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Study Finds Pro-Tobacco Senators Received 15 Times As Much Tobacco PAC Money as Pro-Consumer Senators

Feb. 13, 1998

Study Finds Pro-Tobacco Senators Received 15 Times As Much Tobacco PAC Money as Pro-Consumer Senators

“Stop the Sweetheart Deal” Events Scheduled in 20 States for Valentine?s Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Big Tobacco?s biggest sweethearts in Congress received lavish campaign contributions from the industry for their most recent elections, with pro-tobacco senators getting as much as 15 times the money given to senators who sided with consumers in 1997, according to a new report released today by Public Citizen.

The report, Sweethearts of Big Tobacco, compares tobacco PAC contributions with 1997 votes on tobacco bills. It shows that the industry, in seeking special favors from Congress in return for its gifts, contributed nearly $3 million to current members in recent years. This figure includes $1.67 million in contributions to House members in the 1995-96 election cycle and $1.32 million to senators over the last three cycles.

“Tomorrow is Valentine?s Day, but the tobacco companies got a sweetheart box of chocolates last June when they consummated the proposed national deal with state attorneys general,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “The tobacco companies? heart?s desire is limits on their legal accountability for decades of wrongdoing, and this deal gives it to them.”

The so-called “global tobacco settlement” would grant the tobacco titans virtual immunity from future lawsuits seeking to hold the industry responsible for the heartbreaking deaths and illnesses of millions of Americans, the decades of lying to the public about the dangers of tobacco and the industry?s successful attempts to hook the nation?s children on its deadly products.

“How does the industry plan to charm Congress into giving it this gift? Big Tobacco lavishes seductive campaign contributions on Members not just on Valentine?s Day but on every day of the year. Its scheme is to press Members to go all the way in granting immunity, by buying their affection with expensive PAC presents,” Claybrook said.

Public Citizen and the American Lung Association released the report at a press conference Friday, after which the groups delivered “No Sweetheart Deal” Valentines to President Clinton and every member of Congress. Special Valentine?s Day events also were scheduled in 20 states.

“Today, local American Lung Associations from Maine to California are participating in events urging members of Congress to oppose any tobacco legislation that grants special protections, including immunity, to Big Tobacco,” said Alfred Munzer, past president of the American Lung Association. “The message echoing through the states is clear: Don?t Give Big Tobacco a Sweetheart Deal!”

In the report, Public Citizen compared members? 1997 voting records on tobacco issues with the amount of tobacco PAC money each lawmaker received. In 1997, the 105 House members who voted for the Big Tobacco position on all three House votes received an average of $7,900 in contributions, more than nine times the average of $869 received by the 138 representatives who always voted against the industry.

In the Senate, the 12 senators who voted most often for the tobacco industry received an average of about $32,000 between 1991 and 1996 — a period that covers the most recent campaign for each senator. That amount was more than 15 times the average of $2,031 received by the 16 senators who consistently voted against Big Tobacco.

“It is now time for all senators and representatives, Republicans and Democrats, to break with Big Tobacco, to stand up to this deadly industry and reject its red hot ready cash,” Claybrook said. “Is this ?family friendly? Congress really going to give immunity to companies who have targeted children with their deadly products?”