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Excerpts from: Cigarette companies continue lobbying in Washington
More than $100,000 being spent daily to push their agendas
By Kirsten B. Mitchell MEDIA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE [10/21/01]
WASHINGTON -- Each day that Congress meets, the nation's four largest cigarette manufacturers spend more than $100,000 pushing their agenda on Capitol Hill.
Philip Morris Cos., which operates the nation's largest cigarette factory in Richmond, and three other tobacco companies poured $44.2 million into lobbying Congress in two and a half years ending June 30, according to reports filed by corporations and lobbying firms with the U.S. House and Senate.
The lobbying by Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. comes three years after the landmark $206 billion settlement between the cigarette-makers and the states shut down the Tobacco Institute, the industry's powerful Washington lobbying arm.
Despite the institute's demise, lobbying continues. Big Tobacco's spending, an average of $106,415 each legislative day, illustrates how an industry digs deep by dispatching legions of lobbyists to influence Congress.
"We typically monitor a lot of bills," said David Tovar, a Philip Morris spokesman. "Historically, we anticipate that they (Congress) will look for funding for some of these programs from tobacco taxes."
Philip Morris, which paid its in-house lobbying team and contract lobbyists $31.6 million, is pushing for Congress to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarette production and sales.
Other cigarette-makers label the bill the "Marlboro Monopoly Act" because they contend Philip Morris is the only company with enough money to meet government standards. Congress, accustomed to a uniform tobacco lobby, is suddenly hearing from a fractured industry.
The other three cigarette-makers combined spent less than Philip Morris on lobbying during the two-and-a-half-year per-iod. Brown & Williamson, the country's third-largest cigarette-maker, spent $5.6million.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the nation's second-largest cigarette-maker, and Lorillard Tobacco Co., the fourth largest, each spent about $3.5 million.
In 1999, companies, labor unions and organizations spent $1.45 billion on lobbying, including $19.6 million spent by cigarette-makers, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The tobacco industry did unite and apparently won a battle when it persuaded Congress to reduce the amount spent on a Clinton-era lawsuit alleging that cigarette-makers conspired for decades to keep the risks of smoking from the public. But despite the dip in funding, Attorney General John Ashcroft says that the lawsuit is moving forward.
Cigarette-makers pay dozens of lobbyists to patrol Capitol Hill, including former members of Congress from tobacco states.
Charlie Rose no longer represents North Carolina in the House, but he made $240,000 during the last congressional session to schmooze former colleagues on Philip Morris' behalf.
Some industry lobbyists track just a single issue, such as how the government regulates the sale of tobacco products in commissaries and military exchanges.
"There are experts out there and whenever possible we tap into them," said Tovar of Philip Morris.
Philip Morris pays some of the lobbyists an annual retainer of about $80,000 even though they may report little or no congressional lobbying activity for six months or a year, the reports show. Rufus Edmisten, North Carolina's former attorney general and secretary of state, is one of them.
"I register every time just in case," said Edmisten, who lives in Raleigh and calls himself "a general resource for Philip Morris."
The corporation, which also owns Kraft Foods and Miller Brewing Co., paid most of its lobbyists to push tobacco issues, according to Media General News Service's review of more than 100 lobbying reports.
Philip Morris isn't alone in paying former members of Congress and their staff to lobby.
When the Tobacco Institute closed, Lorillard was left without any lobbyists in Washington. The company turned to Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky, which employs former Democratic Sen. Wendell Ford of Kentucky and former Republican Rep. Stan Parris of Virginia.
"Through them, we feel like we're getting good representation," said Steve Watson, Lorillard's vice president for external affairs. "Both (Ford and Parris) were active in tobacco issues, which brings us a wealth of experience in developing strategies and positions regarding regulatory issues."
Robert Mangas, who also lobbies for the firm, isn't a former member of Congress, but he knows Capitol Hill. He spent more than 10 years working for Ford, including as chief of staff. When the senator retired in 1998, Mangas landed at the firm, which was paid $800,000 by Lorillard in the first six months of this year. A few months later, his former boss joined the firm.
Being a former Hill staff member, Mangas said, gives him "an understanding of what kind of information is important to decision-makers in Congress."
When he was Ford's chief of staff, he said, lobbyists who "provided the most accurate and succinct information on both sides of the issue were the most helpful. That's something I try to emulate now."
Rose, Ford and Parris aren't alone in switching from legislating to lobbying, which requires a one-year "cooling off" period before lobbying former colleagues. More than 100 former members of Congress are registered lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Hundreds more former congressional staff workers now lobby.
"A lot of people approach Capitol Hill as a way station to K Street," Larry Makinson, the center's senior fellow, said in reference to the Washington street that is home to many lobbying firms.
"If there weren't a revolving door, I don't know who would lobby Congress," he said. "Lobbying is such an insiders' game, who else would lobby Congress but insiders?"
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