Lighting up

Jul 20, 2011

Tobacco companies wield significant clout in the Legislature through lavish campaign contributions and aggressive lobbying -- and some lawmakers make out better than others, according to a new study by an anti-tobacco group.


From the AP's Adam Weintraub: "The tobacco industry spent $9.3 million over the past two years to fight cigarette taxes, support candidates and influence politics in California, an anti-smoking group said in a report issued Tuesday."


"The report by the American Lung Association in California said political spending by tobacco interests over the past decade totaled almost $100 million, with cigarette maker Philip Morris USA Inc. accounting for more than half the total."


"The report is the latest by the association documenting political spending by the tobacco industry, which spikes when cigarette taxes or tobacco regulations are in play at the Capitol or at the ballot box."


The legislator who received the most tobacco cash Sen. Bill Emmerson, reports Jim Miller in the Press-Enterprise.


"Emmerson, R-Hemet, received $21,000 during the two-year session from Philip Morris USA Inc., Reynolds American Inc., and California Distributors Association Inc., according to the report entitled "Tobacco Money in California Politics."


'The money received by Emmerson was almost three times the average of 57 legislative colleagues who also received tobacco-industry donations in 2009-10."


"Big tobacco continues to use its vast financial resources for campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures to oppose bills and ballot initiatives that would benefit public health by reducing tobacco use," said Jane Warner, President & CEO of the American Lung Association in California."


Among California redevelopment agencies, the big question is worthy of the Bard: To pay or not to pay? In Redding, local officials have come up with their answer. They'll pay.


From Scott Mobley in the Record Searchlight: "Redding officials grudgingly agreed to hand over $5.9 million to the state so the city’s redevelopment agency may start doing deals again."


"The City Council, which doubles as the agency board, voted unanimously this afternoon to approve the one-time payment to the state in concept. The council may vote formally as soon as Aug. 2."


"This is like taking medicine you don't like," council member Rick Bosetti said."


"Today’s vote allows the city to resume work on buying the Dana Drive Costco store for a new police station."


Redding isn't the only town that's going to stick around: San Diego is buying in, too. From Liam Dillon in the Voice of San Diego.


"The City Council voted to buy back into redevelopment Monday night, paying an estimated $70 million this year and $16 million annually after that to schools and other local governments. Without the payment, redevelopment would have gone away through a bill passed as part of the state's budget vote last month."


"The council plans to hold meetings in neighborhoods where redevelopment now exists to determine what projects should be delayed or cancelled, the Union-Tribune reported."


"Redevelopment supporters also filed a long-anticipated lawsuit yesterday alleging the state redevelopment laws were unconstitutional for numerous reasons, including that it violates a ballot measure passed last November that prohibits the taking of redevelopment funds. The League of California Cities and California Redevelopment Association advocacy group filed the suit with the California Supreme Court in the hopes of receiving an expedited ruling."


Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat and an institution in California politics for nearly four decades, is demanding that the House Ethics Committee drop the case against her.


From the LAT's Richard Simon: "Waters' lawyer, Stanley Brand, said the documents included allegations that there was misconduct among the committee staff members who investigated the Democratic congresswoman, and further action by the panel would be "irremediably tainted."


"Simply put," Brand said, "this committee can never conduct an impartial and unbiased inquiry."

"Waters, a South Los Angeles political fixture since the 1970s, has been accused of intervening on behalf of a bank where her husband owned stock and served on the board. But the case against her, growing out of an investigation that began two years ago, has been sidetracked by strife within the committee."

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