Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cigarette Companies Lead Surge in Lobbying

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cigarette Companies Lead Surge in Lobbying

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Led by a British-owned cigarette maker, big businesses and pressure groups are spending record amounts to influence the federal government this year.

Brown & Williamson Tobacco, a subsidiary of BAT, spent an unprecedented $18.2 million on federal lobbying between January and June, the latest available records show.

That pace of $3 million a month is "roughly double what anybody spent lobbying last year," commented Larry Makinson, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which studies the role of money in politics. Another tobacco company, Philip Morris, ranked second with $14.4 million. A Cox Newspapers' examination of lobbying disclosure reports filed with the U.S. House of Representatives found that the next highest spenders were Bell Atlantic, $9.6 million; the American Medical Association (AMA), $8.3 million, and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, $8 million. The study examined the latest semi-annual reports of all registrants who had reported spending more than $500,000 in the first six months of 1997 or $1 million in that entire year. This year, 97 organizations reported spending at least $1 million a piece between January and June. In the first half of last year, only 89 spent that much. Total spending by the 100 biggest spenders in the first six months of 1998 exceeded $264 million -- a 13 percent increase from $235 million spent by the top 100 in the first six months of 1997. "I think lobbying is getting more expensive in Washington," said Elaine Acevedo, president of the American League of Lobbyists. "You used to have mostly generalists, but now you have people specializing," she said. "You hire your grass-roots coordinator here, your independent-expenditure specialist there, your focus- group specialist over there, and it all adds up." In June, a lobbying blitz led by Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, and Brown & Williamson, the American branch of the world's second largest, crushed a year-long attempt in Congress to pass the National Tobacco Policy and Youth Smoking Reduction Act. The bill, killed in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster, would have imposed high costs and tight rules on the industry and its customers in return for federal protection from class-action lawsuits under a plan drafted by the attorneys general of most states. The battle could resume next year. So, tobacco companies have continued to supplement their lobbying with political contributions and with print, radio and TV ads that by the end of July had already cost their sponsors more than $40 million. "It is the most expensive and sustained issue advertising campaign ever undertaken on a piece of pending legislation," according to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. …

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