Strong Link Shown Between House Votes on Tobacco Lawsuit and Tobacco Political Contributions
WASHINGTON, June 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The 183 House members who voted June 23 to cut off funding for the Department of Justice
lawsuit against the tobacco companies have taken, on average, nearly seven times the amount of tobacco campaign contributions
Those voting to protect the industry have taken a total of $1,960,787, or an average of $10,715, in tobacco Political Action Committee money during this time period, compared to $330,892, or an average of $1,539, for those who voted to fund the lawsuit.
Seventy-nine percent of those who voted with Big Tobacco have taken tobacco PAC contributions since January 1997, compared to 32 percent of those who voted to support the lawsuit.
The 215 to 183 vote on June 23 was to approve an amendment by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Bill to allow the Justice Department to obtain funding for the lawsuit from other affected departments.
The correlation with tobacco campaign contributions was even stronger on the June 23 vote than it was for the June 19 vote in which the House voted, 207 to 197, to prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from helping to fund the lawsuit. (The House reversed this vote the next day on a voice vote.) On the June 19 vote, House members voting to cut off funding for the lawsuit took more than five times as much tobacco PAC money, on average, as did those who voted to support the lawsuit ($9,712 vs. $1,750).
When the two votes are combined, the influence of tobacco money is even more stark. The 166 House members who voted with the tobacco industry on both bills took, on average, eight times as much in tobacco PAC contributions as did the 171 members who voted both times to fund the lawsuit ($11,075 vs. $1,379).
"When it became clear that these votes were about protecting Big Tobacco, the tobacco industry was left with a shrinking core of Congressional supporters who are most addicted to tobacco campaign money," said William Corr, executive vice president for the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. "If the public demands that their
elected representatives say no to Big Tobacco's campaign contributions, we can look forward to future successes in enacting much-needed public health measures that the tobacco industry has
succeeded for so long in blocking."
In addition to PAC contributions, the tobacco companies have contributed more than $2.5 million in soft money to the political parties so far this election cycle.
The Justice Department filed its lawsuit in 1999 to recover the billions of dollars federal health programs spend each year treating tobacco-caused diseases, including $20.8 billion under Medicare, $1 billion under veterans' health care, and $1.6 billion
under military health care.
The Justice Department is paying for the lawsuit with assistance from other affected agencies, including the Departments of Veterans
Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Defense. Congressional opponents of the lawsuit are seeking to kill it by attaching anti-lawsuit provisions to appropriations bills funding these agencies. Additional votes are expected on the issue.