Philip Morris a sponsor of Illinois' delegation
LOS ANGELES - Amid the list of labor unions and corporations sponsoring Illinois delegation events here, one name looks out of place: Philip Morris.
Democrats, including some prominent members of the Illinois delegation, have been among the harshest critics of the tobacco giant and other cigarette companies, but Philip Morris was among the sponsors listed on a banner that hung behind speakers at the delegation's opening breakfast on Monday.
That made some of them uncomfortable.
"I've made it clear to the national and state leaders if it were my decision I would take all the tobacco money out of this convention," said Sen. Dick Durbin, a well-known anti-tobacco crusader. "I think these people should be out of the picture."
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Chicago said the Philip Morris sponsorship was "not necessarily a good idea, considering the impact, the role ... that tobacco has had in misleading the American people. It looks like politicians are on the side of big tobacco, which is not right."
But Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan pointed out that Philip Morris makes more than just cigarettes. Along with Marlboros, it also churns out Maxwell House coffee, Jell-O and other food products. Its Kraft foods division is based in Northfield, Ill.
"My record is very clear in terms of working to persuade people not to smoke," said Madigan, who is also speaker of the Illinois House. "The fact that a very large corporation like Philip Morris with a large subsidiary in the state of Illinois wishes to support this convention does not interfere with the things I do in the legislature."
Durbin and Jackson seemed willing to cut the powerful Madigan a little slack on the issue.
"I will not go so far as to say the speaker made a mistake. The speaker has other considerations that quite frankly are beyond my understanding," Jackson said.
"I have not received a contribution myself from Philip Morris. I do know that they have a number of other companies other than just tobacco. They have cookies. Some of us like cookies. We would accept contributions from the cookie dimension of Philip Morris, but not necessarily the tobacco" side, Jackson said.
"Let (Madigan) address how the money came in and under what circumstances," Durbin said.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he did not have a final accounting yet of how much Philip Morris or the other corporate and union sponsors had contributed. The money largely underwrites the delegation's social events during the four-day convention, he said.
In addition to the unions and Philip Morris, the other sponsors include Chicago-based phone giant Ameritech and Schaumburg-based Motorola, which manufactures communications equipment.
Such sponsorships are the norm at political conventions. When the Republicans met in Philadelphia two weeks ago, some Illinois delegation events were sponsored by corporations whose fortunes can be dramatically affected by what the assembled politicians do once they return to the Statehouse and Capitol Hill.
"It's become pretty common in America," Madigan said.
State Journal-Register political writer Bernard Schoenburg contributed to this report.