Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 349 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 14-Dec-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 15-Dec-2004
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Where there's smoke, there's money
Republicans are the party of big tobacco, but Democrats appear to give contributors more bang for the buck

A Saint Louis University study out this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine confirms conventional wisdom: money talks.

Those Congressmen who received contributions from tobacco industry groups were more likely to vote in favor of pro-tobacco laws, says Douglas A. Luke, Ph.D., director of the Center for Tobacco Policy Research at Saint Louis University School of Public Health.

"It confirms what people have known for a while but haven't really examined. Republicans take money from the industry and vote in the industry direction. But being a Democrat doesn't protect you from the influence of the industry."

While Republicans get more money from pro-tobacco interests, Democrats seem to be more influenced by the contributions they receive.

Luke examined pro-tobacco political action committee campaign contributions and votes between 1993 and 2000. He found that 220 Republicans and 140 Democrats legislators accepted more than $6.8 million in contributions. The relationship between contributions and pro-tobacco votes was three times stronger for Democrats than Republicans.

"Although Democrats, on average, vote pro-tobacco much less than Republicans, the percentage increase in pro-tobacco voting for every $1000 contribution for Democrats is nearly three times that of Republicans," Luke says. "The tobacco industry may get more bang for their buck by contributing money to Democrats."

Among Luke's findings:

  • Tobacco political action committees gave an average of $22,000 to each Republican in the Senate and $6,000 to each Democrat.

  • Regardless of whether they received contributions, Republicans voted pro-tobacco much more often 73 percent of the time while Democrats voted pro-tobacco only 23 percent of the time.

  • For every $10,000 that Democrats received from pro-tobacco groups, they were 9.8 percent more likely to vote for pro-tobacco policies.

  • For every $10,000 Republicans received, they were 3.5 percent more likely to vote pro-tobacco.

    "The more campaign contributions received by a Congress member, the more likely he or she votes pro-tobacco on tobacco-related bills," Luke says. "This study also shows that political party is the most important predictor of voting behavior on tobacco related bills, with Republicans voting pro-tobacco more often than Democrats."

    The study suggests strategies that tobacco control groups can use when trying to influence Congress in setting health policy, he adds.

    "It is important for tobacco control advocates to work closely with political allies to ensure that tobacco industry political contributions are kept to a minimum," Luke says.

    "In addition, those groups that promote public health policy need to work both sides of the aisle. It's too simplistic to look at Republicans as voting anti-health and to assume Democrats will vote in favor of measures that promote health."

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