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Tobacco Industry Political Activity and Tobacco Control Policy Making in Washington: 1983-1996


The tobacco industry is a major political and legal force in the state of Washington through campaign contributions, lobbying, and filing lawsuits.

The tobacco industry has become a major source of campaign contributions to legislative candidates. In the 1985-86 legislative session, the tobacco industry contributed $31,100 to legislative candidates. Contributions reached a peak during the 1989-90 legislative session when the tobacco industry contributed $119,059 to legislative candidates. During the current 1995-1996 election cycle, the tobacco industry has contributed $69,573 to legislative candidates between January 1, 1995 to September 30, 1996. Tobacco industry contributions to legislative candidates is expected to exceed the 1993-1994 amount of $70,524.

During the 1993-1994 legislative session, the combined contributions of Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and the Tobacco Institute ranked eighth among top contributors to legislative campaigns in Washington.

In the past few election cycles, there has been a significant shift in tobacco industry contributions away from the Democratic party and towards the Republican party in Washington. During the 1989-90 election cycle, 47 percent of tobacco industry contributions to legislators, legislative candidates, political parties and party controlled committees went to the Republican party. Contributions to Republicans increased to 60 percent in the 1991-1992 election cycle and 66 percent in the 1993-1994 election cycle. Between January 1, 1995 and September 30, 1996, the tobacco industry contributions to the Republican party has increased to 83 percent.

The tobacco industry makes significant contributions to legislative leaders. House Speaker Clyde Ballard has received $11,880 in tobacco industry contributions since 1986, more than any other current legislator. All Republican House Leaders have received tobacco industry contributions and generally had more pro-tobacco industry policy scores. In the Senate, where the Democrats held a one vote majority during the 1995-1996 session, Majority Leader Sid Snyder received $3,600 from the tobacco industry throughout his career. Valoria Loveland, the Democratic Caucus Chair, received $1,600 in tobacco industry contributions during the 1995-1996 electoral cycle.

In addition to providing campaign contributions, the tobacco industry is active in lobbying members of the legislature and the administration. In 1993 and 1994, the tobacco industry spent $643,188. The trend suggests that the tobacco industry will exceed that amount during the 1995-1996 session. In 1995, the tobacco industry spent $368,660 in lobbying expenditures, an increase in the rate of lobbying expenditures over the previous election cycle. The tobacco industry became an especially active lobby in 1991 and 1992, after a number of local smoke free and youth access ordinances were passed in Washington cities and counties.

A statistical relationship exists between tobacco industry campaign contributions and state legislative behavior. The more money a legislator receives, the less likely he or she is to support tobacco control efforts. The tobacco industry also tends to contribute more money to legislators that have supported the industry in the past.

Besides campaign contributions and lobbying, the tobacco industry has used legal tactics to slow down tobacco control activity in the state of Washington. Legal action by the tobacco industry has 1) lead the city of Puyallup to rescind a smoke-free restaurant ordinance, 2) forced the Department of Labor and Industries to defend their clean indoor air regulations in Superior court, and 3) has created an atmosphere of intimidation among organizations associated with Project ASSIST.

Despite the highest tobacco tax in the nation, none of the money raised from tobacco taxes has been earmarked for tobacco prevention or cessation programs.

The state of Washington is among 19 states and counties that is suing the tobacco industry in order to recover health and medical costs associated with tobacco related illnesses.

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