June 6, 2012

Group Spends Big To Block California Cigarette Tax, While Hiding The Fact That It’s Funded By Big Tobacco

A California ballot measure to raise taxes on cigarettes by a dollar per pack failed yesterday. 50.8 percent of voters opposed the initiative compared to 49.2 percent who favored the tax, which would raise money for cancer research and anti-smoking projects for kids. Just a few months ago, about two-thirds of voters backed the measure. But thanks to a tobacco-fueled advertising blitz, support for the ballot measure crumbled. The coalition behind the blitz contributed to the $47.7 million spent on Proposition 29 — and outside groups working on Prop. 29 have raised more money nationally than all super PACs except pro-Mitt Romney “Restore Our Future.”

The tobacco companies are ostensibly not a part of the No on 29 coalition, which has called itself “Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes & Spending.” The group’s website claims that “cancer research is important, but Prop. 29 is a flawed and poorly drafted measure.” It notes that its coalition consists of “California taxpayers, law enforcement, labor and small businesses that have come together to oppose the $735 million tax hike.” It then lists such groups as the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, Americans for Tax Reform, California Taxpayers Association, and a whole host of mini-marts. There’s an asterisk at the top of the list which notes that this is a “partial listing.”

Left out are two corporations that have the most to lose from Prop. 29: tobacco companies Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds. They contributed over $32 million to the $46.8 million total spent campaigning against Prop. 29. Yet the groups fronting the campaign say Big Tobacco isn’t funding them:

“We are independent. We’re not beholden to anyone,” said [David] Spady, of Americans for Prosperity.

Backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity took to Twitter yesterday to brag about their work on saying no to Prop. 29:

Group Spends Big To Block California Cigarette Tax, While Hiding The Fact That It's Funded By Big Tobacco

In 1994, back when Americans for Prosperity was known as Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), it used funding from Philip Morris to execute similar campaigns against Clinton administration plans to increase cigarette taxes. Like CSE, Americans for Prosperity claims to stand for economic freedom on behalf of consumers, while actually advancing the causes of Big Tobacco. Some things never change.