Altria, parent of Philip Morris, reports spending most on lobbying the 2014 legislature but says it didn’t fight smoking ban

The parent firm of the nation’s largest cigarette company again reported spending more than anyone else on lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly, but says it did not fight the bill that would have imposed a statewide smoking ban in most public places.

Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and U.S.
Smokeless Tobacco
, reported spending $156,200, “far more than any other
company or group, Tom Loftus reports for The Courier-Journal. “And it got the things it wanted from Kentucky
lawmakers: tobacco taxes were not increased, no new tax was put on
electronic cigarettes and the tobacco-industry supported bill to ban the
sale of electronic cigarettes to minors passed.”

Spokesman David Sutton “said not a penny of Altria’s lobbying campaign went to defeat the so-called ‘smoke-free’ bill, though he said the company opposes such complete smoking bans within private businesses,” Loftus reports. “He said he suspected Altria’s lobby spending topped the list because ‘We fully disclose everything’,” including research time of its legal staff and its “grassroots activation” work to rally its supporters in Kentucky.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, “which reported spending $6,284 during the session, earlier this month blamed Altria for leading the successful defeat of the bill to ban smoking in indoor public places like bars and restaurants,” The Courier-Journal reports.

“They’ve spent a
lot of money on lobbying for years,” the campaign’s Betsy Janes told Loftus. “They’ve sent their message out for
so long and have relationships with legislators. It’s hard for us to
compete with that.” (Read more)

The campaign’s Amy Barkley told Kentucky Health News that Altria’s assertion “is very hard to believe. That said, I don’t have any hard evidence to dispute their claim. We all know the tobacco industry’s influence is very deep in Frankfort, so perhaps they didn’t need to overtly lobby against the smoke-free bill.”

The Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, which gets funding from Altria for some of its programs, lobbied against the smoking ban. It ranked eighth in lobbying expenses, with $68,821. For The Courier-Journal’s lst fo top lobbying interests, click here.

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