Tobacco Companies Have ‘Regained Influence’ Among California Lawmakers, Study Says
Receiving campaign contributions from tobacco companies and rejecting anti-tobacco legislation is "no longer the political taboo it once was" for state lawmakers, according to a report released yesterday by the campaign finance reform group California Common Cause, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. According to the report, which examined public campaign and lobbying records, tobacco firms' lobbying expenses have "increased dramatically" since 1997, with companies spending $5 million in campaign contributions and $9.1 million in lobbying over the last five years. At the same time, tobacco firms have won "major legislative victories" in the Assembly. For example, tobacco companies successfully lobbied to block a cigarette tax increase; to exchange California's $12.5 billion share of a 1998 tobacco settlement, which was to be paid out over 22 years, for a lump sum of $4.5 billion; and to pass a $26 million reduction in state funding for anti-smoking programs in the fiscal year 2003 budget (Chu, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/17). The largest recipients of tobacco firm contributions over the last five years are Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), who received $245,000, and Assembly member Bill Leonard (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who accepted $132,750, the Stockton Record reports (Stockton Record, 10/17). California Common Cause Executive Director Jim Knox said, "The tobacco industry has fared better than anyone else in the budget battle, and at the same time, has reemerged as a major player in the Capitol." According to Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, lawmakers' increasing acceptance of tobacco campaign contributions is partly because census-based reapportionment has made legislative races less competitive and because candidates with large leads in their races are "no longer as concerned about the negative publicity surrounding tobacco money" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/17). The report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.