Study: Tobacco donations can affect voting

Sunday, December 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:48 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

Where there’s smoke, there’s money.

For each day Congress is in session, the tobacco industry spends an estimated $138,774 on lobbying. That’s not including the $24.8 million tobacco companies spent on political campaigns for federal candidates in the past six years.

A recent study by St. Louis University public health professor Douglas Luke draws a link between tobacco industry contributions to politicians and voting on tobacco-related legislation. Luke found that the large sums of money contributed to political parties and individuals can predict pro-tobacco voting behavior.

According to Luke’s article titled “Where There’s Smoke There’s Money” in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Republicans receive 81 percent of tobacco industry contributions and vote pro-tobacco 73 percent of the time. Democrats vote for tobacco industry favorites only 23 percent of the time and receive significantly fewer contributions from the industry.

Jim Blaine of the Missouri Partnership on Smoking or Health said contributions to politicians are “the most major problem we have.” He argued public health organizations are prohibited by law from sponsoring or lobbying for candidates that would further their cause.

“This puts us at a competitive disadvantage,” Blaine said.

Of the $50,000 in tobacco industry contributions given to Missouri federal officials this year, all of it went to Republicans.

Burson Taylor, a spokeswoman for Rep. Roy Blunt, said that like other contributors, tobacco companies support Blunt for his dedication to working-class families. With $15,000 of tobacco industry support for Blunt, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Taylor said the money has no strings attached and does not translate into a pro-tobacco agenda.

“Do campaign contributions affect his votes? The answer is an unequivocal no,” she said.

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