Tobacco farmers have worked for nearly a decade to convince Congress to buy out their quota--a federal deal that would allow them to cash in their allotments to recoup some costs and recover from deep debts accumulated over many years of farming at a deficit. The buyout has faced well-funded and well-organized opposition from one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington-cigarette manufacturers. Makers of tobacco products oppose the proposal to regulate the contents of their products that has, until this spring, gone hand-in-hand with the buyout. They've poured $28 million into individual campaigns, national parties and non-party political action committees since 1997, according to an April 2004 report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. That includes $17 million in soft money and nearly $11 million in PAC contributions.
Since 1999, tobacco interests have spent another $101 million on lobbyists to block bills they consider bad for their bottom lines. This election cycle alone, tobacco company PACs donated $978,544 directly to federal candidates and more than $830,000 to non-candidate committees, such as leadership and party PACs.
North Carolina's senators and representatives have varied widely in their acceptance of tobacco lobby dollars, from Sen. John Edwards, who took zero, to Rep. Bob Etheridge, who tops the list. District 5 congressman and U.S. Senate hopeful Richard Burr claims second place. Here's the breakdown, from 1999 through the current election season, as of April:
U.S. House of Representatives
Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Quarterly Report, April 30, 2004