New Report: Tobacco "Racketeers" Gave Nearly $3 Million in Federal Political Contributions So Far in 2005-2006 Election Cycle
Washington, DC - Just weeks after a federal judge found that the major cigarette manufacturers have violated civil racketeering laws and defrauded the American people, a new study released today by the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and Common Cause shows that federal political candidates, parties and committees have accepted nearly $3 million in contributions from tobacco companies so far in the 2005-2006 election cycle. In the current election cycle, 257 U.S. representatives and senators (48 percent) have accepted contributions from tobacco political action committees (PACs).
Since 1997, the tobacco industry has made more than $32.8 million in federal political contributions, including $16.8 million in soft money and nearly $16 million in PAC contributions, according to the report.
In light of the recent court ruling, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund called on all political candidates to return campaign contributions from tobacco companies, reject future contributions and pledge their independence from Big Tobacco by supporting legislation that would allow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products.
"The tobacco companies have been found guilty of a 50 year conspiracy of lies, deception, disease, and death and of continuing to violate the law, but members of Congress are still taking millions of dollars from them and failing to take action to protect kids," said William V. Corr, executive director of the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund. "Our leaders should stand up to the tobacco companies, return their contributions and reject future donations from this rogue industry."
"Despite court findings that tobacco companies hurt the public interest by lying about the dangers of smoking and marketing products to children, the cigarette makers through generous campaign contributions have maintained access and influence to Members of Congress who are supposed to be protecting the public good," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "The tobacco industry and its allies continue to buy their way around Capitol Hill at the public's peril."
The top 20 recipients of tobacco contributions in Congress so far in the 2005-2006 election cycle:
In addition to individual contributions, tobacco PACs have donated more than $1.2 million to non-candidate committees, including leadership PACs affiliated with individual members of Congress.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler found that the major cigarette manufacturers have violated civil racketeering laws by deceiving the public about the dangers of smoking and their marketing to children.
Judge Kessler found that "over the course of more than 50 years, Defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as ‘replacement smokers,' about the devastating health effects of smoking." She also found that "Defendants have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted."
Judge Kessler also found that the tobacco companies' wrongdoing continues today: "The evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity…. Their continuing conduct misleads consumers in order to maximize Defendants revenues by recruiting new smokers (the majority of whom are under the age of 18), preventing current smokers from quitting, and thereby sustaining the industry."
Subsequent to the ruling, a new study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that cigarette manufacturers secretly and significantly increased the levels of nicotine in cigarette smoke between 1998 and 2004.
The campaign contributions report details tobacco industry contributions and lobbying expenditures so far during the 2005-2006 election cycle, including tobacco company PAC donations made directly to federal candidates; donations made by tobacco PACs to non-candidate committees, including Democratic and Republican party committees; and tobacco contributions to every current Member of Congress since January 1, 1997, and current challengers. To look up contributions to a specific Member or to PACs, go to: http://tobaccofreeaction.org/contributions/
Campaign Contributions by Tobacco Interests is the latest issue of an annual report on the tobacco industry's political influence. The report is issued by the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and Common Cause and all the contributions cited in this reported are based on data released by the FEC as of August 9, 2006.
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