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New Website Highlights Tobacco Lobbyists’ Campaign Contributions and Gifts to Oklahoma Lawmakers

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA (October 1, 2012)A new website with searchable databases of all campaign contributions and gifts from tobacco lobbyists to members of the Oklahoma State Legislature was announced today. The website www.tobaccomoney.com was developed in Oklahoma and is gaining national attention for helping to educate the public on how the tobacco industry influences policymaking. The website encourages state legislators and legislative candidates in Oklahoma to sign a pledge to not accept campaign contributions, meals, or other gifts from any tobacco company political action committee (PAC) or from any individual registered as a lobbyist for a tobacco company or tobacco trade association.

“The tobacco industry is seeing a major return on its investment in Oklahoma’s political system,” said Robert McCaffree, MD, Co-Director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center. “There’s a clear correlation between tobacco industry contributions and the suppression or opposition of legislation intended to reduce tobacco use in our state, particularly among legislators accepting campaign contributions from tobacco company PAC’s.”

Since 2006, Oklahoma state legislators now in office have accepted $242,719 in campaign contributions, meals and other gifts from current tobacco lobbyists and tobacco company PAC’s. Separately, over $50,000 has been accepted by various statewide House or Senate election committees. The highest total amount taken since 2006 by any individual representative is $6,298 and by any individual senator is $11,239. Nine representatives and 11 senators have accepted a total of $3,000 or more.

“The more light we can shine on industry efforts to stop meaningful tobacco prevention measures, the less effective those efforts will be,” says Laurent Huber, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health (ASH). A national leader in the fight on tobacco, ASH is focused this election year on political contributions. “Oklahoma’s website is a model we hope to help replicate in all states, said Huber.”

According to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, there are 11 individuals currently registered to lobby the Oklahoma legislature on behalf of tobacco companies or tobacco industry trade associations. The tobacco lobbyists and listings of their clients are shown on the website.

“For decades, we’ve watched tobacco lobbyists manage to kill bills they oppose and pass bills they support,” said Doug Matheny, the website’s author. “Even if it never influenced legislation, money distributed by tobacco lobbyists should be refused as a matter of principle. Accepting money or gifts from representatives of an industry that addicts young people to deadly products is inconsistent with Oklahoma values. Most tobacco lobbyists in Oklahoma take direct orders from companies that federal courts recently found guilty of racketeering.” Matheny is the former director of tobacco prevention at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. He retired in February 2011 after 28 years of service.

“Speaking on behalf of physicians now starting practices in Oklahoma, our legislators need to take a stand for health,” said Chris Sudduth, MD, MPH of Tulsa. Dr. Sudduth is Chair of the Oklahoma State Medical Association Resident and Fellow Section. “These powerful tobacco lobbyists and their money should be rejected. Business as usual must change.”