7 million in reported lobbying expenses and 104 lobbyists representing their interests before Congress, which is currently considering a deal to allow the tobacco industry to evade its legal responsibilities to the millions of consumers harmed or killed by its products

“Big Tobacco is hiring some expensive guns to lobby for its dangerous deal,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “If the industry could win on the merits of its case it wouldn’t have bought the political clout of former Senate Majority Leaders and a former governor.”

Public Citizen’s report examines the several ways tobacco companies buy access in Congress. The report revealed $345,208 in reported contributions to the campaign coffers of federal candidates, PACs, and the political party committees in 1997 by lobbyists working for Big Tobacco. Tobacco lobbyist contributions to Republican candidates, political parties and PACs totaled $149,547, while their Democratic counterparts collected $127,937. The lobbyists also contributed $67,724 to PACs unaffiliated with the political parties. The top recipients of lobbyist contributions were the political action committee (PAC) of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, the Democratic and Republican national political party committees, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s leadership PAC.

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 $4.7 million for their efforts on behalf of Big Tobacco. An additional $800,000 went to former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour’s lobbying firm. Though they reported no official income from Tobacco in the first half of 1997, Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell, headed by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, and Covington & Burling, one of D.C.’s biggest corporate law firms, are among the heavy-hitters most recently retained by the tobacco industry.

“It’s time for Senators and Representatives to stand up to Big Tobacco, and its high priced lobbyists, and oppose the industry’s misguided deal on this crucial public health issue. The tobacco manufacturers are buying their way out of responsibility for their reckless business practices and the harm caused by their dangerous products,” said Claybrook.