Tim Carney’s weekly column on Capitol Hill lobbying explains why the biggest tobacco maker is an ally of Ted Kennedy and Henry Waxman when they regulate tobacco.
Here’s his explanatory metaphor:
Picture a small-town Southern politician after Prohibition’s repeal. Call him Jones. Jones’ campaign needs both cash and a winning issue. The state’s most prolific bootlegger comes and offers Jones both. “I can bankroll your entire campaign. You just need to outlaw alcohol in the county. If you close down the bars and clear the liquor out of the corner stores, the men will all have to come to me for their fix.”
Jones, with newly heavy pockets, walks down to the Lady’s Temperance Hall and declares, “Ladies, I’m running to end the scourge of alcohol in this town, and I’m asking for your support.” At his campaign kickoff the next week, Jones has the entire Temperance Union and the local preacher onstage endorsing him, and of course, he’s got the pipeline of alcohol cash from the rumrunner who will get even richer when the county goes dry again.
Philip Morris is the “bootlegger” today — the undisputed giant of the industry. The company controls more than half of the U.S. cigarette market, and its sister company, Philip Morris International, is rapidly expanding in the growing overseas market. Parent company Altria has hired three new lobbying firms so far this year, bringing its army to 19 different lobbying firms plus a powerful in-house shop.
And Philip Morris, openly and without qualification, backs Kennedy’s and Waxman’s bills to heighten regulation of tobacco.
Restrictions on tobacco advertising are already adding to the company’s bottom line, as the annual report makes clear: “Marketing and selling expenses were lower, reflecting regulatory restrictions on advertising and promotion activities.”