I Smell a Rat…

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ I smell a rat in the highway bill. Save my job. STOP HR4134 and the #BigTobacco bailout. http://bit.ly/NewTax

(You’ll want to replace “@LawmakerXYZ” with your local congressman’s Twitter handle)

This is a rat. Rats are part of the animal kingdom, they’re mammals, and if you really want to know, they’re members of the rattus genus. Personally, I don’t like to think about rats except for in the rare moments when I find one out in the garage after he’s tangled with a trap, and lost. If you’ve ever had a rat take up residence in one of your outbuildings, you KNOW how tough they are. They have huge teeth, big claws, and oily fur. They’re also crafty, tireless, and big eaters.

So the reason I bring up rats is because I think there might be one or two (or more) involved in the Big Tobacco bailout that’s moving through Congress hidden in the 2012 highway transportation bill. To recap: Big Tobacco convinced Senator Max Baucus’s staff to slip a provision into the highway bill that reclassifies places where you can “roll your own” smokes as “tobacco manufacturing facilities” making them subject to a whole new set of taxes and regulations. Unfair? Yes. Uncommon? Not if you’re a rat. By the way, Senator Max Baucus has been taking thousands of dollars from Big Tobacco for years. Just looking at his campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission, he’s taken more than $20,000 from ALTRIA GROUP, INC’s political action committee. You remember Altria, right? They’re the Big Tobacco company that just reported bringing in a billion dollars for the first quarter of 2012.

Another disturbing thing about rats is, they attract more rats.

I know, it’s disturbing. But it’s there. The rat pack mentality says, “Let’s do things in groups. We’re safer that way.” This same thing happens on Capitol Hill, too. For example, people from all across the country belong to “JOE Association” (that’s made up). Once a year, JOE Association members fly into Washington, DC to meet up with others from the JOE Association, and they swarm around the Hill, visiting members of Congress, asking for their top two or three agenda items. They might also hold a campaign fundraising reception for their favorite members of Congress and give them a few thousand dollars. It’s a slick system and lawmakers appreciate the input from their constituents. They also appreciate the campaign support.

ENTER: The American Wholesale Marketers Association. This is a group of rats business owners whose association is paid for mostly by Big Tobacco. All the Big Tobacco firms kick in a bunch of money for the Association, and in return the association members carry Big Tobacco’s agenda around Capitol Hill. AND… they’re doing it again this week. Please read or skim the quoted material below taken directly from AWMA’s website:

[BEGIN QUOTED MATERIAL]

AWMA Members to Lobby Congress on Key Issues

Publish Date: May 10, 2012

AWMA members from across the nation will meet with members of the U.S. Congress next week during AWMA’s annual Day on the Hill, which will take place Wednesday and Thursday. Several key issues are on the agenda and AWMA members will express their views and concerns regarding them to lawmakers and their key staff members when they visit with them on Thursday.

Those issues include:
  • AWMA’s support for legislation to codify the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) ruling classifying retailers who own roll-your-own machines as “manufacturers,” a move that would subject them to the same governmental requirements as other cigarette manufacturers.
  • AWMA’s support for the Small Business Tax Cut Act, which would allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20% of their active business income.
  • AWMA’s opposition to the use of federal funds to lobby any government official for new laws and regulations promoting excise tax increases on soft drinks and tobacco.
The event will open with a reception and dinner Wednesday evening sponsored by Altria Group Distribution Company, where attendees will be briefed on political and legislative developments. Thursday morning, Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) will be guest speaker at a breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Tiberi is a member of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. Following the breakfast, AWMA members will begin their meetings with lawmakers in their Congressional offices.
“At a time like this, with the Presidential elections looming and a still lagging economy, it is more important than ever to remind our lawmakers of the many contributions our businesses bring each and every day to their districts and states,” said AWMA Chairman Chad Gummer, Gummer Wholesale, Inc., Heath, OH.

[END QUOTED MATERIAL] 

Picture for "I Smell a Rat" blog

Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)

I bring this to your attention for a couple reasons. First, AWMA knows EXACTLY what they’re doing. They are supporting a provision that will magically turn tobacco “retailers” into tobacco “manufacturers” thereby unfairly subjecting retailers to a whole new scheme of taxes and regulation NEVER meant to be put upon retailers. Second, I bring the Thursday morning breakfast event to your attention because Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) is the ONE AND ONLY guest speaker. Did I point out this breakfast event for Rep. Tiberi is sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company?

Remember I mentioned rats like to swarm in groups?

THE GOOD NEWS: I mentioned on the Twitter yesterday we have a hero on Capitol Hill who is helping us fight this unfair, anticompetitive, Big Tobacco bailout. I cannot yet reveal who this member of Congress is, but I can tell you he’s a Republican. AND additional good news this morning is he is being joined by a Democrat! So there is a bipartisan coalition of elected officials actively asking their colleagues to TRASH the rat Big Tobacco provision. This is fantastic news for us and I will talk more about it when I can.

YOUR MISSION: Keep going. Twitter. Facebook. Comment in online news stories involving your local congressman. Recruit some people to our cause. Send them to this blog so they can arm themselves with information. And by all means, keep asking your member WHERE they stand on the Big Tobacco bailout!

– GR

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