Tobacco Lobby Documents Show Impact of Special Interest Money
by Senator John Marty
July 22, 1999

"Big Money's assault on democracy is not as bad as you think," wrote Bill Moyers, "It's worse." Most voters agree. Jesse Ventura's election victory last November was at least partially due to public outrage over the clout of special interest money.

Yet most political insiders--lobbyists, lawmakers, pundits--dismiss the issue as nothing more than a public perception problem. Few insiders will admit that money makes a difference. But internal tobacco industry documents released under the Minnesota tobacco settlement give the public a rare look at what lobbyists admit only in private.

"Our lobbying team...(is) considered in almost every circle to be the most effective and most respected lobbying team in the state of Minnesota. Their access to legislative offices is unparalleled. Their system of political influence is second to none," according to a Tobacco Institute memo.

In the very next sentence, the memo uses the lobbyists' campaign contributions as proof of their clout: "As a matter of fact, our lobbyists have, in their own firm, a registered Political Action Committee which contributes over $50,000 annually to legislative races and constitutional officer races."

The memo describes their chief Minnesota lobbyist as having "a firm grip" on relationships with certain legislators.

How do their lobbyists gain access and influence "second to none"? How do they gain "a firm grip" on relationships with lawmakers? It's simple. They buy it with generous campaign contributions.

(Editor's Note: We have received numerous requests for more information about the name of the tobacco industry's lobbying team. The firm was not identified in the original newsletter only because the intent was to show what special interest groups admit only in confidential memos -- that campaign contributions buy access.

For the record: the Tobacco Institute's lobbying firm was (and still is) North State Advisers, Inc.. Tom Kelm is the lobbyist with the "firm grip" on relationships with legislators. At the time of these memos, 1987-88, the Tobacco Institute reported that in addition to the North State firm, they contracted with William McGrann for lobbying. They also named numerous other lobbyists that were hired by other tobacco companies and interests. See Tobacco Document Depository pages indexed: TIMN 283314 - 283319 and TIMN 457803 - 457804.

Records on current lobbyists for the Tobacco Institute and the tobacco industry can be obtained from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board as well as disclosure of some of their larger campaign contributions. Common Cause - Minnesota has done a study of tobacco industry campaign contributions.)

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