Boycotters Cite Evidence of Philip Morris Peddling Influence Through Its Kraft Subsidiary
Public anger with tobacco giant Philip Morris is increasingly affecting its Kraft Foods subsidiary, which is the target of a consumer boycott organized by INFACT, a corporate watchdog organization. INFACT has compiled data from state agencies and internal
So far the Kraft Boycott has garnered has more than 150 institutional supporters, from the American Medical Women's Association to the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Ten new endorsers have signed up in the past week, and the San Francisco Unified School District recently adopted a selective purchasing policy to keep tobacco-owned products -- including Kraft -- out of school lunchrooms and vending machines.
``Many people don't realize their brand loyalty to products like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese supports Philip Morris's bottom line, its political clout and its ability to continue aggressive tobacco marketing,'' says INFACT Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey. ``Philip Morris?s access to political power is bought and paid for, partly with the help of its food divisions,'' she says. ``That has made legislative battles difficult to win, and has fueled public outrage and contributed to the growth of the Kraft Boycott. It gives consumers a practical way to turn their anger into effective action.''
According to information INFACT has compiled from state agencies, Philip Morris -- including its Kraft and Miller subsidiaries -- has at least 208 registered lobbyists in 1999 in 44 states. These lobbyists include some of the best-known political consultants, including many former elected officials. For example, a Philip Morris lobbying firm in California -- Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor -- includes a former Chief of Staff of the Governor and a former California Assembly Republican leader.
Philip Morris has a pattern of leveraging its Kraft Foods subsidiary to serve its tobacco interests. For example, in 1998 in Wisconsin, Philip Morris threatened lawmakers that raising tobacco taxes could affect its decisions regarding expansion of its Kraft and Miller facilities in the state.
Philip Morris had 109 registered federal lobbyists in 1998, including a former Justice Department lawyer and several former members of Congress. Philip Morris is the undisputed king of campaign contributions. It was the number one soft money donor in the country for the last two federal election cycles, and is currently the number two soft money donor for the 2000 elections. In addition, the corporation spent over $853,500 in federal PAC contributions in 1998, plus more than $100,000 in political contributions from executives and board members.
At the state level, Philip Morris spent $2.8 million in 1998 in contributions to candidates and other political actors in 19 states, according to information compiled by INFACT. In September news broke of Philip Morris having funded New York Governor George Pataki's trips to Hungary in 1995 and 1997, in possible violation of state ethics rules. Philip Morris has been popular among legislators in other states for its gift-giving. So far this year, Philip Morris has given away basketball tickets, Pearl Jam concert tickets, Rolling Stones concert tickets, and Alvin Ailey dance tickets to legislative aides in California. In addition, it spent a whopping $21 million to oppose a single ballot initiative -- California's Proposition 10 in 1998.
A newly completed review of Philip Morris' internal documents shows its own employees and stockholders have objected to the corporation's use of money to leverage political access, and its penchant for involving its food division employees in the effort.
According to Philip Morris internal documents released through a Minnesota lawsuit, responses to a 1993 solicitation for contributions to the Philip Morris Political Action Committee garnered harsh responses such as ``I do not approve of PACs and will never contribute.'' Some responses cited ``the many deaths directly attributed to tobacco use'' and ``needless injury and suffering'' caused by the corporation's activity. Others criticized the corporation's political strategy as ``just a way to buy my elected representatives off'' or as an attempt to ``purchase elected officials.''
Founded in 1977, INFACT's purpose is to stop life-threatening abuses of transnational corporations and increase their accountability to people around the world. INFACT is known for the successful Nestle and GE Boycotts. For more information about INFACT, you may visit our web site at www.infact.org.