Tobacco companies add $15 million to fight cigarette tax
On Friday, the parent companies of Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. reported giving more than $15 million in contributions to the opposition campaign, dubbed Californians Against Out of Control Taxes & Spending.
That gives the firms a war chest of nearly $40 million to fight the ballot measure, which is projected to raise more than $850 million a year to be used to fund cancer research, build research facilities and aid anti-smoking programs.
By comparison, supporters of the cigarette tax, including the American Heart Assn., the American Lung Assn., and the American Cancer Society, have raised about $3.5 million. They are expected to unveil their first ad Tuesday.
The opposition campaign has the support of the California Republican Party, which contributed $695,000 to the effort, according to state records.
Jennifer Kerns, a party spokeswoman, said the organization spent the money on mailers, email and "other forms of communication" to urge Republicans to vote against Proposition 29.
"It's not unusual to spend resources on member communications," she said. "We are the party of fiscal conservative principles. It’s not just about a tobacco tax. It's about a tax, period."
Kerns said the measure would also create "a huge new bureaucracy," referring to a new nine-member committee that would oversee the cigarette tax funds.
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Helen Heinlo smokes outside a coffee shop in Belmont, Calif., in 2007. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press