Tobacco Industry PACs and the Nation's Health: A Second Opinion
John R. Wright
IT HAS been more than two decades since data on campaign contributions from special interests to members of Congress first became publicly available. These data have spawned countless studies by academic scholars, journalists, and other analysts into the relationship between special interest money and congressional voting. Within this considerable body of research, there still is no consensus about whether and to what extent campaign money determines legislative outcomes ( Grenzke 1990; Smith 1995). There is, however, a noticeable difference in the analytical methods used by academic scholars and those used by journalists and other analysts, and there is also a noticeable difference in research conclusions. In general, academic scholars tend to be much more careful about controlling for possible influences other than PAC money and, as a result, have generally discovered weaker relationships between PAC contributions and legislative voting than journalists and those interested in reform or other policy agendas (see Sorauf 1988, 307-17; Sorauf 1992, 20-28, 163-74).
A recent study of the impact of campaign contributions from the tobacco industry on congressional voting provides a vivid illustration of the differences in methods and conclusions between academic scholars and analysts advocating specific policy agendas ( Moore, Wolfe, Lindes, and Douglas 1994). As reported in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study, the strongest explanation for congressional opposition to tobacco-control legislation during the 102d Congress was the money that representatives received from tobacco industry political action com