Thursday, November 12, 2009

PA: Lobbyists trying to buy their way out of increased tobacco taxes.

Information obtained from expense reports from tobacco companies, natural gas drillers, and gambling interests show that they have spent more than $4.5 million combined. While the gambling interests were attempting to open the door to new table games. Big Tobacco and natural-gas drillers were trying to protect their bottom line. While it is unclear to what extent these types of huge pay-offs to legislators effect policy- why would a company spend the money if it wasn't going to place them in a better place at the bargaining table? Legislators are trying to tax cigars and spit tobacco products, in part to fill a budget hole. Reynolds America, Inc. and its subsidiary Conwood Co. spend nearly $670,658 to block an increase in spit tobacco taxes and a new tax on smaller cigars, cigarillos. In total Big Tobacco spent nearly $1.5 million on lobbying from January to September. 

While most states have some transparency laws which allow citizens access to campaign finance information, Wisconsin is far from perfect in terms of providing completely open and detailed receipts from lobbyists. Big Tobacco often uses front groups to lobby on their behalf further making it difficult to track the money that comes from Big Tobacco to individual legislators. 

However much can be learned from investigating where legislators get their money. To look up your Wisconsin Legislator click here to examine the campaign finance information. 

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