As efforts to restrict smoking gather momentum in California, the tobacco industry is spending increasing sums to influence state and local elected officials, $7.6 million over the last two years alone, a report released Thursday said.
The amount spent per state lawmaker in California is more than twice what tobacco interests are spending per Congress member in Washington to influence policy.
Tobacco spending on elections and lobbying across the state has increased almost tenfold since the 1985-86 legislative session, said the report by researchers at the UC San Francisco medical school.
The report said the tobacco industry is the second-largest source of campaign funds in state legislative races--after the California Medical Assn.--and the fifth-largest spender on lobbying, pumping $3.4 million into two dozen Sacramento lobbying firms. The tobacco industry also is spending big locally, including $2.27 million in efforts to repeal anti-smoking ordinances.
“This difference in intensity of electoral activity by the tobacco industry shows that it has undertaken a major effort to exercise influence in California politics,” said the 59-page report.
As is their custom, tobacco lobbyists in Sacramento declined comment.
The report comes as the tobacco industry counterattacks a major push by anti-smoking forces in the Legislature this year. Supported by tobacco lobbyists, Assemblyman Curtis Tucker Jr. (D-Inglewood) on Tuesday pushed a bill through the Governmental Organization Committee that would allow smoking in designated areas of bars, restaurants and other public buildings, and would prohibit cities and counties from imposing smoking bans.
“It’s a Christmas tree for the tobacco industry,” said Stanton Glantz, an author of the report.
Tucker’s measure is tobacco’s answer to legislation by Assemblyman Terry Friedman (D-Brentwood) to ban smoking in any building where people work. The measures are headed for a showdown in the Assembly.
Tucker said his bill is not sponsored by tobacco interests, and he contends it will help the economy by ensuring that tourists who smoke will continue to use California convention halls and hotel rooms.
Tucker collected $9,000 in campaign contributions from tobacco interests between 1990 and 1992, the report notes.
In the 1991-92 session, California’s 120 legislators received an average of $10,402 each, more than twice the $4,225 average sum donated by tobacco to members of Congress. Most of the money--85%--went to incumbents.
Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) was the largest recipient among elected officials in 1991-92, reaping $221,367, which he in turn doled out to Assembly Democrats. Since 1980, Brown has received 16% of tobacco’s donations to state legislative races.
Senate Minority Leader Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) received $36,000 in 1991-92, and Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys) received $33,400.
Roberti and Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) topped all San Fernando Valley-area representatives in tobacco industry contributions. Nolan received $56,106, almost half of it in 1992. Nolan took $26,756 in 1992, $1,500 in 1990 and $27,850 from 1976 to 1988.
In an unrelated action, Nolan was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering, stemming from the FBI’s Capitol corruption sting.
At the other extreme, state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) and Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Brentwood) were among those who received no tobacco industry contributions. Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) received none in 1992.
Former Van Nuys state Sen. Alan Robbins, who resigned shortly before pleading guilty to racketeering and income-tax evasion charges in December, 1991, received $4,000, all but $500 of it before 1988.
Tobacco companies and their associations spent $3.47 million on lobbying in the two-year period, a 13% increase over 1989-90. The firm receiving the largest chunk--$667,500--last year was Carpenter, Snodgrass & Associates, headed by former Orange County state Sen. Dennis Carpenter and Kathleen Snodgrass, a former aide to Speaker Brown.
Since 1988, the law firm of Neilsen, Merksamer has received the largest share of money for lobbying from the tobacco industry--$1.66 million. Neilsen, Merksamer is the counsel for Gov. Pete Wilson’s campaigns. Wilson took $25,000 in tobacco money last year.
Statewide, local officials received a total of $41,820. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley received the largest sum--$7,000--followed by Councilmen Richard Alatorre with $6,500, and John Ferraro with $4,500. Supervisor Gloria Molina also accepted $4,500.
The report was paid for by cigarette tax revenue imposed by a 1988 anti-smoking initiative, Proposition 99, and authored by Michael Begay, Michael Traynor and Glantz of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the UCSF School of Medicine.
Times staff writer Doug Smith contributed to this story.
Who Got Tobacco Funds
Lawmaker 1976-1988 1990 1992 Total Tom Bane $10,450 $3,250 $4,500 $18,200 Paula L. Boland $2,250 $5,500 $7,750 Ed Davis $6,500 $5,500 $500 $12,500 Barbara Friedman $500 $500 Terry B. Friedman $0 Tom Hayden $0 Bill Hoge $3,441 $3,441 Richard Katz $4,000 $1,500 $5,500 William J. (Pete) Knight Marian LaFollette $2,000 $2,000 Pat Nolan $27,850 $1,500 $26,756 $56,106 Alan Robbins $3,500 $500 $4,000 David Roberti $48,328 $6,000 $33,388 $87,716 Don Rodgers $17,000 $4,750 $2,000 $23,750 Herschel Rosenthal $6,750 $3,150 $7,000 $16,900 Newton R. Russell $1,500 $1,500 $1,750 $4,750 Cathie Wright $1,500 $4,250 $13,250 $19,000