Tobacco Lobby Ups State Ante : Politics: The amount that the industry spends on California lawmakers is twice what it spends per member of Congress.


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.


Compared to their counterparts in other parts of the state, the Orange County legislative delegation has received relatively little tobacco money in recent years. As a group, the local lawmakers have received a total of $87,800, according to reports on contributions made between 1976 and 1992 to current members.

“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 that 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 interests 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 interests’ 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.

In Orange County, total contributions to legislators in 1991-92 fell far short of the state’s individual leaders. Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-Fullerton) received the most, a total of $8,500 in 1991-92.


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 Kevin Johnson contributed to this story.