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Congress Swayed By Tobacco PACs: Money Linked to Voting Record


November 1994

Two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association find a "consistent and strong relationship" between lawmaker's voting records on tobacco issues and the amount of money they receive from tobacco lobbyists (Stephen Moore, Sidney M. Wolfe, Deborah Lindes, Clifford E. Douglas, "Epidemiology of Failed Tobacco Control Legislation," Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 19, 1994, p. 1171-1175; Stanton A. Glantz and Michael E. Begay, "Tobacco Industry Campaign Contributions Are Affecting Tobacco Control Policymaking in California," Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 19, 1994, p. 1176-1182).

Taking data from the Federal Election Commission, authors Moore, Wolfe, Lindes and Douglas compare member's votes on tobacco control legislation with the total amount of money received from the top ten tobacco political action committees (PACs) and members of the board for tobacco companies. Those members receiving the most money from tobacco lobby organizations are as much as 42 times more likely to support tobacco's position.

The average donation was $2,943 per member of the House between 1991 and 1992 and $11,593 per member of the Senate between 1987 and 1992. Donations between January 1991 and December 1992 for both houses totaled $2.4 million.

Using regression analysis, which can be used find links between seemingly unrelated items, the authors found that the greater the amount of money received by a member, the less likely that member was to support tobacco control.

"Tobacco industry contributions to members of the U.S. Congress strongly influence the federal tobacco policy process," the authors wrote in their conclusion. "Unless this influence is diminished through a combination of members refusing tobacco money and campaign finance reform, this process of contributing to death by thwarting tobacco control will continue to claim hundreds of thousands of lives a year."

The ten tobacco lobby organizations whose contributions were monitored by the authors were: R.J. Reynolds, Phillip Morris, U.S. Tobacco Executives, Inc., Pinkerton Tobacco Company, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, the Smokeless Tobacco Council, the Tobacco Institute, the Cigar Association of America, the American Wholesale Markerters Association, and Universal Leaf Tobacco Company.

The Tobacco Institute responded by saying that the American Medical Association PAC donates almost twice as much to members of Congress as tobacco lobby organizations do.

The second study in JAMA by Glantz and Begay finds a similar pattern in the voting behavior of members of the California legislature.