House members who voted in 1985 to continue the federal tobacco support program received more than twice as much in campaign contributions from tobacco-industry political action committees as did their opponents, according to a study by a Washington consumer-interest group.
The report by Public Voice for Food and Health Policy, released yesterday, found that nine industry-related political committees gave more than $1.3 million to House members between 1983 and 1986.
Opponents and supporters of the tobacco program received donations, but the study said those who voted against a 1985 amendment to kill the program received an average of $4,082 compared with an average of $1,800 for legislators on the other side.
Public Voice reviewed votes on the amendment offered by Rep. Thomas E. Petri (R-Wis.) to abolish the tobacco-support program, which regulates prices and tobacco-growing allotments. The amendment was defeated, 230 to 195, and the House went on to write the program into law.
The study noted that industry contributions, from tobacco companies and labor organizations, increased by 27 percent to $765,747 in the 1985-1986 election cycle, when the Petri amendment and other antismoking proposals were in the works.
"Once again, we see that dollars speak louder than sense on Capitol Hill," Public Voice executive director Ellen Haas said. "And this is a particularly critical case of mixed messages: On the one hand, Congress is warning the public of the health dangers of smoking; on the other hand, it is actively promoting the use of tobacco through a price support program that costs the taxpayers more money."
The study also highlighted the industry's munificence toward members of the House Agriculture Committee and its subcommittee that handles tobacco legislation. The committee's 43 members, of whom only four voted with Petri, received average contributions of $5,261, compared with the House average of $3,035.
Top recipients were Reps. Charlie Rose (D-N.C.), chairman of
the tobacco subcommittee, with $17,650; Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), $17,050; Robin Tallon (D-S.C.), $13,550; Larry J. Hopkins (R-Ky.), $13,400; Walter B. Jones (D-N.C.), $11,500, and Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), $10,000.
The members who sided with Petri and received no industry funds were Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) and James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.), who remain on the committee, and former members James Weaver (D-Ore.) and Berkley W. Bedell (D-Iowa).
Haas said urban members of Congress who voted with the tobacco interests were of "special concern," because while their constituents grow no tobacco "these members are voting against the public health."
The study showed that one-third of New York's delegation sided with the industry, while the entire Massachusetts delegation voted with Petri.
Leading industry political contributions included $613,701 from Philip Morris; $248,073 from the Tobacco Institute; $180,200 from R.J. Reynolds; $111,105 from the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers International Union, and $78,775 from Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.
Public Voice said that, although each of the six tobacco manufacturing firms in the nation is a conglomerate with diverse business interests, tobacco policy is the "driving force" that sets contribution objectives and targeting of members.