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Campaign Cash at Work: Big Tobacco Buys Time to Stall Tobacco Legislation

June 15, 1998

Campaign Cash at Work:
Big Tobacco Buys Time to Stall Tobacco Legislation

Lavish political contributions from the tobacco industry are helping to stall comprehensive tobacco control legislation, said Public Citizen?s Congress Watch in a report released today.

The Senate Republican leadership has encouraged delaying tactics to stall the McCain tobacco bill because it would hold the tobacco industry accountable for decades of deceit and will not grant Big Tobacco the special protections from liability it has demanded. Public Citizen analyzed 10 recent Senate votes on the McCain tobacco bill and compared them to tobacco PAC contributions over the last five years.

The report, PAC Money and 1998 Tobacco Votes, found that the 34 Senators who voted all or almost all of the time (8 of 10 times) with Big Tobacco received almost 7 times more tobacco PAC money on average than the 40 who voted with consumers all or almost all of the time.

Senators siding with Big Tobacco the most received an average of $21,309 in tobacco contributions from 1993-1997, while Senators opposing Big Tobacco the most got an average of $3,075.

“It looks like Big Tobacco?s investment is paying off. The Republican leadership is trying to run the clock out on this legislation, but every day they drag out this bill, American kids are becoming addicted to nicotine. A slow death for this bill means a slow death for thousands more of today?s children,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.

The influence of soft money contributions is also being felt. Since 1987, the tobacco industry has contributed $16 million in soft money to the two parties. These contributions overwhelmingly favored the Republican national party committees, which received $13 million — 81% of the total — compared to the Democratic national party committees, which received $3 million. Last year alone, the tobacco industry contributed $3.18 million in soft money to the parties, more than $2.64 million — 83% — to Republicans, and $541,000 to Democrats.

Republican party senators and campaign committees received 81% of total tobacco PAC and soft money contributions — $13.92 million — covered by the study. Their Democratic counterparts received 19%, or $3.2 million.

“Big Tobacco’s Senate leaders should let comprehensive tobacco control legislation go forward to help break the cycle of nicotine addiction among teenagers, just as surely as they should let campaign finance legislation go forward to break members? addiction to campaign cash,” said Claybrook.