Oklahoma House of Representatives
March 4, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman
Office: (405) 557-7393
Rep. Pittman Returns Unsolicited Tobacco Money
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman announced today that she is returning campaign money received from a major tobacco company and is “respectfully” encouraging other Oklahoma lawmakers to take the same action.
The Altria Group Inc. political action committee made an unsolicited $250 contribution to Pittman’s 2012 election campaign, she said. The Altria Group, previously known as Philip Morris, is the largest tobacco company in the United States. Reynolds American Inc., the second-largest tobacco company in the United States, also operates a political action committee in Oklahoma.
“With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, we need to recognize tobacco company money given to our campaigns for what it really is – blood money,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “Tobacco companies survive by addicting young people to deadly products. For decades, they’ve targeted our minority communities with intense advertising. They have even been convicted as racketeers.”
Pittman said in light of the state Senate’s recent vote against Senate Bill 36 to allow cities and towns to enact local tobacco policies, she will be joining the governor in promoting an initiative petition to put the question to a vote of the people.
The petition would require 82,782 signatures for a statutory change and 155,216 signatures for a constitutional change.
Pittman said she wants to help lead the charge in collecting signatures throughout Oklahoma County and wants residents to be prepared to sign onto the petition if they want to improve the long-term benefits that the initiative would have.
In 2006, a federal district court ruled the major cigarette manufacturers were guilty of fraud and racketeering under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The conviction was upheld unanimously in appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected further appeal without comment. The court found that, for more than 50 years, the tobacco industry “lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as ‘replacement smokers,’ about the devastating effects of smoking. They suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, they distorted the truth … so as to discourage smokers from quitting.”
“Like Governor Fallin’s family, my family has experienced the ravages of tobacco addiction,” Pittman said. “My mother smoked when she was pregnant with me. I was born with black lungs and was not expected to live three days. When I survived, my father named me Anastasia, or ‘resurrection’ in early Christian Greek. Several members of my family suffer from asthma.”
Pittman also announced that she would no longer accept campaign contributions, meals or other gifts from any tobacco company political action committee or from any individual registered as a lobbyist for a tobacco company or tobacco trade association.
“This is a corrupt industry,” said Pittman. “It has caused untold suffering and the early deaths of many thousands of our beloved Oklahomans. We should treat it appropriately. Children are suffering from early addicitions because of the actions of tobacco companies.”
“The RICO verdict found that their wrongdoing is ongoing,” said Doug Matheny, former director of tobacco prevention at the state health department. “It’s against Oklahoma values for lawmakers to accept contributions and gifts from the tobacco industry. Representative Pittman’s leadership is courageous and inspiring.”
Matheny has developed the website tobaccomoney.com to track campaign contributions, meals and other gifts distributed by registered tobacco lobbyists in Oklahoma.
Internal tobacco industry documents reveal that tobacco companies have overpaid lobbyists to enable them to make substantial campaign contributions in their own names. Oklahoma Ethics Commission records andtobaccomoney.com indicate that, since 2006, tobacco lobbyists have distributed a total of $229,871 in contributions and gifts to Oklahoma state legislators now in office. This includes $55,900 in tobacco company PAC funds. Also since 2006, tobacco lobbyists have distributed a total of $54,575 to various statewide legislative election committees.
Oklahoma’s tobacco settlement marked the state taking a stand against smoking, Pittman said.
“We are currently working to reduce smoking,” Pittman said. “We won money to address smoking. It is hard for me to believe that the Senate would choose to ignore a cost-free change to reduce second-hand smoke by giving cities and towns local control to decide if they want local ordinances to address smoking in business establishments.”
Pittman also wanted to remind people that certain state laws are not properly enforced.
“Giving cities the authority to set ordinances means they will figure out what works best for them, enforcement-wise,” Pittman said.