"Big Money's assault on democracy is not as bad as you
think," wrote Bill Moyers, "It's worse." Most
voters agree. Jesse Ventura's election victory last November was
at least partially due to public outrage over the clout of
special interest money.
Yet most political insiders--lobbyists, lawmakers,
pundits--dismiss the issue as nothing more than a public
perception problem. Few insiders will admit that money makes a
difference. But internal tobacco industry documents released
under the Minnesota tobacco settlement give the public a rare
look at what lobbyists admit only in private.
"Our lobbying team...(is) considered in almost every
circle to be the most effective and most respected lobbying team
in the state of Minnesota. Their access to legislative offices is
unparalleled. Their system of political influence is second to
none," according to a Tobacco Institute memo.
In the very next sentence, the memo uses the lobbyists'
campaign contributions as proof of their clout: "As
a matter of fact, our lobbyists have, in their own firm, a
registered Political Action Committee which contributes over
$50,000 annually to legislative races and constitutional officer
The memo describes their chief Minnesota lobbyist as having
"a firm grip" on relationships with certain
How do their lobbyists gain access and influence "second
to none"? How do they gain "a firm grip" on
relationships with lawmakers? It's simple. They buy it with
generous campaign contributions.
(Editor's Note: We have received numerous requests for more
information about the name of the tobacco industry's lobbying
team. The firm was not identified in the original newsletter only
because the intent was to show what special interest groups admit
only in confidential memos -- that campaign contributions buy
For the record: the Tobacco Institute's lobbying firm was (and
still is) North State Advisers, Inc.. Tom Kelm is the lobbyist
with the "firm grip" on relationships with legislators.
At the time of these memos, 1987-88, the Tobacco Institute
reported that in addition to the North State firm, they
contracted with William McGrann for lobbying. They also named
numerous other lobbyists that were hired by other tobacco
companies and interests. See Tobacco Document Depository pages
indexed: TIMN 283314 - 283319 and TIMN 457803 - 457804.
Records on current lobbyists for the Tobacco Institute and the
tobacco industry can be obtained from the Minnesota Campaign
Finance and Public Disclosure Board www.cfboard.state.mn.us
as well as disclosure of some of their larger campaign
contributions. Common Cause - Minnesota www.commoncausemn.org has done a
study of tobacco industry campaign contributions.)