You have to wonder at the attention the American Lung
Association sponsored study
on tobacco company contributions
to California politics got in the press. There
was no surprise that tobacco companies donate to protect their interests just
as unions do, just as Indian tribes do and just as other interests do. However,
only in rare cases in the stories was the tobacco spending put in perspective.

Tobacco is not the largest donor to California politics – not
by a long shot.

Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times did his readers a
service by showing
where the tobacco donations fit
amongst other powerful political players. He
compared the $92 million tobacco companies paid out in the last decade (two-thirds
of it to defeat Proposition 86, a cigarette tax increase) to other big donors in
California politics.

"Tobacco spending,
while significant, pales in comparison to the expenditures of the California
Teachers’ Association, which threw $211.8 million into campaigns from
2000-2009, according to a report by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The California State Council of Service Employees spent $107.5 million, and
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $104.9 million."

While there were articles
and editorials
rebuking the teachers’ union for engineering the passage of
AB 114 practically in secret – a bill to prohibit both teacher layoffs and
elimination of programs to balance school budgets – to my knowledge no report on
the measure highlighted the massive union spending on California politics.

I’m sure the issue of tobacco spending will reappear when
the already qualified tobacco tax measure is contested on the next statewide
ballot. One would hope the teachers’ union is given the same treatment when it
gets involved with next year’s initiatives.