Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ STOP the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134! Jobs are at stake! http://bit.ly/NewTax #Reince
Sharks. Scary predators, right? They swim to eat and eat to swim, and that’s pretty much their life. It’s much the same way in Washington, D.C. where lobbyists swim through office after congressional office, grabbing up whatever morsels they can in order to line their pockets with more and more dough. However, where sharks swim and eat for themselves, lobbyists conduct their hunt for someone else. Let’s look at Big Tobacco’s shark pack.
Big Tobacco has launched a shiver of sharks all across Capitol Hill to lobby for the anti-competitive, small business crushing, monopolistic sellout bill H.R.4134. It’s legislative language that takes away our freedom to roll our own smokes, and hands Big Tobacco an IMMEDIATE piece of market share that they’ve lost over the years.
You see, when I walk into a tobacco shop, bag up my own special tobacco blend (spicy pear!), roll with my choice of paper, and walk away with a custom-made smoke, Big Tobacco doesn’t make any money. Big Tobacco doesn’t like that. Big Tobacco isn’t satisfied with its 99 percent market share or its billion dollars in profits it makes every three months. They want more! Hence the sharks.
HISTORICAL NOTE: For as long as commercial smokes have been around, Big Tobacco has paraded through the halls of Congress wearing a robe and train made of cash. If they MUST, they deign to visit with staff from each office, never losing their air of royalty or scent of new Prada shoes. As the saying goes, when Big Tobacco talks, Congress listens.
Back to the sharks. Looking at the U.S. Senate’s lobbyist disclosure database, it seems Big Tobacco was VERY BUSY in the first quarter of 2012. Looking at Altria (makers of Marlboro), they paid more than $2.2 million to their in-house lobby shop. You heard right. Altria paid more than TWO MILLION DOLLARS for six people to run up to the Hill and tell stories about H.R.4134 to members of Congress. David, Bruce, Cindy, John, Sarah and Todd were ALL dispatched to the Hill to talk about…
H.R. 4134 – to amend the Internal Revenue Code to include within the definition of “manufacturer of tobacco products,” for excise tax purposes, any person who for commercial purposes makes available for consumer use a machine capable of producing tobacco products.
Did you know during the first three months of this year, Altria sent MORE LOBBYISTS to the Hill to talk about H.R.4134 than ANY OTHER ISSUE?
Okay, are you ready for the REALLY dirty part? This first quarter report was filed for activity conducted between January 1 and March 31, 2012. In that period, Altria put SIX in-house lobbyists on this ONE issue (it says so in the lobbyist disclosure sheet). Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) didn’t file her bill (H.R.4134) until March 5, 2012. SO… are we to believe that from March 5, 2012 to March 31, 2012 Altria’s lobbyists learned of the bill, examined the bill, ran it up their chain of command to see if they liked it, made a command decision to lobby the Hill for its passage, set a budget, AND used $2.2 million in resources to do so in fewer than 26 days?
Or did it happen another way? Did Altria draft the legislation FOR U.S. Rep Diane Black (R-Tennessee), convince her during that 90 day window that SHE SHOULD INTRODUCE the bill, and then the lobbyists (six of them: David, Bruce, Cindy, John, Sarah and Todd) would do the rest of the work? No offense to Rep. Black’s legislative staff but there’s no way they have the knowledge or contacts required to draft this sneaky legislation and then gather cosponsors on their own. They had help. A LOT of help. They had Big Tobacco help. Six in-house lobbyists and $2.2 million dollars’ worth.
For Altria to devote such substantial resources in such a narrow period of time begs for further investigation. I wonder how many people would agree it’s unethical for Big Tobacco giant Altria to draft legislation, give it to a member of Congress to introduce, and then shuttle said legislation around the Hill gathering cosponsors? BY THE WAY, Altria spent MORE than the $2.2 million I mentioned earlier. They littered their lobbying budget around to A BUNCH of other outside shops, too. Another $70,000 went to Thomas, Jeff, Joe, Matthew, Nick and Jeff M. What were they sent to the Hill to talk about? RIGHT! According to their disclosure: “H.R. 4134, pertaining to the manufacture of “ROLL YOUR OWN” tabacco products.” Also, another firm was paid $45,000 so John could go talk on H.R.4134; Hunter at another firm was given $30,000 to talk about H.R.4134; another $80,000 went to Lindsay, Jonathan, Richard, Joseph, William, Lawrence and Christopher for H.R.4134.
IT IS SIMPLY AMAZING how many Big Tobacco
sharks lobbyists have been dispatched to the Hill on this SINGLE ISSUE! And to think, Altria made the decision in less than 26 days, (March 5, 2012 is when H.R. 4134 was introduced by Rep. Diane Black), to hire ALL THESE LOBBY FIRMS and charge them with talking to everybody on the Hill.
But, all these lobbyists Altria and other Big Tobacco are throwing at the issue is understandable. When you raise up the golden calf and everyone you’ve paid off with campaign contributions is running to worship it, you need help taking account of who’s pledged their support. Sad, isn’t it?
YOUR MISSION: Keep on pressuring lawmakers. The way we do that is to expose this whole crap show for what it is: A sellout to Big Tobacco on the backs of hard-working small business Americans. Twitter, Facebook, town hall meetings, phone calls, Pony Express. However we can make our voices heard, let’s keep it up. Don’t forget to call attention to your local Congressman with a note or two to your local newspaper reporters and editors. They all need to know who is behind H.R.4134 and CRUSH this thing.