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Dan Morain: Big Tobacco fires up anti-tax effort  

Jump to full article: Sacramento (CA) Bee, 2012-04-15
Author: Dan Morain, Senior editor

Intro:

In the coming weeks, Californians once again will witness the industry's formidable power. Cigarette makers Altria and R.J. Reynolds will spend tens of millions of dollars telling us why Proposition 29, the latest attempt by anti-smokers to raise tobacco taxes, is a terrible idea.

In slick television ads, shills will explain how the $735 million that would be raised by the measure annually would be wasted on the creation and operation of a bloated bureaucracy. The industry probably will succeed. It usually does.

Ordinarily, I agree with arguments against initiatives. Proposition 29 on the June 5 ballot has its problems. But my decision is easy any time I have to choose between tobacco companies and cancer researchers, doctors who treat cancer and public health experts who try to prevent cancer.

The industry has "lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as 'replacement' smokers, about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke."

Those words didn't come from some anti-smoking fanatic. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote them in 2006. . . .

One prominent opponent of Proposition 29 is Americans for Tax Reform, the nonprofit corporation headed by professional conservative Grover Norquist. Norquist pushes candidates for office to sign pledges vowing to oppose all tax increases – including tobacco tax hikes.

Norquist has a rich history of involvement with the tobacco industry. Industry documents show Americans for Tax Reform received upward of $1 million from cigarette companies between 1995 and 2000.

Patrick Gleason, a Norquist aide, didn't answer my question about whether Americans for Tax Reform still accepts tobacco money. I took that as a yes.

It's a close call whether tobacco is less popular than career politicians. But to tar the initiative, industry spokespeople write in the California voter guide that a "career politician" is promoting Proposition 29. That'd be former Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

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