BIG TOBACCO: Industry Sees Success in Lobbying, Donations
The tobacco industry is spending a great deal of money and time in California, considered a "bellwether state" for "tough" antismoking measures, the Ventura County Star reports. In an effort to influence lawmakers in Sacramento and at the federal level, the industry is "pumping millions of dollars" into campaigns and engaging in "stealth lobbying." Despite "consistently losing at the ballot box" in the 1990s, the $50-billion-a-year industry has regrouped and asserted itself as "one of the most effective and powerful lobbying machines" in Sacramento, according to the Star. All six bills introduced in the 1999-2000 legislative cycle that the tobacco industry opposed ended up either "amended in favor of tobacco, stuck in committee or filed away in the unfinished business bin." Stanton Glandtz, a medical professor at the University of California - San Francisco, said, "I'd say the tobacco industry made a pretty clean sweep this year by lobbying the Legislature." For example, tobacco lobbyists "pulled out the stops" in order to defeat SB2070, a bill modeled after a New York law that would have drafted flammability standards for cigarettes, requiring a cooler burn and self- extinguishing paper. Sponsored by state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the bill failed after it ran into opposition in committee. "Tobacco lobbyists were walking the halls of the Assembly in crowds. Plainly the industry was determined to kill this bill," Schiff said. Assembly member Brett Granlund (R-San Bernardino) voted against the bill because antitobacco activists favored it. "There's one thing about the zealot antismoker: They only lie when they move their lips," Granlund said. Granlund has long supported the industry, opposing tobacco taxes and smoking restrictions in the workplace and bars. He has received $66,698 in contributions from the tobacco industry since 1995 (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 9/25). Other bills that failed or stalled in the Legislature include:
- AB107: Calls for state public employee retirement fund's future divestment of tobacco
- SB824: Would increase liability in lawsuits over tobacco-related illnesses
- SB1254: Would require the disclosure of ingredients in tobacco products during lawsuits (Ventura County Star, 9/25).
The Ventura County Star reports that the lobbying efforts of the tobacco industry are "almost military like" with "generals and armies headquartered in strategic regions nationwide." A report by States Affairs Co., a Virginia-based public relations firm, said, "Few corporations have as extensive a local lobbying effort. Senate lobbying records indicate [Philip Morris] has hired almost 75 former officials, state lobbyists and public relations specialists to press its message to members of key congressional and state committees." Internal documents show that in California the industry launched a "statewide initiative aimed at weakening local smoke-free bar ordinances" and tried to "blur the fact that [the initiative] was orchestrated by Big Tobacco;" delayed state EPA standards on second-hand smoke; and funneled contributions into "front groups," such as the Committee Against Unfair Taxes that opposed tobacco taxes. But after an "explosion of lawsuits" in 1995 against the industry, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds shifted gears, opting to "portray Big Government as the enemy of individual choice." The effort turned to state lobbyists, who "rallied small business and bar owners" to protest smoking bans. Former tobacco lobbyist Victor Crawford said of the industry's methods, "If you ever want to see a bunch of cowboys work, watch Philip Morris. They are tough. I mean they shoot from the hip. It's a take-no-prisoners fight. You're talking $100 billion a year in gross profits. And man, anything goes" (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 9/25).